Last week we left Juan Jaime Domenech and his father with a trail that had vanished, leiving them in unchartered territory. Juan Jaime continues his story:
Our measurement stops were now every hour. At each stop my father set up his equipment and took readings from the four points of the compass. Temperature was checked and altitude calculated. He made notes of the type of country through which we passed and the plant and animal life we could see. At night when we made camp he would write up all the notes in his big survey journal, while the Indians prepared the meal.
We were into our third week of the survey when one of the Indians came to see my father. He asked him a simple, direct question: “Señor, where are you leading us?”
When my father indicated the way ahead, still due south toward the rising mountains, the Indian became quite agitated. “‘Señor,” he said, “we are employed to follow you and work for you. To do as you wish of us. But we would prefer it if you would turn aside from this route you show us. If you do not, I fear many Indians will leave and return to their homes.”
Father was surprised at this. It was totally against the Indians’ nature to threaten mutiny. “Why is that?” he asked.
“Señor Domenech, this route we follow will take us to the sacred Valley of Quetzalcóatl. To approach the valley is to invoke the wrath of the great white god.”
My father did not laugh. Quetzalcóatl was a god of the Mexican Indians who reigned during the Golden Age before the Aztecs. He had disappeared, leaving a promise to return. When Hernando Cortez and his 600 Spaniards appeared in 1518, they were welcomed as the return of Quetzalcóatl. Father knew that fear and respect for the god was bred deep in the Indians, and that they would do nothing to risk his anger.
“I understand,” he said. “My son and I will continue this part of the survey alone. You will all wait here for our return. I shall return within 14 days and then survey the area to the west of here.”
The Indian was pleased at father’s decision. Next morning they prepared our rations and stood and watched as we headed south.