than a literary experiment in contemporary creative nonfiction, WMD
MACHETE reveals a young man's struggle with two realities, one Anglo-Saxon
and the other Hispanic. This picaresque coming of age memoir presents
another way to look at the impact of America's foreign policy, in the
context of an earthquake that stops a war but causes the death of twenty-two
thousand people, and changes a youth's patriotism into something else.
(On the Pacific Coast of Guatemala)
Cowboy Movie: The Olmecas of Veracruz state in Mexico knew
how to make concave mirrors of iron ore one thousand years before Christ.
They pierced them to wear as a pendant around the neck. The optical qualities
of these concave surfaces could potentially cast bright sunlit images onto
flat white surfaces from within in a relatively dark enclosure. Outside
on a clear midday, these mirrors might ignite tinder at the focal point
of reflected sunlight, like a magnifying glass. Any Olmecas in possession
of these mirrors, whether kings, queens, witches or priests, could demonstrate
these supernatural powers to influence others. The mirrors themselves might
serve as emblems of a certain class of citizen, Prophets, priest, rulers,
or shaman-witchdoctor-healers; Godlike humans with the power to reflect
reality to an intimate group, or create fire and inspire an entire community
to perform incantations, dance, and song.
One morning a grizzled old man, sturdy and hard-working,
came to Hawaii and set up a tent on the beach in front of my house of sticks.
He convinced, or bought, Don Martinez's blessing to use the generator in
the evening, and then hung out at the store all day to spread his promise
of a cowboy film that evening. He sold some tickets, and to some of the
more aggressive young boys, he gave groups of tickets for them to earn a
commission. He encouraged everyone to spread the word, one night only.
He and Don Martinez both pulled the extension
chord from his store. They walked together across the cocoa sand to the
Fishing Co-op structure. Don Martinez opened up one canvas side and pulled
back a panel of corrugated tin to reveal the Television set on its altar.
Don Martinez smiled at his companion, plugged it in, turned it on, turned
up the volume, and stepped back.
The full color image of a beautiful white girl
with too much makeup appeared. She cried and gesticulated a frantic distress
through the glitter of static. Mexican soap opera, although she looked Italian.
Estados Unidos Mexicanos leads Latin America in Television soap opera production,
which they call "novellas" because they often begin as works of
literature that begin and end, in contrast to the multi-season decades-long
lifespan of soaps on American television. As in most soap operas, histrionic
actors agonize over the plot's various sexual affairs (in Spanish, they
call them "love adventures") in the pursuit of new infidelities
and confidences, until they uncover each generation's untold secrets about
who fathered whom.
Don Martinez crossed his arms over his proud,
The other man took a step back, crossed his
arms, exhaled, crestfallen, hunched forward, as if confronted by the end
of his career.
Don Martinez turned off the TV and unplugged
the extension cord to hand to the tough old man.
He dragged it across the sand toward the beach,
past my stick shack, to where his big bundles of canvas lay, which he then
untied and spread out.
Within a couple of hours, he set up a miniature
circus tent, about twenty five feet square.
All afternoon, the squat tent's greasy gray-black
canvas panels flapped in the sea breeze. It reminded me of a great bat,
the camelhair tent of a slayer's harem of Nubian virgins, a portable adult
theater, a slaughterhouse of innocence.
I felt worse about it the longer I looked at
it, so I peaked inside.
Smelled like motor oil. After my eyes grew accustomed
to the dim light that seeped under the canvas, I saw the screen and projector
wrapped in roped cloth and plastic against the back wall, a soldier with
a bazooka fossilized and still, hid in shameful shadows. The sands of time
slithered under the canvas and blew into little dunes around their feet.
At dusk, the inhabitants of Hawaii came with
their children to crowd inside the greased-canvas enclosure. The canvas
did keep out the daylight that lingered over the ocean. After the village
boys, fathers, and grandfathers settled into their seats, I entered and
moved around to the back.
They sat cross-legged in the sand and muttered
as the man turned on the noisy projector and started the movie, a grainy,
scratchy old black and white Hollywood western, dubbed into Spanish and
distorted through loud amplification and inadequate speakers.
I peeked under the canvas to watch the sunset
purple to twilight, and glanced back inside to watch their reaction as the
In one of the shots near the very beginning,
a band of five distant horsemen charged at the screen, as if to run right
over the audience. From the far distance, the horses came at full gallop,
seven spastic ink splotches in front of a dust cloud.
The camera shot from ground level, about the
height of our eyes as we sat there on the sand. The horses thundered nearer,
seemed to pick up speed and kept right on toward us, as if to burst out
of the screen, immense healthy black and white horses with foamy bits, wild
eyes, and metal-shod hooves that stomped rapid-fire explosions of dust.
As the horses fill the screen to ride right
through us, children scream and claw their way out of the arms of the men
to flee the tent. More than half of the audience panics and scrambles on
hands and knees to the edge of the tent, where they wriggle like crabs under
the tight canvas to escape.
The horses did not come out of the screen to
trample those of us who remained. I saw people lift the canvas from outside
to peek in, then crawl back under the canvas to reclaim their seats in the
sand. They giggled, felt around with their hands for lost hats, smoothed
their shirts, and shook sand out of their cuffs. Grandfathers with gap-toothed
smiles hugged their nervous grandchildren who sobbed and giggled at the
I thought of the time I tried to interest a
Mayan Indian boy in magazine photos of airplanes and automobiles. He showed
no interest- I wonder now if he couldn't see them, could not understand.