Pepe the Pensive,
Raúl the Rambunctious

Part Two
They all have a nut-colored skin --- ranging from pale almond to brazil nut dark, from rich brown pecan to black filbert. They all have the high cheekbones of their common ancestors --- the Zapotecs and Mixtecs.

If they have Indian blood, they refuse to recognize it. They are insulted if you compliment them on their regal faces, their hair as black as the moonless night, their complexion. It is because the "indios" or "indígenos" are considered to be inferior, a primitive and superstitious people of the mountains who speak only Chatín.

Their eyes? Ah, that is the wonder. There is no dividing line whatsoever between pupil and iris, even in the strongest sunlight --- so at times, you catch them regarding you with a direct, unfathomable gaze which would be fearsome if you didn't know it was guileless.

There is at the inner corner of the eye that slight epicanthic fold, reminding us of the touch of the oriental here. They say that 1500 years ago there appeared, from the west, a large sloop with a high, crested bow. On its single sail were a pair of eyes painted brightly on the cloth: eyes so large that when first seen on the horizon it was as if they were gazing at you from the far edge of another world.

The orientals, it is said, landed, hauled down the sail, brought ashore their great storage chests --- lovingly decorated with pictures of gods and dragons --- dismantled the ships, and settled peacefully around the wide rivers that flow from the Sierras through the bottomland and into the sea.

The "chinos" bothered no one. Their language, it was said, was so musical that it could be confused with the twittering of birds. In time, they melted into the communities of the Indios --- and the exotic blood of the east came to be mixed with the exotic blood of the coastal peoples. Thus arose those --- my workers, my friends --- with eyes much like the eyes that had, so many years before, peered out from the billowing sails ... eyes floating in from the edge of the horizon, eyes from quite another world.

--- Carlos Amantea
Photographs by
Richard Malmed
Go back to Part One

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