Almanac of the Dead is a sprawling, nontraditional novel set amid geopolitical changes and apocalyptic visions of the future. While Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko was writing it, she told an interviewer that it was a “long and complex novel” with “five or six distinct narrative lines” that was “hard to even tell about [it].” The completed novel is still hard to “tell about.”
Silko did not set out to write a traditional western novel, which is inadequate for telling the stories that her ancestors have handed down through oral tradition. Silko instead chose the structure of ancient Mayan almanacs because they would free her to employ multiple narratives. The almanacs were compiled long ago by Mayans watching their culture slowly disappear through Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the Americas. They were trying to preserve the stories they had in their heads and the glyphs that they had carved into stone. Silko’s novel, like the ancient Mayan almanacs, is a fragmentary collection of stories, dreams, characters, maps, lists, and prophecies.
Almanac of the Dead is ultimately a metanarrative, an attempt to comprehensively explain historical experience and knowledge through stories. Silko claims that the stories came to her through Native American spirits when she began thinking about writing the work. Because Native Americans believe that history is experienced through storytelling and that time is circular (defined by experiences that do not occur linearly), dates and chronology are not important in the novel. The Mayans did not think of days in terms of 24-hour periods. Rather, a day was a being with a personality and that being eventually would return, even if it took centuries. Although the structure of Silko’s work is nontraditional, a novel is nevertheless a Euro-American art form. Using such a vehicle to tell Native American stories presents some challenges to Euro-American readers accustomed to structure, chronological timelines, well-developed characters, and storyline resolutions. Almanac of the Dead has none of these. The novel covers five hundred years of history and incorporates dozens of themes, motifs, ideas, cultures, ideologies, and discourses into a vast mural of revisionist history, told from the viewpoint of the world’s marginalized groups—from the indigenous peoples to the handicapped. To a Euro-American reader, the novel’s multiple settings might seem disorganized and haphazard, yet in the Native American circular time frame it makes sense.
Almanac of the Dead chronicles an incredibly corrupt and depraved legacy handed down by the United States in the twentieth century, a legacy that in Silko’s view sums up the white man’s treatment of the Native American people. It is the era of what Native Americans call “Death-Eye Dog.” Violence, greed, and bloodlust have permeated every strata of society. Traditionally loving and nurturing relationships such as the family have been either destroyed or reincarnated as crime families or human networks for weapons smuggling, pornography, and drugs. Children are abandoned and murdered. Sexuality is no longer an intimate expression of love but a manipulative tool and an instrument of torture. Women are objectified and left out of the reproductive process. Governments are corrupt. Scientific advances meant to alleviate human suffering have been perverted into black market enterprises selling human organs. The world is in chaos.
The Native Americans are not entirely innocent in this story. Silko blames the Aztecs for bringing the European “destroyers” to the Americas because the Aztecs were destroyers themselves, lovers of blood who perverted the true religion by instituting human sacrifice. They beckoned to their fellow destroyers in Europe who followed the lure of bloodlust, sailed to the Americas, and stole the land from the indigenous peoples. Those groups of indigenous...
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people that did not agree with the Aztecs, that did not have the same bloodlust, fled North. These tribes became the Native Americans of the United States, tribes that over the years became, as Silko says, lazy and complacent and too occupied “with the white man’s toys”—television, gambling, alcohol, and drugs. All of this has been predicted in prophecy and chronicled inThe Almanac of the Dead.
Silko calls her novel “my 763-page indictment for five hundred years of theft, murder, pillage, and rape.” As one character says, there never has been a legal government established by Europeans anywhere in the Americas “because no legal government could be established on stolen land.” As the novel ends, various groups of indigenous people are simultaneously planning to overthrow the U.S. government. Twin Yaqui Indian brothers guided by revelations from the “spirit macaws” are leading Mexican revolutionaries as they march North. Radical eco-terrorists are preparing to blow themselves up to destroy Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam. An army of homeless veterans is camped out in the hijacked summer homes of Tucson’s elite, poised to take over U.S. military bases. A genius Asian computer hacker has created a mega-virus that will shut down power throughout the country. All of these “crazies” have assembled in a Tucson hotel room during the International Holistic Healers conference. They form an alliance. They know they must work together to achieve justice for indigenous people.
Silko believes the American Indian Movement has failed to achieve justice for Native Americans. In Almanac of the Dead, she hopes to show that only international indigenous alliances are capable of taking back the land. Rather than “rant and rave” about injustice, Silko explains that she would rather tell a story because “it is more effective in reaching people.”
Part 1: The United States
A great change is coming. It has been predicted by the “old ones” in The Almanac of the Dead. Grandmother Yoeme has chosen twin sisters, Zeta and Lecha, as the new caretakers of the ancient almanac. The sisters must work together to transcribe it. The almanac contains ancient secrets that are the answers to many of life’s mysteries. Estranged from her family for many years, Yoeme has been secretly returning undetected to observe her grandchildren. None of the others has been worthy until the twin girls come along. Lecha and Zeta seem to have inherited Yoeme’s psychic abilities. Yoeme takes the girls under her wing and when she is finally convinced she can entrust them with transcribing the almanac, she dies.
When Zeta and Lecha are fourteen years old, their mother dies. Their father is a geologist who was sixty when the twins were born. He asks for his daughters to be sent to him in Tucson, then immediately ships them off to boarding school. Before they leave, he shows the girls a ranch that he has purchased in the mountains outside of Tucson. They will inherit this ranch some day, he informs them. The girls grow up being vaguely aware of their ultimate destiny with regard to transcribing The Almanac of the Dead, but it takes them years to finally come around to embarking upon the task.
