Thursday Jorge and I once again attended the FILEY, the literary fair being held this week at Merida’s Siglo XXI Convention Center. The event features conferences, a publishers’ expo, music, theater, visual arts expositions and more. There is so much going on that it is difficult to choose!
It was a bit of a mixed bag. We bought enough books to keep us reading for a year, visited the new Mundo Maya Museum and attended two conferences.
The 7:00 pm book presentation: The Night of the Red Queen by Adriana Malvido was excellent.
The book is written in Spanish (La Noche de la Reina Roja) but the language is engaging and easy to follow. With the help of a dictionary, anyone who has an intermediate level of the language will certainly be able to enjoy this fascinating true-life tale.
The author held her audience spell bound as she described the 1994 discovery of the tomb of the Red Queen in Palenque. Such excitement bubbled up through her genuine, careful account that it seemed as though she had witnessed the unearthing of The Red Queen about 19 minutes ago. In reality 19 years have passed.
Her recall of the details was vivid and immediate. She spoke with admiration for the young archaeologist who actually found the chamber that sheltered the Red Queen’s sarcophagus from the eyes of the world. Fanny Lopez never received official recognition for what she discovered; she was still a student and so the head of the archaeological team, Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz, was awarded that honor.
I have visited Palenque many times, in fact I was there a little over a week ago. Called “The Forest of Kings,” by the late Linda Schele (a renowned expert in Maya epigraphy and iconography ) Palenque is set smack-dab in the middle of an ever-growing tropical jungle. The heat and humidity are formidable living breathing forces that seem intent upon extracting every smidgen of energy. Yet Palenque is so compelling that somehow I found the fortitude to climb and cavort with kings all day long.
And I am not alone. During the Q & A session, an older woman in the audience explained that two years ago, she had been to Palenque on an organized tour. “I do not know about archaeology,” she said, “but I wanted to come to this presentation because I was awed by Palenque. Thank you for making the Red Queen come alive for me.” A younger person told us that in her village, Maya burials have been found; but once the bones and artifacts got carted away, the residents never heard back from the authorities. She said that she and her neighbors feel as though something has been stolen from them.
Adriana’s respect for The Red Queen and for her audience once again became evident when she assured us that the royal remains have been returned Palenque. She deferred to her friend Dr. Vera Teisler who explained the significance of the forensic testing that was performed. Her Majesty now lies in a protective environment so that with the passage of time, she will endure minimum deterioration.
It is believed that the Red Queen is probably the wife of King Pacal, whose sarcophagus was discovered in the adjacent building – The Temple of Inscriptions. And her identity is but one of the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic figure who lived 1,300 years ago…
I have just finished reading La Noche de la Reina Roja – cover to cover. I got hooked at the beginning and five hours later, I felt so sorry it had ended. Although I’ve not the opportunity to ask the author’s permission, I have taken the liberty of translating two passages so that you can see how lovely this book is; it begins:
“They interred me more than 1,300 years ago, so my story comes from the depths of the earth. From here, inside my sarcophagus, I have felt the footfalls of thousands of travelers, spirits touched by madness and by curiosity – those willing to exchange ideas with the past…”
The book ends with this final paragraph:
“Questions are the fuel of our imagination and the fount of knowledge. They prove that we are alive. But sometimes it is the dead who pose complicated questions with the most challenging answers. We must learn to dialogue with them and catch their clues. Fossils, stones, codices, meteorites, ancient works of art, and tombs embrace the voices of our ancestors. They gift us with stories like that of The Red Queen. They invite conversations with the past and mirror back images that ask who we are and where we come from.”
I truly loved this book.
Visuals: Google Images