The last and magnificent image of Tenochtitlan, as it was before its destruction, may be one of the imperishable gifts it casts any day (Planeta, 2021), a novel by the Ecuadorian writer Carlos Arcos Cabrera. In reality, it is a testimony, built from the airy austerity of fiction, to a final period in history: the rise of Spain as a hegemonic and theocratic power, the bloody invasion of America, and the first years of colonial Quito, designed in blood and fire, as well as violently suppressed in the Alcabal Rebellion. So many years and events were reconstructed by Arcos Cabrera, by the hand of Francisco and Diego de Arcos, his characters, perhaps flashes of what the world once was, pity, horror and resignation.

A fundamental part of America’s history is connected with the Marranos: converted Jews who, to avoid burning at the stake of the Holy Office, desperately boarded caravels traveling to the New World, with the desire to erase their past and start anew. Then came gold, which can do anything, as Cortés and his lieutenants thought. They were blessed explorers who could see, as if witnessing a miracle, the image of the city of Moctezuma, floating between water and sky. The paradox of history: they were also the ones destined to destroy it. A city of colossal infrastructure, with bridges, avenues and aqueducts. Politically and socially organized, with more than two hundred thousand inhabitants. The imperial capital was turned into ruins by the inhabitants of rural and unsafe Spanish regions, which fell on the tragic 13th of August 1521.

A collection of poems against forgetting and impunity

In this novel, however, there is no good or bad, but a complex and painful evolution of human history, which in the case of this process melts ethnicities, cultures, languages ​​and spirituality. In a way, she makes us, the readers, witnesses to the birth of mixing and presents to us in a primitive way the structure in which it takes place ethos the baroque that Bolívar Echeverría talked about. But it is literature, pure and hard, sharp and lucid. It is a novel about the human being, his dogmas, his fanaticism, his unlimited capacity to live ambition and compassion. As well as the fact that every man is a leaf in the wind. And that wind is the history of the world and, consequently, of the power that governs it. One day that power comes into our hands, and the next day we endure it. With or without power, in the end there is only “the heartless decay of days.”

in constant exposure

Literary history is usually a collection of attempts to recreate something that was lost forever.

In its approach to history, this novel is still deeply Benjaminian, by Walter Benjamin, who knew that every document of civilization is also a document of barbarism, and that the only way to know man is through love. her without hope. And so Quito appears, not a millenarian born in the Andes, but one born with the royal decree of Carlos V and the bloody sword of Sebastián de Belalzácar. The city observed the assassination of Viceroy Blasco Núñez Vela in the Battle of Iñaquita, for defending the new laws, which abolished the encomienda and proposed better conditions for the indigenous population of Spanish America. Years later, the city was besieged by Pedro de Harana, the peacemaker of the revolt against the Alcabals, who would end up killing a large part of Quito’s elite.

Literary history is usually a collection of attempts to recreate something that was lost forever. Arcos Cabrera says of Montezuma’s last days: “The sparkle in his eyes disappeared, and his voice ceased to be regal and was more like the voice of a man who knows that he has lost something valuable and will not recover it.” “. Could be any day it is the story of a whole life, from the random and arbitrary vicissitudes of youth, to the irreparable last breath. Like the story of Diego de Arcos: a pig, conquistador or expeditionary, as well as encomendero and eternal councilor, killed in Quito, on Palm Sunday, for opposing new taxes. He was one of the last witnesses to the violent meeting of the two worlds. But everything is destined to disappear and become a void or silence in memory. (OR)