The sisters call these years their “coyote years." Lecha travels from "lover to lover” and from “city to city” where she earns a living thanks to her psychic powers. She even lives briefly in Alaska as the lover of a dogsled racer. There, she meets two Eskimo women, one of whom can crash airplanes with her mind. Lecha returns to the United States where she becomes a talk show celebrity psychic. Her psychic powers are lucrative and can be used for good or evil. They allow her to conjure up evil spells that she markets as “lover’s revenge” to spurned paramours seeking to get even. She also helps the police locate people using “clues” she obtains from The Almanac of the Dead. The ancient almanac has information about how to read people and how to discern clues from nature. Lecha adds her own psychic visions and evaluations to the almanac. She can locate only dead people, however. What good is that, she asks herself? Those who have lost loved ones only come to her to confirm their sorrow. She grows restless. Early in her coyote years, Lecha gives birth to a son, Ferro, and drops him off at the ranch in Tucson where her sister Zeta is now living. Zeta had been spending her “coyote years” working as a tour guide and moving from man to man, but when she realizes she can make more money by smuggling weapons and dealing drugs, she returns to the isolated ranch where she agrees to raise Ferro. Ferro grows up hating the mother who has abandoned him.
Lecha’s visions tell her it is time to give up her talk show career and return to Tucson to transcribe The Almanac of the Dead. She tells people she has cancer and is dying, but this may not be the truth. She is addicted to drugs, which she claims are for the cancer pain. Zeta has just completed her pages of the notebook and finds it significant that Lecha has chosen to return at this time. Lecha tells Zeta that “Those old almanacs don’t just tell you when to plant or harvest, they tell you about the days yet to come—drought or flood, plague, civil war or invasion.” She continues, “Once the notebooks are transcribed, I will figure out how to use the old almanac. Then we will foresee the months and years to come—everything.” She tells her sister she should have started it years ago, but she was having too much fun and there was “no time for old notebooks and scraps of paper.” Lecha has hired a young woman to help her transcribe the ancient almanac. Also part of the “family” on Zeta’s ranch are Sterling, the gardener, and Paulie, Ferro’s lover.
Seese is from San Diego where she has been living with Eric, Beaufrey, and David, three homosexual men. David is her lover and the father of her baby. She comes to Tucson seeking Lecha. She hopes that the psychic can help her find her lost baby, who has been kidnapped by David and Beaufrey. Leaving her dysfunctional home as a teen, Seese finds work as a stripper, becomes addicted to drugs, gets pregnant by David, has an abortion, gets pregnant again and this time decides to keep the baby. Beaufrey, who is in love with David, wants Seese to have another abortion, but she refuses. She believes she loves the bisexual David, and that David wants a child. Also part of this group is Eric. Eric is from a small town in West Texas where his religious family ostracizes him for being gay. Eric too is in love with David and, strangely, their mutual love for David unites Eric and Seese. In an effort to spare her feelings, Eric tells Seese that he has come to realize that David does not love anyone and has been using him and Seese to make Beaufrey jealous.
Despondent over David’s rejection, Eric kills himself. Seese has her baby, Monte, but Beaufrey and David kidnap Monte when he is six months old, claiming that he is better off with David than his drug-addicted mother. Seese is stoned and barely conscious the day Monte is kidnapped and she blames herself. Monte is re-kidnapped from David and then disappears. David thinks Seese is responsible. Neither Seese nor David knows what happened to the baby. Seese becomes chronically depressed and strung-out on drugs until she sees Lecha on television. Lecha explains how she helps the police to find people. Seese wants to know if Monte is dead, so she leaves for Tucson hoping to convince Lecha to help her. Beaufrey gives Seese some “settlement goods—cash and cocaine” to get rid of her. Seese arrives in Tucson and convinces Lecha to hire her as a secretary and nurse but she is so repulsed by Lecha’s addiction that she stops taking cocaine herself. On the ranch, Seese befriends Sterling, Zeta’s American Indian gardener.
Sterling arrives in Tucson by mistake. On the way to Phoenix, Sterling’s bus stops in Tucson, but he misses it when it leaves. He is content to stay in Tucson, however, because he has read that Tucson is an interesting place with a notorious history for harboring bank robbers and outlaws. Sterling has been expelled from the Laguna Indian Reservation and is depressed. He had been appointed by the tribal elders to make certain that Hollywood film crews did not film any sacred Indian relics, but he failed. The elders only agreed to let film crews on the reservation because the tribe needed money, so they appointed Sterling to ensure that the filming took place only in designated areas. Instead, the film crew brought drugs onto the reservation and took pictures of the sacred giant stone snake that had mysteriously appeared at a uranium mine excavation site on Indian land. Sterling was unaware of the drugs and the filming, but the tribal elders blamed him for allowing the filming so that he could make money to buy drugs for himself. He never should have trusted those people, he laments. Hollywood people are “some of the worst white people on earth.” Sterling believes he has been set up, however, because he is an outsider. He has lived off the reservation too long.
Calabazas is a Mexican-Indian drug dealer and arms smuggler who lives in Tucson. Zeta used to work for him before deciding she could make more money on her own. Now they cooperate with each other as much as possible. Calabazas has hired his cousin Mosca and a young man named Root to help with his business. Root has been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. He limps and has slurred speech. Root is part Mexican. Calabazas used to know Root’s grandfather, “Old Gorgon.” Calabazas has long conversations with Root and Mosca. He tells them stories of “the old ones.” Calabazas marries Sarita, but he is in love with her sister, Liria. While he is carrying on an affair with Liria, Sarita is having an affair with the village priest. Calabazas is an old man when the novel begins, trying to hold onto his business and wondering which people he can trust. He trusts no one in his family, but he trusts Root.
