theater

Mask of the Jaguar

by Graham Thatcher
(an excerpt)
Graham Thatcher came to the Yucatan to do research for the play and wrote much of it while staying in Merida.The play centers around the actions of the Franciscan monk, Fray Diego Landa, who arrived in the Yucatan in 1549 and is most remembered for destroying all available written records of the Mayan people and torturing and killing about 160 for heresy while holding his own inquisition.  

Real-life historical character, Gonzalo Guerrero, appears in the play.  If you’re not familiar with him he was a Spanish sailor shipwrecked along the east shore of the Yucatan in 1511 who went on to become a warlord for a Maya chief, and taught the Maya tactics and strategies that helped repel the Spanish invaders for some twenty years.  He married the chief’s daughter and fathered the first mestizos in the new world. 

 

DE LANDA

[Concluding the reading]

Therefore, any deaths or harm that shall come your way will be by your own fault and not that of his Majesty, the Church, or any of us. You will be to blame.” So forth and so on – sign here as testimonial.

 

CAPTAIN

How do you know our language?

 

OLD WOMAN

My husband was one of you. I forgave him for it. He used to say that was the declaration that makes us guilty for all the crimes and sins you will commit on us.

[Beat] Are you sure? About the fruit I mean. I don’t know what you call these things in Spanish but they’re real juicy and sweet.

 

DE LANDA

Where is your husband?

 

OLD WOMAN

Dead. He was killed by you, . . . your people. It’s a long story and I get tired of telling it. He held you off for a long time, but now he’s dead and you people keep coming and claiming this land for God who already owns it in the first place and all I want to know is do you want a little fruit?

 

CAPTAIN

What are you called Madam?

 

OLD WOMAN

I am Lady Wak-Kan-Ahaw. You can call me “Lady 6 Sky” or “Old Woman”… if you say it with respect.

 

CAPTAIN

I’ll take one of the bananas please, Lady Wak-Kan-Ahaw.

 

DE LANDA

Captain! Resist this evil! This temptress is seducing you into sin to your eternal damnation.

 

CAPTAIN

Take it easy Padre. She’s a lady and it’s just a banana.

 

DE LANDA

Seize her!

[He falls to his knees in fervent prayer as the CHILD runs off stage for help]

 

CAPTAIN

Seize her yourself.

[To the OLD WOMAN] I’ll take a banana.


OLD WOMAN

[Indicating the Franciscans]

Are all the “grey dresses” like that?


CAPTAIN

They don’t get out much.


DE LANDA

[Seething]

Seize her! [One of the MONKs grabs the OLD WOMAN from behind]


CAPTAIN

[Sighing deeply]

Let her go Brother.


BRO I

[Zealously officious]

On whose authority? You have no authority over us. I obey Fray De Landa in all things.


CAPTAIN

[To DE LANDA who is still deep in prayer]

Padre, don’t do this. There may be a thousand of them watching us . . .


DE LANDA

[Eyes rolled back in fervor]

God will protect us in His Holy work.


CAPTAIN

God and whose army? I’m not making my stand on this beach over a banana.


[BARBARA the OLD WOMAN’S daughter comes running in with the CHILD]


BARBARA

[Sees the Spaniards and stops in her tracks]

Oh no! Not again! [She charges the Monk holding her mother]

Take your hands off my Mother you grubby little pig.


BRO I

[Shrinking back from being defiled by this young woman]

Faaather!?


[DELANDA snaps out of it but stays on his knees as the MONK releases the OLD WOMAN and falls to his knees in prayer. The OLD WOMAN and the CHILD cling to each other.]


BARBARA

Is there no end to it? Cowards!


CAPTAIN

Madam. I’m sorry. This is not what it seems.


BARBARA

No? What is it then? My mother is the daughter of a Lord. She is the widow of one of your own. Is it not enough that you have reduced her to this existence. She is defiled by having this filthy little priest with his hands all over her.


DE LANDA

He is not a priest daughter. He is a brother of our Order.


BARBARA

Oh good. I feel so much better.


DE LANDA

He meant no harm. We have not come to harm you. We have come in love to bring you Christ and salvation. I have dispatches for your King . . . your Chief . . . your Head Man.


BARBARA

There is no one left. Some old priests, some lesser Lords and their sons. For thirty years you come and go and we die by the thousands. Montejo killed everything in his way then left for somewhere else. Then they came back and killed some more and then left again. All the time we were dying of great sickness. The babies, the old ones. One in four is left. We’ve seen it all, we’ve heard it all before.


DE LANDA

Yes daughter, then you understand.


CAPTAIN

Padre!


DELANDA

No, no, I mean we will not desert you. We have come to release your souls from the torment of ignorance into the Blessed light of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ so that you may enter the bliss of Eternal Life. We are here to stay daughter. We are here forever. We will not leave.


BARBARA

[To CAPTAIN]

How do you even talk to these people?


CAPTAIN

Your mother is free to go. Please accept my personal apologies. [BARBARA, the OLD WOMAN and the CHILD, exit together. To DELANDA and the MONK]  Nice start Padre!

 

C 2012 by Graham Thatcher – all rights reserved

 

 *****************************************************************************

 

Graham Thatcher is the Artistic Director and primary performer for Periaktos Productions. Since appearing in his first acting role at five years of age, Graham has performed in or directed over 150 community, university and professional theatre productions. He is the co-author and solo performer in Clarence Darrow: Crimes, Causes and the Courtroom, Maxims, Monarchy and Sir Thomas More and Impeach Justice Douglas! toured by Periaktos Productions. He is the co-author and director of Thurgood Marshall’s Coming!, and The Women Lawyers Club. Graham has authored several other theatrical plays, including commissioned works and The Mask of the Jaguar, about the cultural clash between the Maya and Europeans during the Spanish Conquest.

Over the past thirty-five years Graham has engaged students of all ages in university classrooms, business board rooms and convention meeting spaces. He serves as a communications consultant to businesses and individuals and is the co-creator and presenter of Periaktos Productions’ CLE programs, “Word of Mouth: A Workshop in the Art and Ethics of Oral Communication for Lawyers.” He holds a B.A. from San Francisco State University, an M.A. in Theatre from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. He has been listed in Who’s Who in American Education and Outstanding American Educators, and is a recipient of the Governor’s Award from the Minnesota Council on Quality.

Photo by Eleanor Bennett

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