Chronicles cover

The Author

Rosa Martha Villearreal is a native Texan whose family origins in the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila date back to the mid-1500s. A resident of California, she is a graduate of San José State University and the author of the modern Faustian novella, Doctor Magdalena.

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Chronicles of Air and Dreams

American archeologist María Elena Vázquez is excavating inside a Mayan pyramid at Uxmal in Mexico’s Yucatan when a massive earthquake strikes. She is rescued days later, physically unhurt, but unable to speak any language save an unknown ancient dialect. To the distress of her family and her fiancé, Manuel Muńoz, she increasingly retreats into a world of dreams seemingly dominated by the spirit of Martín Cortés, bastard son of the conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortés, who has returned to wreak vengeance on his torturers.

A priest, Father Fernando Ocampo, overhears María Elena’s dream conversations, although he has no idea who is speaking or why. An old Mexican-Indian bruja called La Nahua also senses these voices on the wind as she studies signs which promise the imminent return of Martín Cortés. Slowly, María Elena’s dreams take shape in reality, uncovering an ancient Mayan legend and a wrenching Vázquez family secret.

The narrative shifts seamlessly between present day and the sixteenth century, and between dreams and reality. At once a ghost story, a romance, and a mystery, Chronicles of Air and Dreams is unique in its depiction of a modern Mexican-American family.

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First Chapter Excerpt:

BEGINNINGS

As in the time of the Mexican Conquest, the Dreamers were reborn in a collective visionary dream of a land with three moons. They witnessed enigmatic ceremonies inside a nebula of many colors; dreamed of flying over mountains of vertiginous heights and of navigating through oceans and rivers with their bodies.

In the villages of Mexico and in the shanty towns that flourished on the peripheries of Mexico City—all heavy with memories and the blood of Indians—these keepers of the ancient ways, elders and sorcerers alike, counted the signs as they appeared. The one they most anxiously awaited was the return of a woman called Malintzín. This woman, having the power of many languages, would be able to interpret their visionary dreams and translate the lost prophetic secrets of the Indians. These secrets, now reduced to mere rumors, said that following the reappearance of Malintzín, a spirit called Martín Cortés would become a man again and die a sacrificial death that would heal the scars of the Conquest by appeasing the gods of old. Others said that the last Aztec king, Cuauhtémoc, who had been hiding in the mountains for centuries, would join Martín Cortés in restoring the Indians to their former glory.

"She must be among us," said the Indian elders, convinced she would rise out of their masses.

They would be wrong.

One fetid summer day, in the Maya village of Palenque in southern Mexico, an American anthropology professor brought a team from State University of Pennsylvania to interview the village elders as part of his research on Mayan culture and iconography. With him was his graduate assistant, a young Mexican-American woman, brought along to serve as his translator.

The slender figure at the professor’s side immediately provoked stares from the elders and villagers who saw her. Even from a distance, the elders discerned how the assistant’s beauty transcended mere appearance, seeming to convert her body’s very movements, and even the shadow it projected, into an apparition of feline-like elegance. Her long, Asiatic hair and almond-shaped green eyes struck the villagers and elders with a feeling of vague recognition, as if recalling her visage from a time long past, or even from a dream.

The young woman seemed to sense that something about her appearance was causing the agitated stares. When the professor introduced her to the elders, she acknowledged them with a nod and averted her green eyes, lowering her head as if to obstruct their curious probing.

Once the introductions were finished, the professor began the interview. The elders had brought their own interpreter to translate from Mayan to Spanish for the young woman, so that she could then translate from Spanish to English for the professor. To their astonishment, however, the young woman began translating directly to their language.

"You have several tongues," said one of the elders to her in Mayan.

As if the statement had broken a spell, the young woman looked at the elders directly, her smile filled with humility. "Yes," she responded in kind. "I speak six languages. It is my gift."

The elders, unable to contain their euphoria, murmured excitably among themselves.

"What’s going on?" the professor asked his interpreter.

"I don’t know," she said. "I can’t hear what they’re saying."

The elders stopped and again directed their attention to the young stranger.

"Do you possess the language of the old Mexicans?" asked another of the elders, referring to the Aztecs.

"Yes," she said.

"What is your name?" he asked.

She said, "My name is María Elena Vázquez."

The elders, possessing the ability to pierce the many frequencies of time, recognized that the moment for time to repeat itself had arrived. After a quick exchange of glances and nods, the most senior of them said, "We shall remember you, María Elena Vázquez, royal daughter."

By nightfall, there was not a single household in the village that did not know of the multilingual interpreter. They called her by her old name, Malintzín.

When the villagers went to market that weekend, they spoke of the beautiful young woman who possessed many languages. Thus, the speculative rumors about the return of Malintzín began to spread from marketplace to marketplace, and to the many villages and hamlets of the region. At the festivals of the saints, and celebrations of holy days, the air was filled with wonder and speculation.

"Malintzín has returned."

"She will soon learn the secret language of the dead."

"No, she will be given the language of the very old ones."

"Who will teach her the new language?"

"The spirit of Martín Cortés, who stole the language while in his mother’s belly."

By the end of summer, the people were heard saying, "Martín Cortés must now be near."

Chronicles of Air and Dreams 

Copyright 2003 Archer Books. All Rights Reserved.