Part 1 ends with the story of The Almanac of the Dead. The almanac is an ancient manuscript handed down over the ages by “the old ones.” As the people are being driven from their land by “the invaders,” they entrust the manual to four children who sew its pages into their clothing as they escape to the North. The book they are carrying, “the old ones” tell them, is a book “of all the days of their people” and some day, the people will return. The story of the children’s journey is written in the almanac, Yoeme tells Lecha and Zeta. The children grow hungry on the voyage and the youngest girl eats one of the pages. It sustains her. The children then meet an old hunchbacked woman who has been left behind by her people. She is cooking a stew of roots and berries. The children are nearly dead from hunger, but the crippled woman gives them some stew and it sustains them. The youngest girl puts a page from the ancient almanac in the stew and the children and the old woman are able to live on it for days and days. The pages are the “source of the wonderful flavor in the stew.” The children agree not to put any pages into the stew until they memorize everything that is on that page. The children know they must complete their journey, but the hunchback tries to coax them into staying. They leave, but the youngest girl remains for one more bowl of stew. “The old ones” have warned them about such “hosts,” people they would meet on the way that would want something in return for protecting them and feeding them. They must be prepared for these hosts because the era of Death-Eye Dog is upon them, a period of time when humans will be “obsessed with hungers and impulses commonly seen in wild dogs.” The oldest girl sneaks back to the old woman’s camp to see if she can retrieve the pages from the youngest girl’s dress. She sees the girl’s body hanging from a hook in a kiva. She is sure the hunchback has already eaten her heart and liver, “the preferred delicacies.” She retrieves the youngest girl’s dress with the pages sewn in the hem and slips it over her own head and escapes.
Part 2: Mexico
A great change is coming. Menardo’s grandfather has told him all about it. Menardo is a chubby little boy who enjoys listening to his grandfather’s stories about the era of Death-Eye Dog until he reaches the sixth grade and learns from the Catholic brothers that these are pagan stories about pagan peoples. He stops visiting his grandfather and the old man dies. Menardo tries to hide his flat nose, the tell-tale sign of his Indian ancestry, by explaining that he was injured in a boxing accident. Menardo grows up pretending to be white. He is good at selling insurance and soon establishes his own firm, Universal Insurance. He employs a private security force with three airplanes to protect his clients from political unrest in Mexico. He convinces the arms dealer, Greenlee, that he is not a federal agent and only wants to buy arms to equip his private security force. He marries above his class. His wife Iliana’s family is aristocratic but poor. Menardo takes care of them all, loaning them money and giving them jobs. He plans to build a mansion for his wife to show off his wealth. His prestigious architectural firm assigns a beautiful young woman architect to design the house. Menardo becomes infatuated with her. They have an affair, Iliana’s jealous country club friends find out, and they tell Iliana. Iliana and her maiden aunt arrive at the airport just as the architect, Señorita Alegría Martinez-Soto, is stepping off the plane. Alegría is sent back to Mexico City where she is fired. Her career is ruined.
Soon after, Iliana slips on the marble stairs of her new mansion and dies. Iliana had insisted that the marble stairs be highly polished so that everyone entering the house would immediately focus on how they created “the effect of a cascade of light, a waterfall of jungle light down the polished marble” next to the wall of glass. The stairs have an “unsafe design,” the police chief concludes. Alegría had advised Iliana to choose something more subtle, but Iliana had refused. The police chief questions Menardo but declares the death an accident. Menardo feigns grief to escape further questioning. Iliana’s family blames Menardo for Iliana’s death. Alegría learns of the death when Menardo telephones her to propose. She agrees to marry Menardo but insists on waiting a proper amount of time after the funeral.
Alegría’s Cuban lover Bartolomeo and his communist comrades are making bombs. Alegría has known Bartolomeo since college when she had communist leanings herself. The communists are trying to kill capitalists. One of the bombs kills the daughter of Menardo’s friend, the bank president. Alegría had tried to break up with Bartolomeo when they were still in college, but he had come looking for her when she was working in Mexico City at the architectural firm. Alegría marries Menardo in a quiet civil ceremony in his home town of Tuxtla Guitiérrez. She believes she is finally free of Bartolomeo. She does not love Menardo. He repulses her, but she “now must pretend” she is his bride and from that night on, “she would have to be his wife.”
Meanwhile, the revolution is brewing. Angelita La Escapía heads the Revolutionary Army of the People, dedicated to taking back their land for the people “despite the costs.” She has learned about communism from Cubans who run the Marxist school she attended in Mexico City. Bartolomeo was one of her instructors. She only attends the school because the Cubans have promised to arm the revolutionaries. Marx, in fact, has copied his ideas from the indigenous people, Angelita believes. He only understood communism “imperfectly” because, after all, he was white and European. European communism has been ruined by the blood of millions. Angelita’s elder sisters send El Feo to check on her. Has she been brainwashed by the Cuban communists? Is she still a soldier of the people? El Feo assures the sisters that Angelita has not been brainwashed. In fact, the Army of the People is planning to execute Bartolomeo for betraying “true” communism with half-baked ramblings he attributes to Marx but mostly because he is no good to them anymore.
Alegría’s parents write to her that “Mexico is almost bankrupt and the country is about to explode.” They plead with her to come home to Venezuela. She is living the high life as Menardo’s wife, but having affairs with Bartolomeo and Sonny Blue. Menardo considers asking his Indian chauffeur, Tacho, if Alegría has ever been unfaithful to him. “Indians could detect such things,” he knows. Alegría attends gala events on the arm of her wealthy husband, while he wears an expensive bullet-proof vest imported from the United States. Only Alegría knows about the vest. There are multiple warring factions in Mexico and they all would like to see Menardo dead, including Bartolomeo and Angelita. Alegría believes Bartolomeo knows something. Is his group planning to kill Menardo? Bartolomeo and his guerrillas call Menardo the “fat red monkey.” Tacho has warned Menardo that the Indians joining the guerrillas in the hills are brothers and sisters of Menardo’s own servants. Menardo becomes obsessed with security and wears the bullet-proof vest to bed. Bartolomeo is giving up on the Indian guerrillas. He realizes that their goals conflict with his own; all they care about is taking back their land. They do not care anything about ideals or about Marx. They are out of control, and "(t)hey think they understand Marxism better than Lenin or Marx.” Bartolomeo asks Alegría to go back to Cuba with him. Although she is bored with Bartolomeo, she considers leaving Menardo. She is falling in love with Sonny Blue.
