My people live in the mountains that are so tall, they're in the sky. We were told to live there, generations ago, by the God of Lightning, who is the child of Starlight and her consort Magma. The lightning god still lives there with us, and often one of us is eaten alive by it.
My people converse with many gods, but don't tell the ignorant Catolicos down in Mexico. Hearing about other people's gods tends to upset them.
I've seen many gods and goddesses with these eyes. My people negotiate with them constantly, regarding the management of the planet. In fact, we're their chosen negotiation team from the human race. I think that they chose us because all the rest of you are too afraid of them. One of you sees a god, he goes to pieces. My people do fear the gods. We aren't fools. but we are reputed to be foolishly brave. Well, we sleep with scorpions! We don't live down in the valleys like other people. My people eat cactus and grow corn silk out of their ears, and sometimes our babies are born with hooves like deer or with claws like a hawk's or with the tail of a fish.
That's why the God of Dollars took us unawares. We thought that we knew how to cope with any god. We'd handled the ancient weather gods and their younger siblings, the plant spirits. We were certain that we could deal with a mere child god.
The God of Dollars came to live among us in the form of a golden haired boy with papery green skin. His eyes were like gold foil. The boy just showed up at the creek one day, filling his plastic water jugs like the rest of us. He wore white cotton clothes, a straw hat, and sandals of deerskin, just like one of the local boys.
The real children followed the God of Dollars back to his shack, an amazing dwelling constructed of bright metal and glass. It didn't even touch the ground. Instead it stood on rubber wheels. And inside it, more wonders. A stove that burned with a blue flame, without wood and without smoke! A silver box that was always cold as ice inside it! And another box with dancing puppets inside it, colored like rainbows, but the puppeteers were spirits, invisible, untiring spirits. The puppets in the box danced all day and all night!
Then the God of Dollars showed the children something more uncanny. He ordered his shack to move, and it obeyed him! It crept around in circles like a giant sowbug, with the God inside its shell, riding it just the way a mortal boy would ride a horse. The motor of the mobile home roared like a hundred cougars! The children scattered. The god laughed at them. The children talked about it for weeks.
The Elders' Council raised no objection. If the god behaved himself and didn't cause trouble, then he could live among us. But of course, we didn't let him see any of the ceremonies.
He kept to himself and showed no interest in meeting any of our gods. He liked to sit inside his metal shack and watch his puppets dance. He never fished or hunted for birds or planted a garden, but he always had plenty to eat. Well, that was his business. When gods leave us alone, we leave them alone.
When the God of Dollars had been in the mountains for a month, he hired a local girl to do his laundry and make his tortillas. He paid her with shiny gold coins with square holes in them. The girl said that the god kept a chamber pot under his bed, and that every morning, the pot would be filled to overflowing with new coins. The girl wanted to earn lots of the lustrous metal coins and string a necklace. Soon her younger sister was working there as well.
The children went on visiting the god's shack and coming home with tales. They said that he had a puppet that juggled and another that played the fiddle, and after the puppets performed, they vanished into the air! The children would invite the god to their houses for supper, and sometimes he'd go with them and bring along a small black box that played ten fiddles at once.
People loved to dance to the music from the black box. Wherever the God of Dollars went, he started a party. And we do love parties.
In summer, when the green corn was turning yellow, the god began to do favors for people. He gave a big box of groceries to each of the Council of Elders. He drove a dirtbike all the way up to the place of the Gods' Houses and gave a whole crate of soda pop to one of the old curanderos who lived up there. The bottles of pop triggered intense jealousy and feuding. Finally they were stolen, which led to wild accusations and the laying of curses.
The nearest house to the god of Dollar's shack was Emilio's wife's. Emilio saw a lot of the god. Emilio's only son had a hare lip. The god drove the whole family down to Mexico in his shack. The wheels of the shack didn't even touch the rocks. The god took Emilio's son to a hospital and paid the doctors to fix the baby's lip, a feat which our own healers could never have accomplished.
The more favors the god did, the less we trusted him. By harvest time, we could see that he was a trouble maker. But we took the things he offered us. What else would we do? We were poor. By then, most of us had tar paper on our roofs that the god had given us.
