By Kirby Vickery on the October 2020 Edition
In the past, I’ve talked about the “Ball Game” and its importance to the Mayan and Aztec people. And, while looking back over the various issues of The Manzanillo Sun, I seem to be painting a rather bland and warlike picture of the Mesoamerican cultures and their lifestyles. I think they had good times, with humor thrown into their way of life.
One has to dig a little to find it sometimes. But it is there. World history tells us that when times are hard, and people are out intensely scrounging a living from their habitats, there isn’t much else going on. History also reflects that when times get better, and living gets easier, humor surfaces and playtime ensues. This goes for all the earth’s creatures and the higher the species in the ladder of evolution, with ease of living, the more humorous activities and just “fun” things are played and observed.
With mankind, it was the advent of agriculture which settled a lot of people. It happens within the animal world when the evolution of any species finds itself in a permanent environment of plenty and they find spare time where life can be enjoyed. One species that has really taken advantage of that on a day-to-day basis are the primates.
Within today’s Central America, there are nine (or eight or three depending on which reference book you can get into) types of monkeys. The ones that are frequented in Mexico are the Mantled Howler (Alouatta palliata), or Golden-Mantled Howling Monkey and the Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, also known as the Back-handed Spider Monkey.
Sadly, the Spider Monkey is endangered at this time. There are stories of these monkeys available for your reading pleasure as initially taken from the Popol Vuh. Which type of monkey they are talking about depends on which translation or interpretation you read. [Sometimes that’s the fun of research – It’s like learning about politicians. You get through all of it and then get to decide which story you want to believe.]
The God of Fertility and of The Ballgame, Hun Hunahpu, (‘Hun’ is a title meaning ‘One or One Lord), is otherwise known as God ‘S’ for ‘Sport’. He had twin sons named HunBatz and Hun Chowen. They were also known as the Monkey Twins. But their mother, Hunahpu’s wife, Xbaquiyalo, loved them anyway. These two were quick, intelligent, artistic, and full of life and very talented in everything they did. It was a very happy household until Dad introduced them to the “Ballgame.”
This is the Mesoamerican game played with a solid rubber ball with hoops high up on the wall. The idea is to have your team drive the ball through the hoop more times than your oppo-nent. Only thing is you can’t use your hands, arms, or head. According to one version of this story, these brothers stopped everything for the sake of the game, similar to a modern-day teen locking himself in his room to play video games while talking on the phone, 24/7.
Hun Hunahpu decided to make the best of their newfound interest and take them to a real game and let them play. He took them into the underworld to take on Vucub Caquix, God of the underworld, and his team, in the finals of the match.
What happened during the game was pathetic, sort of like go-ing to a modern soccer game against a team that only played Australian Rules Football.
The play got so rough that Vucub Caquix, who was playing goalie for his team, actually cut off Hun Hanahpu’s head and didn’t even draw a foul. Then Vucub Caquix bent the rules even further and hung it on a calabash tree.[Here, the story splits into many different versions. So . . .] There was a nice-looking young lass, Xquic, walking through the underworld, and she happened upon that calabash bush. While picking some of its fruit, she saw and liked what was left of Hun Hunahpu’s head. As she was picking it by mistake (?); game to the last, he managed to pass some sacred spittle into her hand. We did say he was wizard of the dribble. Xquic must have swallowed because she gave birth to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, otherwise known as the Hero Twins.
Xquic and her sons came up to the real world after that as she needed to be adopted by Xbaquiyalo for her son’s sake. Later the Hero Twins lured the Monkey Twins to a particular tree and told them there was a nice collection of juicy birds up there. So, up they climbed expecting a dinnertime treat. But as they climbed, the tree grew taller and taller. They couldn’t get down; they could only go up. There was no escape.
“What can we do?” they cried. “Loosen your belts,” suggested the Hero Twins, “and loop them around the tree to help you climb down.” But this was a trick. The dangling belts became tails and HunBatz and HunChowen discovered that they’d turned into monkeys. Howler monkeys to be precise. And you can still hear them from time to time. Because of their former skills, they were much venerated, and everyone tried not to laugh, but grandmother Xmucane got the giggles and they fled in embarrassment.
So where are they now? We understand the Monkey Twins continue to sign autographs and are currently looking for a lucrative contract in sports commentary like all the other former professional Ballgame apes.
Kirby was born in a little burg just south of El Paso, Texas called Fabens. As he understand it, they we were passing through. His history reads like a road atlas. By the time he started school, he had lived in five places in two states. By the time he started high school, that list went to five states, four countries on three continents. Then he joined the Air Force after high school and one year of college and spent 23 years stationed in eleven or twelve places and traveled all over the place doing administrative, security, and electronic things. His final stay was being in charge of Air Force Recruiting in San Diego, Imperial, and Yuma counties. Upon retirement he went back to New England as a Quality Assurance Manager in electronics manufacturing before he was moved to Production Manager for the company’s Mexico operations. He moved to the Phoenix area and finally got his education and ended up teaching. He parted with the university and moved to Whidbey Island, Washington where he was introduced to Manzanillo, Mexico. It was there that he started to publish his monthly article for the Manzanillo Sun. He currently reside in Coupeville, WA, Edmonton, AB, and Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, depending on whose having what medical problems and the time of year. His time is spent dieting, writing his second book, various articles and short stories, and sightseeing Canada, although that seems to be limited in the winter up there.