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Cortez and Pizarro

Sam spent last evening slapping together the remains of a project he’s known about for weeks. His favorite minute is the last.

The project entailed creating a folding book on a long strip of yellow butcher paper. In the book, he was to paste maps, pictures, and art depicting the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations, plus he was to boil down these majestic cultures into a few paragraphs.

After shushing his post-school empty tummy with a snack of graham crackers and marshmallows (66.666666% s’more) he got to work. He spread his materials on our kitchen table, which sent our other homeworkers hunting for their own place to work.

Sam snipped and glued and colored intricate gods and warriors. When he wrote, he did it strictly by memory because he left his notes at school. I shudder to think he’s mixed them up, but he made sure to include Cortez and Pizarro as important figures. They were the men who set in motion the destruction of these civilizations.

Cortez was looking for Tenochtitlán, the city of gold. Pizarro was looking for vast riches as well, first in Panama, then Peru. It’s amazing what humans will do for rocks.

There he sat, due north of history, a little boy learning about a time when blood Niagara’d off pyramids as a desperate offering of appeasement or bids for the favor of feathery gods. It didn’t work.

Sam finished and carefully folded his paper. He told me that was the same method the Mayans made their books—long and folded back and forth, into itself with a cover wrapped around.

It was tidy and concise.

When violent human events can be scrawled in 4th-grader scritch-scratches, it is at last over. I imagine bones resting in peace at the thought of children seizing the narrative. There are some events so near and so emotionally loaded that we don’t allow children to color pictures with Crayola markers as they stuff two fat marshmallows in their cheeks. The holocaust springs to mind, as well as other events, assassinations, wars, atrocities, and times of sorrow in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Events are still untouchable in that regard. Children are taught about them, but they are never immersed in them. The time will come for that, when distance filters away the salt of all the tears shed to make it drinkable.

You and I will not be alive to see that kitchen table, bathed in early evening light.

8 comments to Cortez and Pizarro

  • I’ve never thought about that before. I guess future generations will be learning about the things that are on the news now. Making shoe box dioramas about 9-11. Weird.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..I Can Explain =-.

  • Thought-provoking.

    And a question…will we forever be doomed to type in 2 boxes of anti-spam text? Just wondering.
    .-= joanne´s last blog ..Smile =-.

  • Gretchen

    Good point. We learn about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War the same way. Dates and names and places, but can you teach how it *felt* to be in the midst of it? Why does learning about the explorers feel different? And how different is it from Vietnam, or Afghanistan? I think maybe it’s context. What *else* was going on when those men were conquering the new world?

  • That is interesting to think about…
    In the meantime you can let Sam know I’ll eat the other 33.3333 % of his s’mores. 🙂
    .-= auntie nini´s last blog ..Music Monday =-.

  • I’ve honestly never thought about it that way before. And I’ve made plenty of dioramas and 3-D replicas and all that.

    (And yeah, what is UP with the two spam catcher boxes? Are you testing us? Making us prove if we are devoted enough to be TRUE commenters?)

    (You know I kid.)
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Cloth Wipes Q&A, Part Two =-.

  • Love this post.

    I remember thinking something similar when the first novel and first tv show came out that included references to 9/11, not references in an inappropriate way, but in a way that suggested a shift in immediacy. Thinking that my daughter’s generation will think of 9/11 like I think of Pearl Harbor, like my grandparents thought of Gettysburg.

    I cannot fathom the day children will make paper maches of the Twin Towers…
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Climbing Mt. St. Helens =-.

  • edj

    It’s so true. Remove the immediacy, and let the kids go at it. I have had a similar thought about pirates. Now I love a good pirate story as much as anyone else, but in real life? I would not have liked the pirates. View our modern day equivalents, off the coast of Somalia, as an example. I have no desire to let my boys go off and join them in their desperate bids to overpower ships, kill a few people, strut it up in their home villages with a shiny new Rolex or iPhone.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..Après, le Deluge =-.

  • OH my goodness this is an amazing post. Amazingly written, amazing truth.

    Reminds me, though, of the Playmobile set featuring a Roman Colliseum. Even had the emperor who could give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. Lots of people got upset about that, even though it’s over a thousand years in the past. Interesting how some things will *never* be long ago enough.
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..Romans 7:19 =-.

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