Then the two girls who'd been doing his laundry both turned up pregnant. Well, we'd heard about gods who misbehaved in this way, and we weren't about to tolerate it. A crowd of us went to the God of Dollar's shack to drive him away. But he'd already gone. It wasn't until winder that we found out where he'd gone.
The God of Dollars had painted his skin brown and put black shoe polish on his curls. He had journeyed down to Mexico City and petitioned the government to recognize him as the Primary Delegated Representative for the "Huichol Nation." He told anyone who'd listen that he was a dwarf and a powerful shaman who had lived all his life among us. He said that he spoke good Spanish, could write his name, and had been sent by his "tribe" to negotiate timber and mineral rights.
Well, the government never did recognize him as anything. The government needs a year just to decide to make a five-year study to justify doing nothing. But the god looked very colorful in his "native garment," and many newspapers took photos of him. After getting his name in the papers, the god was invited to sign that name on many contracts with many multinational corporations. And as everyone knows, to challenge a contract, you need a lawyer. And lawyers cost money.
During the muddy season, overnight it seemed, a lumber company built a road from Mexico into our mountains, a paved road all the way to our ceremonial grounds. Men in hard yellow hats rolled the asphalt, riding on giant machines such as we had never seen in our weirdest visions.
Then a uranium company did a mineral survey. Suddenly the governor of the state decided that a new well must be drilled for our "village." As for the uranium company, they hired a construction company to build a mine. So, of course, the power company ran in a power line.
The power company had so much power to sell, they installed outlet plugs in every house they could find. Before long, those of us willing to work at the mine had televisions and radios better than the God of Dollar's, and satellite dishes to hook into. Dancing puppets, day and night, though the reception was bad, on account of all the gods and goddesses.
We amused ourselves with such modernistic miracles as air-stream trailers and kung fu movies. We waited for our gods to drive the Mexicans away, these Mexicans in yellow hats who were practically as rich as you gringos. But the Mexicans never went away.
You have to understand, we couldn't believe that anyone but us would have the courage to live up there. That place is in the sky. When you gringos are teaching your children to read, we're feeding ours with brain plants, turning them into butterflies, and sending them off to play with the insect spirits. Why? The insect spirits require it. What will they do to the mammals if we don't provide them with young, drugged apes? You don't want to know. If we dare to fail them, they'll poke their spirit stingers into the balls of Father Magma. You won't want to be on this planet when that happens.
But my people are foolishly brave. Where I come from, a bolt of lightening comes in the door and goes out the window, and no one misses a stitch of their embroidery. So we had an easy winter of it. We were certain that the spirits would freak out the Mexicans, and that they'd pack up and go home. Already we seemed to be rid of the arrogant boy god. And, in fact, we never saw his papery green face again. The year that followed was a slow torture.
The two laundresses miscarried their babies. The corn was rained out. Emilio's boy died of a snake bite and made a handsome corpse. All the good fiddlers and most of the young men walked down to Mexico to work in the tobacco fields.
The old peyoteros couldn't fill their quota for a single pilgrimage group. The cactus gods were hugely insulted. Elders starved off in twos and threes, and no amount of soda pop could fill their bellies.
Drunken bachelors pissed in the old wells. As for the new well, it was contaminated with ore tailings. The midwives began to deliver infants with problems far worse than hare lips.
Finally the lumber company cut down all the trees. And I mean all the trees. Nothing left but stumps, as far as the eye could see. Then I knew that our gods had abandoned us. We were pissed at them too, but we felt lost without them. Had they failed us? Had we failed them? We and they weren't speaking.
That year got so miserable, we wished that the God of Dollars would return to us, with his chamber pot full of coins. Life had seemed so hopeful, when he'd first walked among us. Now our whole way of life was riding a greased tobacco leaf down a slippery chute to some futuristic gringo hell!
That's why I came here. I know when I'm beaten. I know when I'm in hell. Hey, were are you going.
Spare change? Got any spare change?
Spare change, Amigo?