In the Village


The village consisted of some 50 circular houses, each constructed of stone with thatched roofs. Xochimi made a great show of introducing me to all the men and women and children of the village, so much so that I was only peripherally aware that the stones used to construct the houses were, well, rather larger than you might expect normally, each of a size that two average men (taking Manoel as average) might have some difficulty carrying.

In the village I was further struck by the handsomeness of everyone. The women, especially, were particularly striking, all of them tall--I guessed the average must be about 5'10" with many as tall as I and a one or two taller. Altogether some 500 people resided in the village...

Eventually Xochimi led Manoel and me to the largest house, in the exact center of the concentric circles that made up the village. This hosue was easily twice as large as all the others and directly in front of it stood a large wooden carving of a tremendous spider.

It was only then that I realized that all of the homes were decorated with stylized representations of spiders--and that every single man, woman, and child in Kalanisi bore a spider tattoo somewhere visible on his or her body. Some were on their faces, others on hands, shoulders, arms, legs--Xochimi's was on his left forearm.

I glanced quizzically at Manoel.

"It means 'spider,' you know, 'Kalanisi' does," he said sotto voce.

"Kalanisi," said Xochimi, then repeated the Portuguese word for spider.

With that, the people of the village suddenly began drifting away and only Xochimi, Manoel and I stood before the central building.

"I will not be staying the night," Manoel said. "I have a camp a few miles back which I need to check. Good luck!"

I shook his hand and watched the short, thick man scurrying back to the forest. He disappeared quickly into the thick foliage...

Xochimi took me into the central house and I immediately saw the reason for the sudden disappearance of all the villagers--the men and women had all entered from the other side of the building, with each group assembled in rings, one male, one female around a central fire. And next to that fire sat a man who was even taller and bigger than Xochimi, although quite thoroughly old.

"My grandfather, Tzinixo," Xochimi said, with obvious pride--and perhaps a hint of sadness? "Our 'gzitlaan'..." he added, incomprehensibly.

"Come to me, boy..." Tzinixo said in a voice so deep and profound that Xochimi sounded like a tenor by comparison.

I walked toward him, tall and broad, and the rows of men and women parted in front of me. Standing before the low cloth covered bench on which he sat I realized that even sitting he could look me straight in the eye.

Judging by the wrinkles in his skin and the pure white gloss of his hair I estimated--correctly, I found out later--Tzinixo's age at between 75 and 80 years. And still he was massively muscular, weighing even more than Xochimi did and possessing a gauntness that made me realize he must have been still bigger, perhaps much more so, in his prime.

"Holy shit," I realized, swallowing nervously, "this geezer's *chest* is wider than my shoulders are..."

Not something you run into every day, especially not when you have a 53-inch chest and 60-inch shoulders.

"Leave us," he said softly, and the entire village, save Xochimi, filed out. •

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