Meanwhile, General J, the governor, the police chief, and Menardo practice shooting at the golf club. Fear is widespread. Severed heads are popping up everywhere. General J. remembers when the guerrilla leaders were once his officers. He had trusted them. Now, nobody trusts anyone. People cannot even trust those Indians that had been their servants for many, many years. Tacho cannot be trusted. He lies to Menardo whenever he can. His spirit macaws give him instructions on how he can manipulate Menardo and Alegría. General J is preparing a treatise on “the use of physical measures such as castration to subdue rebels, subversives and other political deviants.” The police chief has been selling videotapes of police interrogations to an Argentine pornographic filmmaker through his brother-in-law, Vico, in hopes of using the altered films to intimidate left-wingers and subversives. The Argentine photographer, however, is out of control. He turns the films into perverted debacles of torture and castration. As Part 2 ends, the chief of police has brutally killed the Argentine photographer, subjecting him to the same torture depicted in his films.
Part 3: Africa
A great change is coming. It will affect the white man and the native peoples of the Americas. The native peoples will take back their land. Right now, the land is occupied by “Destroyers” in the form of crooks, corrupt politicians, and gangsters. Gangster Mike Blue and his nephew, Max, are ambushed in Newark, New Jersey. Mike is dead on arrival, and Max is critically wounded and not expected to live. This is Max’s second brush with death. A few years earlier, he had survived an army plane crash outside of El Paso, Texas. Max lives, however. He tells his wife Leah that all he wants to do now is to move to Arizona. The New Jersey skies remind him too much “of the gray fabric inside a coffin lid.” He becomes obsessed with death. Killing a man is “doing him a favor,” Max believes. Max becomes a professional hit man who fools the “stupid and corrupt” Tucson police by providing enough “normal circumstances” for them to rule the deaths accidental. The locals all think Max is a retired businessman that plays golf every day for his health. In truth, Max is running his “murder for hire” business from the men’s locker room at the municipal golf course.
After the ambush in New Jersey, Max becomes impotent. He loses interest in his wife, Leah, but convinces her to move to Tucson with him by promising to set her up in her own real estate business. She can do whatever she wants with the money. It takes awhile, but Leah becomes successful. The rush of the deal replaces her husband’s lack of intimacy. Max hires spies to make sure none of Leah’s lovers is an undercover agent. Only a few are suspicious of him and are watching him as he continues his “retirement” façade in Tucson. Meanwhile, Leah is working on developing land into a community called Venice, Arizona. She needs to obtain water rights on Indian lands and to do so, she enlists Max’s aid to convince the corrupt Judge Arne to dismiss the Indians’ water rights lawsuit. She cultivates an affair with a wheelchair-bound Realtor, Trigg, who is buying up downtown Tucson “block by block.” Trigg is a man with a mission. He is convinced there are millions to be made in “bio-materials,” the sale of human organs and tissue and plasma, and his Plasma International business is a front for organ storage. He is obsessed with Leah. He gives her dozens of his diaries to read so that she can get to know who he really is. Bored after reading a few entries, Leah gives them to Max. Max learns from reading them that Trigg is a racist who is becoming increasingly paranoid “about Mexicans and Blacks.” Trigg is not only storing body parts in his cold lockers, but he kills homeless people to collect their blood plasma and organs. When he drinks too much, he inadvertently reveals this information to his secretary Peaches, who tells her boyfriend Roy about it.
Roy is a homeless veteran, a former Green Beret, whom Trigg has recruited to comb the streets of Tucson and bring the homeless to his blood banks. He pays Roy fifty cents a head. Roy has been nicknamed “Rambo” by the other homeless men. Trigg grows to trust Roy/Rambo, but Roy/Rambo is secretly assembling his “Army of the Homeless” to overthrow the rich capitalists of Tucson who have corrupted the America that he and his fellow veterans risked their lives to fight for in Vietnam. The government is corrupt, with “police beating homeless old men.” This is not democracy and Roy/Rambo and his army are going to do something about it. While working for Trigg, Roy/Rambo is able to secretly explore the homes of rich people who winter in Tucson. He knows which homes can easily be converted into bunkers for his Army of the Homeless. Some of the people are so rich that they have forgotten they have bank accounts in Tucson. Roy/Rambo steals credit cards and bank statements from their mailboxes which easily allow him to withdraw huge sums of money from their bank accounts. Helping him is Clinton, a crazy African/Native-American and former Green Beret who has “pure contempt for any authority but his own.” Roy/Rambo recruits Clinton for his Army of the Homeless because he needs a black man for an integrated army. Clinton has plans for his own army, however, the Army of Justice, that will consist of Native Americans and Blacks. His army will fight against “Mad scientists, mad generals, mad Church of God preachers—all of them want to see black folks disappear.....” Roy/Rambo and Clinton do not trust each other but are placating each other as they forge ahead with their individual plans.
