Hunting for the Virgin: Meat, Money, and Memory in Tetiz, Yucatán

Essay Excerpt

One day during a pastoral visit in Yucatan, Francisco decided to stop atthe small indigenous pueblo of Tetiz. Followed by a procession of Indians, Francisco entered a "rustic" building that "less than a temple, less than a church, was a hut on the point of collapse." He was shocked to see before him an image, carved in wood and dressed in tattered and stained silk, of the woman who had visited him. As he drew closer to kiss the fringe of her dress reverently, Francisco recognized before him, hanging on the figure amid othercoins and offerings of gold and silver, the coin that he had given away in Seville: "His astonished gaze fell upon the very same peso [aquel peso fuertede el muy conocido y senalado] that, fourteen years earlier and two thousand leagues away, he had given as charity to the beggar." Overcome by the coin's miraculous reappearance, Francisco fell to his knees in an ecstasy of the spirit. The Virgin began to speak to him once more, declaring that the people of Yucatan had become "very dear" to her from the moment of their "discovery and conquest" by her "beloved sons, the Spaniards." Yucatecan shrines dedicated to her worship were, however, impoverished and decrepit, leading the Virgin to warn Francisco: "The day the Yucatecos forget my love will be the day of their complete disappearance as well." The bishop immediately devoted himself to fulfilling his earlier promise, the "sacred debt" that he had contracted with the mendicant Virgin. The pueblo's failing system of confraternities was revived and the resources of the Church were channeled into the constructionof a sanctuary, which was founded in Tetiz in 1751. (291-292)

About the Author

Paul K. Eiss is a graduate of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan, whose work is based upon ethnographic and archival research in Mexico. His published work has explored a wide variety of topics including: value and the circulation of commodities and money; labor and land tenure; archives, historical memory, and the politics of historical narrative; the politics of ethnicity and indigeneity; practices of state formation, governance, and political violence; and religion. See his personal page here.

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