It's funny how life works out sometimes, isn't it? I certainly did not expect my life to carry me so far - and so long! It was surely a shock when I first learned that death would not claim me - though that part of the story shall have to wait.
I was born in the trecena 1-Grass of the year 3-reed (that is, 1495 CE) in the town of Xochimilco. Xochimilco was largely a farming community. In the shorebeds of the lake, greath swathes of chinampas played host to a variety of crops. Like nearly all of the other families in the city, my father farmed, growing maize, peppers, and the like. Some of my clearest memories are of staring off into Lake Texcoco, or at distant mountains, dreaming of some day travelling to them - often at the expense of my duties helping my father in the chinampas. One memory which stayed with me through all the intervening years came in my tenth year, when Amimitl blessed us with a particularly bountiful crop. My father sat me down. “Tochtli,” he said with a sigh, “dreams do not pay our taxes.”
I ignored his advice, of course. My mind was set. Someday, I was confident I'd wander the breadth of Cem-Anahuac, the One World of Mesoamerica. Little did I know just how far I would one day travel.
Many were the warm days in the Valley of Mexico as summer blended into summer. The maize grew high, and was reaped each harvest season, bringing my family the wealth from the spoils of our labors.
At 21, I found love and took my first wife, a beautiful woman named Seventh-Serpent, and had six children by her, though only one would survive to adulthood. I watched as Xochimilco grew and prospered in the shadow of grand Tenochtitlan, and the good rule of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.
I fought briefly in one of our many Flower Wars against the recalcitrant city of Texcala ('Tlaxcala' is a later corruption of the name, and means 'tortilla' in my first tongue), and slew many Texcalteca in the name of Huitzilpochtli. I sustained many blows which should have been mortal, for any other man, but survived each time. In retrospect, those were the first times I should have realized something was amiss. But at the time, I merely believed myself a favorite of our myriad gods.
Then in the trecena 1-Coatl of the year 3-Calli, my homeland died.
Rumors reached us as early as a few years earlier of strange, pale-faced men who came to the Maya of the peninsula far to the east, and soon after, they arrived on our own shores. Clad in strange, shiny armor and riding beasts like great deer, they struck awe and fear into us.
For reasons which even all these years later I still cannot understand, the Uey-Tlatoani, Moctezuma, allowed these visitors into the city, and he was taken hostage. The invaders occupied region, and an epidemic of smallpox soon swept the Valley of Mexico, carrying away my wife and parents with it. Again, I survived where others should have died, but thought none of it, grateful, at least, that my son had also survived.
We soon moved to Tenochtitlan itself, a city wrought with tension between the Mexica and the foreigners who now held themselves as our superiors. And though the Spaniards were chased out after outraging our customs at the feast of Toxcatl, they soon returned in force, placing our city under siege.
Distinctly I remember the night of the final assault. The air was heavy with both the humidity of the late days of summer and with the smoke from the burning of our city. I fought bravely and slew a few Spaniards, but in the end, I was overpowered.
The next morning, before dawn, I awoke in a mass burial pit north of the city. Sore beyond belief and in disbelief that I had somehow survived, I stared out over Texcoco at Tenochtitlan, the grand city which had dominated the horizon and my thoughts for the past two and a half decades of my life.
The city had fallen, and the sky of the dark hours before sunrise was lit instead by the fires still raging in the city. I knew then that the Empire of the Mexica was gone forever, and so to were the pantheon who I believed had watched over me since my childhood. Disoriented and in grief, I stumbled away, out of the Valley of Mexico and into the deserts of the north, leaving 'Tochtli' behind.
Gregorios: How about you? When was the last time you visited the city of your birth ?
Tochtli: These days, Xochimilco is just a department of Mexico City - which I have visited several times as recently as just a couple of years ago. My, how Tenochtitlan (I will never get used to its new name !) has grown in all these centuries! One of the largest cities on the planet. But, in the end, it really isn't home any more. I'm sure you feel the same way about your own birth city, given all the intervening years.
I can't be certain how many years I spent wandering aimlessly through the northern deserts. It speaks to just how wide and desolate those deserts were - and still are in many places - that it took so long for me to encounter another human being. Even when I found them, I was not exactly eager to make acquaintances with them. These were, after all Chichimeca - barbarians, in my native tongue, for all intents and purposes.
When at last I was forced to wander into their encampment for food (for all that we are immortal, starving is still unpleasant), I found them to be unexpectedly accommodating and friendly. These were the Wixáritari, or the Huichol as they're called today. I stayed with them for many years, learning their language, which I found had some similarities to my own, and came to be called Xeiya.
It seemed like it wasn't very long, however, before Spanish patrols began ranging north into the deserts. Like a dog pursued, I left my latest life behind, fleeing north again, caring not whether I lived or died, only that I was as far from the Spaniards as possible.
As an interesting digression, I was very surprised the first time I calculated my age. I was born in 1495 CE, and Tenochtitlan fell in 1521, when I was 26 years old. The first time I became aware of the Western calendar system, it was the year 1722, nearly two hundred years later, and it wasn't until 1810 that I found the Western year of the Fall of Tenochtitlan. The news that I was 315 years old came as somewhat of a shock, as it hadn't really felt all that long.