Sonny Blue is unhappy with his limited role in the Blue crime family. He strikes out on his own. He is not content to be merely “Max Blue’s son.” He does not like his father’s business partner, Mr. B., and establishes a partnership with the Mexican Menardo because the prices of Menardo’s “illegal weapons” are much better than Mr. B’s. Sonny travels to Mexico to meet with Menardo and has an affair with Menardo’s wife, Alegría. Sonny’s cousin Angelo has been working in El Paso for the family. Sonny arrives in Tucson to take charge of the horses the family owns. He hopes it will help him forget his girlfriend Marilyn, who has just broken up with him. Sonny wants Angelo to help Bingo (Sonny’s weak younger brother) with his vending machine and pinball business because all Bingo cares about is snorting cocaine and sex. Sonny and Bingo were neglected as children by both their assassin father and their real-estate tycoon mother who left them in the car while she met men for sex.
Meanwhile, Zeta, Ferro, Lecha, Seese, and Paulie continue to “cook” drugs while Lecha and Seese translate the Almanac. Ferro has grown tired of his relationship with Paulie, and Paulie is growing angry and jealous of Ferro’s obsessive affair with the rich college boy, Jamey. Zeta is considering other business opportunities because the computer genius she employs, a Korean named Awa Gee, is projecting that cocaine smuggling will not be profitable in the future. Ferro wants to start his own business with Jamey. Ferro has bankrolled one of Jamey’s projects, a gay beefcake calendar called Cop Cakes, which features not only suggestively posed Tucson policeman but also obscene photo-manipulated images of the Tucson chief of police, a federal judge, and an Arizona senator or two. Judge Arne is depicted in a sexual position with his pet Bassett Hound. Although the judge laughs this off as “trick photography,” the perverted judge actually does engage in such aberrant behavior. The judge and police chief are not afraid of having their reputations tarnished by the obvious forgeries, but they do issue statements condemning the outrage and disrespect of the law. The senators, however, are frantically requesting golf games with Max Blue to see if the gangster can intervene on their behalf. Max decides not to get involved with senators, however. These lawmakers no longer have any value to him. What good are laws without enforcement? Max concludes that “judges are a better buy.”
Part 4: The Americas
The “great change” is still coming. Angelita La Escapía is still urging the indigenous Mexican Indians to rise up and take back their land. She is well-known throughout the Americas now, even as far as Nicaragua and Peru. Angelita has been manipulating the Cuban communists and her former lover, Bartolomeo, in order to get money from them to buy guns and other supplies for the guerrillas. All around the world, “friends of the Indians” are contributing to her efforts. Countries and governments are falling over each other in the rush to prove they are “friends of the Indians.” They are afraid. They have seen the Africans take back their land from European control in South Africa. The Indians have risen up in Peru. There are even “friends of the Indians” in the Persian Gulf. Everyone is banding together to fight the white man. There is a worldwide pan-Indian movement to take back stolen land.
Angelita is having an affair with El Feo, another Mestizo revolutionary who is so handsome his mother had to name him El Feo (the ugly one) to protect him from women. In this section it is revealed that El Feo and Tacho, Menardo’s chauffeur, are fraternal twin brothers. The macaw spirits (wacahs) have nicknamed Tacho "Wacah." He must obey their commands. He has been lying to and manipulating Menardo and his new wife, Alegría, for years. He is the “eyes and ears” of the revolutionaries. Alegría has been right about Tacho. He is “a spy.” Tacho sees changes all around Tuxtla. The Mexican government is falling apart. Soon the white men will be outnumbered by Indians throughout Mexico. Tacho finds a magic bundle with an opal inside. The opal shows him things. He uses the opal to interpret Menardo’s dreams, but he does not tell Menardo what the dreams really mean. The opal gives him winning lottery numbers which he shares with Menardo to trick him into trusting him. Menardo splits his winnings with Tacho, convincing himself that he is buying Tacho’s loyalty. The opal also shows Tacho explosions everywhere—civil wars, bombings, riots.
Menardo asks Tacho to interpret his dream which he claims is the dream of a friend. Tacho asks if the friend is a white man or an Indian. Menardo asks why this should make a difference. When Tacho refuses to explain, Menardo stops sharing his dreams. He concludes that Tacho, after all, is an ignorant and lazy Indian who knows nothing about conducting business. All Indians want to do is “waste money and time on village feast days and special ‘remembrances’ for beloved relatives and ailing clans people.”
Menardo has vastly underestimated Tacho. Alegría continually warns Menardo about Tacho trying unsuccessfully for years to convince him to fire “that spy.” Tacho knows about Alegría’s affair with Sonny Blue and Bartolomeo. Alegría is thankful that Menardo has provided a luxurious life for her, but she has never loved him and she continues to be repulsed by him and his bullet-proof vest which he still wears to bed. Alegría admits that she is selfish, just as her father has always claimed. She is from a family of pure bloods after all. Her past is one of privilege. Her ancestors are the Emperor Maximillian and Empress Carlotta, two ill-fated monarchs whose European families “deserted them.” Their fall was a “tragedy” her father tells her. Maximillian was killed and Carlotta went mad. Bartolomeo likes to torment Alegría with this story. She has begun to hate Bartolomeo and wishes him dead. She soon gets her wish. He is executed by Angelita La Escapía and El Feo for failing to understand that the Indians only want to take back their land. They do not care about Karl Marx. El Feo and La Escapía have been chosen to ensure that the people rise up and take back their stolen land. Even in the Mexican cities, the true leaders will seize all vacant apartments and houses in order to provide shelter for the homeless, just like Roy/Rambo and Clinton are planning to do in the United States.
Menardo continues to be obsessed with the bullet-proof vest he purchased from Sonny Blue. He does not know Sonny is sleeping with Alegría. Menardo is comforted by the bullet-proof vest, especially now that things are heating up. People are being killed and blown up every day. Menardo wants Alegría to go everywhere with a body guard, but she refuses. Menardo senses that his friends are acting strange. The police chief and General J fail to look him in the eye when they see him and do not return his phone calls. General J is having secret meetings with the United States military. He does not share this information with Menardo anymore. The military and the police are not working together. Menardo agrees with General J that the illegal refugees should be gunned down like coyotes or wolves. The police chief wants to put the illegals in refugee prison camps and use them to work the fields. Menardo decides to impress his friends. He wants to remind them that he is still powerful and that he is important. He will play a joke on them. He asks Tacho to shoot him in the chest. The vest will protect him. He will pretend to fall down dead, shocking his friends at the golf club when he stands up laughing. They are shocked because he does not stand up afterward. Something is wrong with the vest. Menardo is dead.
Part 4 reintroduces the Beaufrey/David/Serlo storyline. Beaufrey is the one responsible for kidnapping David’s son Monte. At first, David is enamored of his son, but he soon tires of the responsibility of fatherhood when it interrupts his perverted sex life with Beaufrey. Beaufrey arranges for Monte to be kidnapped again one night when David leaves the child with his nanny. David suspects nothing. Beaufrey is revealed to be “The Argentine” film producer who has been working with the Tucson police to obtain videotapes of interrogations that he turns into perverted pornographic torture and killing films. David, Serlo, and Beaufrey watch these films as part of their sex play. A sociopath since childhood, Beaufrey is incapable of feeling emotion. He remembers that even as a child, he was capable of “loving himself, only himself.” His fearful parents took him to therapy for years, but to no avail. He succeeded only in repulsing his psychiatrist by his fascination with infamous perverts such as Albert Fish, the Long Island Cannibal.
The grown-up Beaufrey turns into a pervert himself. He, David, and Serlo go to Serlo’s “finca” in Columbia after Monte is kidnapped for the second time. Beaufrey lies to David that Seese is responsible for the kidnapping but that he is working on locating Monte for David. David’s art agent tells him that his gory photography exhibit of Eric’s suicide scene has been losing money due to additional lawsuits from Eric’s family. David is going broke.
Serlo and Beaufrey are aristocrats. They have grown up believing that “the droit du seigneur” (a practice in which English lords slept with peasant girls on their wedding nights) was for the noble purpose of infusing “superior aristocratic blood into the peasant stock.” Serlo remembers his uncles telling him about raping young Indian women on their rubber plantations to “upgrade mestizo and Indian bloodstock.” Serlo is a modern-day Nazi who is engaged in eugenics research. In his underground lab at the finca, he is storing water, wine, money, dehydrated foods, weapons, plants, animals, and other supplies for an “Alternative Earth Module” unit which he plans to launch into space and live on until the coming upheaval and violence on Earth abates and he can return to repopulate it with “those of superior lineage” instead of the “swarms of brown and yellow human larvae called natives” that now live there. Serlo believes that Hepatitis B is an inferior virus to AIDS because it is the “disease of the poor, the non-white, the addicted, and the homosexual.” Even worse, Hepatitis B is curable. HIV has no cure, a designer virus that can specifically target and eliminate undesirable groups in the event the pure bloods ever find themselves “vastly outnumbered in a final battle of survival.” Beaufrey tells Serlo that the CIA is responsible for distributing cocaine in the ghettos because they fear that heroin will not spread HIV infection fast enough to destroy the minorities. Serlo claims the CIA is not that organized.
Beaufrey does not believe the rioting natives will have enough energy or ambition to overrun Earth, especially when they start watching television and getting a little more to eat. Just in case, however, Serlo collects his own semen in metal tubes. He has never had sex with anyone. The only human that has ever even touched Serlo has been his perverted grandfather who taught him that “sexual penetration was silly, unnecessary, and rotten with disease.” While this gruesome trio lives together on the finca, Beaufrey becomes more and more allied with his fellow blue blood Serlo and less and less enamored with his former lover, David. David grows jealous and insists on riding horses with the two other men, even though he is not a horseman. He chooses an untried sorrel mare which, although fast, cannot be controlled. Serlo cruelly shows David pictures of Monte laid out on an autopsy table. David refuses to believe that Beaufrey has had anything to do with Monte’s death. Beaufrey would never permit Monte to be the subject of one of his autopsy films. Upset, David allows the sorrel mare to run as fast as she wishes one day. She runs until she drops dead, rolling over and crushing David.
Part 5: The Fifth World
An apocalypse is coming. Lecha and Seese are learning more and more about it while transcribing The Almanac of the Dead. The almanac had predicted an earlier cataclysm long ago when Cortés arrived in the Americas, that sorcerer from Europe, who like the Aztecs whom he wiped out, was a blood worshiper. The almanac is a hodge-podge of writings, glyphs, pictures, and codes. Pages are missing here and there. Many pages are yellow and falling apart. Some are only scraps. Lecha wonders if the almanac can be trusted because it contains “delusions of various sorts.” The almanac talks about animals and spirit beings. It contains a calendar. There is a lot of information about blood and plagues and epidemics. Lecha’s grandmother Yoeme added a part herself. Yoeme describes how she was captured by the federal government and sentenced to death, but because of the great influenza of 1918, no one was healthy enough to carry out her sentence, so she was set free. Yoeme eventually dies but Lecha learns that her family has not treated Yoeme very well in her old age. Lecha vows to get even. She returns to Mexico with Sterling and Seese, digs up the family cemetery, and scatters the bones of Uncle Federico, Popa, and Chucha in the town dump. She hires Mexican teenagers to help her with the digging and they tell her the latest news: a war is brewing, and the twin brothers Tacho and El Feo have joined up with Angelita La Escapía.
Zeta donates money to the “Twin Brothers.” The spirit macaws predict that unrest will “spread like wildfire across Mexico” and U.S. military forces will invade to help the Mexican government. To frighten U.S. troops and encourage them to defect, Angelita La Escapía sends the U.S. government videos of its ambassador to Mexico’s severed head. Lecha is so energized by this news that she stops taking drugs. She sheds her wheelchair. She has only used the wheelchair to fool the cops, she tells Sterling. Sterling tells her about the meaning of the giant stone snake appearing on the Laguna Indian reservation. Zeta and Lecha recognize that the ancient prophecy has come true and that “the cruel years that were to come” were beginning. The great serpent has returned.
Zeta’s Korean computer genius Awa Gee hacks into computers from which Zeta needs information, but Awa Gee is another “crazy” who has his own plan to bring down the United States by cyber war. He has been fired from his job at the University of Arizona because he has been caught polishing a special lens that was to be used in a solar super-weapon. He was not supposed to be anywhere near the top-secret weapon component. Awa Gee wants destruction for the pure sake of destruction. He and Zeta are working on a plan to cause a massive blackout in the United States with the touch of one computer key. In his spare time, Awa Gee is developing his own solar war machine. The only thing he fears is lightening, which can disrupt computer networks, but he has been learning all he can about his “worst enemy” to be able to overcome its power. Awa Gee is helping Zeta sabotage Greenlee’s drug shipment pipeline, but he needs more information. Zeta tells him she can get this information from Greenlee and she visits Greenlee’s basement warehouse and kills him. Zeta has always hated Greenlee. He has told her his last racist dirty joke.
Seese is having dreams. Her dreams show her that Monte is dead. She is angry with Lecha. Lecha must have known all along. Lecha has been using Seese. Seese decides to take Beaufrey’s cocaine that she has been hoarding and sell it so that she can leave Tucson. She tries to sell it to Root, and then to Tiny. Tucson has a glut of cocaine, Root tells Seese, and so he does not want to buy it. Tiny tells her he will see what he can do. Seese returns to Tiny’s Stage Coach Bar the next night, but the police are everywhere. They have been planning an undercover sting. They break into the bar, killing Tiny and Jamey (Ferro’s lover), who turns out to be an undercover agent. Jamey has been set up by jealous fellow police officers, who resent him for being the police chief’s protégée. The police strongly suggest that Seese leave town, promising her that if she tells the story they want her to tell, they will leave her alone. Seese pretends to leave, but sneaks away to call Lecha and Sterling, who come and pick her up.
Calabazas has lost both of his women. His wife, Sarita, has stopped sleeping with priests and is helping the church smuggle refugees out of Mexico into the U.S. Her sister Liria, Calabazas’ true love, is helping her sister. Mosca has known all along about the subversive work of the Catholic church, but he decides not to discuss it with Calabazas. Mosca is becoming crazier and crazier. He claims the spirits have inhabited his shoulder and are talking to him. He has always been able to see weird things—witches, devils, spirits, strange visions, dead souls. “Dead souls are always near us,” Mosca tells Root. He remembers a Hopi Indian he met in prison who told him that Europeans did not respect the dead souls of their own ancestors and that is why they are haunted by the dead in their dreams. This is why they want to leave Earth and go to Mars and Saturn. Through his spirits, Mosca senses the change that is coming. It excites him. He stops snorting cocaine but replaces it with food. He grows fat, but that is okay, because body fat is lucky. Mosca finds a body fat reader to tell him the secrets of his fat. The Barefoot Hopi arrives in Tucson. He is no longer in prison. He is attending the International Holistic Healers Convention. His vision is to free everyone from prisons all over the United States and have them join the war to take back the land. He had been in prison for shooting down a tourist helicopter that was hovering over a snake dance ceremony on an Indian reservation.
Max Blue decides to give his sons Bingo and Sonny and his nephew Angelo a big assignment. They are to meet Mr. B’s men at the airport for an important cocaine drop. New York buyers want to pick up their cocaine at a busy place to avoid suspicion, so Sonny picks the Yaqui Easter Dance ceremony. There is a mix-up, however, and some undercover police arrive. Mosca and Root are there. Mosca is planning to shoot Sonny Blue, but he hits a British tourist instead. Sonny panics, drops the suitcase of money, which Mosca picks up, and flees. Sonny, Bingo, and Angelo are roughed up by the police. Max Blue is furious. He has paid big money for police protection, not police brutality. He demands to meet with the police chief, the senator, and Judge Arne at the golf course, where Judge Arne encourages Max and the police chief to work things out. The perverted Judge is in a hurry to return to his beloved Basset hounds. Judge Arne knows it is important for these men to get along because Tucson has now become the command headquarters for all United States military forces assembled along the Mexican border to quell the riots in Mexico and to prevent escaping people from Mexico and Central America from getting into the United States. He also wants to maintain good relations with Max because Leah Blue has promised him an expensive house in her new development, Venice, Arizona. Leah’s lover, Trigg, does not share her vision for Venice, and Leah has grown bored with the Realtor in a wheelchair that deals in body parts. Trigg wants to set up a sex mall in Tucson, but Leah thinks this is a dumb idea.
Back in Mexico, Alegría does not attend Menardo’s funeral. Instead, she books a luxury bus tour to the United States with other rich Mexicans and Central Americans who have packed up as much money and jewels as they can as they escape the uprisings in their countries. These wealthy people have been on such bus tours before. They are pleasure tours with plenty of sex, drugs, and alcohol, led by a tour guide named Mario. They trust Mario. He knows how to treat them. Only this time, the rich have been set up. Mario and his men abandon them in the desert without food or water. The abandoned aristocrats try to reach the border but they all die, except Alegría, who is discovered half-dead and dehydrated by Liria and Sarita. “Please, no police!” she tells them as they and their Catholic nuns and brothers carefully lift her into their van and head for the border. She then kisses the emeralds she has sewn into her belt and thanks the jewels for saving her life.
Part 6: One World, Many Tribes
The International Holistic Healers Convention has begun. Angelita La Escapía is there representing the Twin Brothers, Tacho and El Feo, who cannot attend due to the warnings of the spirit macaws. Tacho-Wacah sends the message that the people in the North should be prepared for the changes, welcome the arrival of the people that are coming from the South, and send any money they can. Tacho-Wacah understands that the changes might require “another hundred years” until the Europeans have been outnumbered; then the people can take back their land peacefully. The followers of the spirit macaws believe they must not shed any more blood. Angelita La Escapía has other ideas, however.
Two key speakers at the convention are The Barefoot Hopi and Wilson Weasel Tail. The disenchanted people from prior chapters—Roy/Rambo, Clinton and their homeless army, Mosca, Root and Calabazas, Rose the Eskimo woman, and Angelita La Escapía—are all there to advance their own agendas. Lecha is surprised to see Zeta and Calabazas attending the convention together. Zeta thinks that Calabazas has been listening to his crazy lieutenant, Mosca, who has wild stories about the Barefoot Hopi and his radical schemes and about the twin brothers who are on a sacred journey North accompanied by their spirit macaws and thousands of their faithful followers.
The “Poet Lawyer” Wilson Weasel Tail addresses the audience and rants for hours about the white man’s oppression and how the native peoples are guilty of apathy with regard to protecting Mother Earth. “Fight the invaders or die,” he tells the people. “Give back what you have stolen from us!” he tells the U.S. government. The convention has attracted a variety of groups that have grievances with the United States, including a group of eco-terrorists called Green Vengeance. The eco-terrorists show a video of a bridge they have blown up which the government has explained away as “structural failure.” Mosca attends the convention even though he risks detection by the Tucson police who believe he has fled to Mexico. Mosca tells Calabazas that he is quitting Calabazas’ organization to join the Barefoot Hopi. Mosca wants Root to join him to represent handicapped people. The Barefoot Hopi introduces Angelita La Escapía who delivers her own rant about taking back the land.
Lecha believes everyone has gone mad—Mosca at the Yaqui Easter Dance, Seese at the Stage Coach, Zeta at Greenlee’s warehouse, and Ferro after Jamey’s murder. Awa Gee and Ferro form a partnership to build car bombs. Tucson now has been converted into a military stronghold. Hundreds of United States troops are arriving daily. Squads of homeless veterans are occupying the vacant homes in the hills. Lecha meets with Zeta, Calabazas, and Angelita La Escapía at the convention hotel where they spend an entire night discussing how to take back the land. Europeans are “welcome to convert” to the true religion, or they can go back to their ancestral homes in Europe. Calabazas is not convinced that the “crazies” can truly effect these changes, but he fears the strong women that now surround him and hopes that they will give him something easy to do in his old age. The crazies are not all on the same page, however. The Barefoot Hopi and Tacho-Wacah are preaching patience, gradual changes, voting, and Indians becoming citizens. Angelita La Escapía grimaces. She is only pretending to agree. She asks Zeta about buying a few Army surplus Stinger missiles.
Max Blue phones Leah and tells her that Trigg has been killed. Workers have found his body near one of his cold-storage lockers. The police arrest the first black man and white man they see wearing camouflage clothing, but Clinton and Roy/Rambo are the ones that are really guilty. They feel sorry that “two brothers” are taking the rap for them, but they console themselves with the assurance that “the brothers” are sacrificing themselves for the cause. Clinton plans to leave for Haiti where he can rally his “Black Indian” cousins. The surviving war veterans on the Indian reservations are uniting with Clinton and Roy-Rambo. The Barefoot Hopi gives Clinton a book that catalogues additional “white man” crimes which begin in 1526 and end in 1862, during the U.S. Civil War. Clinton promises the Barefoot Hopi that he will spread the word among the Black Indians to prepare for the day that is coming. The Barefoot Hopi is calling for a nationwide prison uprising. Wilson Weasel Tail is confident that when the lights go out everywhere, the native people will not be deterred. The indigenous people do not depend too much on electricity, but they all have weapons now and they are ready to fight.
Max Blue is struck and killed by lightening on the golf course. Gunmen come to Zeta and Lecha’s ranch. They shoot all of Paulie’s dogs. Has Paulie forgotten to activate the system before leaving for town? Ferro and Zeta kill the gunmen, but Lecha decides to leave town with Seese for a while until things cool down. They take Sterling with them. On the way, Lecha tells Sterling that she and Seese are headed to a secret headquarters in South Dakota where Wilson Weasel Tail and the others are preparing and rallying the Plains Indian army with the Mohawk forces. She asks Sterling to join them, but he prefers to return home. He hopes his nephews will let him live somewhere on the reservation. As they pass through New Mexico, they realize that the people there have no clue as to what is coming. When the time comes, Lecha remarks, “all these scattered crazies and their plans” will complement and serve one another “in the chaos to come.” They will take back the land, just like the African people had taken back their continent from the European invaders. Lecha predicts that prophesied natural disasters will increase and that the United States will lose all of its allies except Canada, who will help the United States fight in “the last big Indian war.”
Lecha drops Sterling off on I-40, and he hikes over the hills to the family sheep camp. After many days, he is compelled to hike up to the great stone snake statue. The old stories he has been told as a boy come back to him, the warnings not to disturb Mother Earth, not to disturb the bodies of the dead. When he reaches the stone snake, he is unsure what to do. Tucson has only been a bad dream, he tries to tell himself, “the world is not like that.” He believes that no matter what happens, however, Mother Earth will still be sacred. “Man is too insignificant to desecrate her.” The great stone snake is looking south, “in the direction from which the twin brothers and the people would come.” Sterling now knows what the great stone snake’s message is to the people: “Take back the land.”