Maria, mi amore, I miss you so much....
I hope that all is well back in Bilbao. I had a dream last night that I finished building our stable, and that Pedro finally learned how to ride a horse. How is my son, the apple of my eye? I know he is only five, but he will grow up to be the man of the house soon. Remember when he lifted my helmet and tried wear it? He looked like Atlas lifting the world upon his shoulders. He was so tiny; he could only fit inside one of my boots. How we laughed and laughed. He was so fascinated with all my things; I am just glad he could not lift my sword. I will not be able to see him make his first communion. Tell him that I miss him, and that I love him very much.
The handkerchief you gave me the day I sailed away is nestled underneath my breastplate. Every time I lift it to my brow, I am transported back to our childhood. Do you remember how we met? Your mother had just left a freshly baked loaf of bread on the windowsill, and it called out to me. I thought I was so clever to sneak over and grab it while it was still warm. As I turned to run away, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head. You caught me, and hit me with the biggest rock you could lift in your beautiful little hands. But it might as well been an arrow loosed from Cupid's bow. For from that moment I knew, even at 12 years old, that one day you would become my wife.
I volunteered to gather water from the well every day for your mother, but I did so that I could catch a glimpse of you. And when we got old enough, I relished the opportunity to walk with you to the port so that we could watch the galleons sail away. I still remember the day I held your hand; I never wanted that moment to end. Then, in the presence of God and our families, we married. Soon thereafter, you blessed me with Pedro. How did I know he was my son? Because he was as beautiful as you are…
I write this because I will not be sailing back to Spain. Cortéz has burned our ships, and has marched us into the jaws of hell. Jaguar warriors have leapt amongst our ranks, screaming to the top of their lungs, swinging their edged clubs. The heads of my compañeros have been thrown over the ramparts, landing in our laps. My eyes burn with stinging sweat, the stench of death fills my nostrils. I must be in hell.
I write this letter because there is no priest to hear my confession. I am sorry for anything done that has caused any pain or injury. All my duties served as a conquistador were done at the bequest of our King. I love the Lord and his mother the Virgin Mary.
Eagle warriors approach, and I fear my head will be the next to roll.
Please pray a hundred “Hail Mary’s” for my soul, for the next time we meet I will be in the loving embrace of our Holy Mother.
ARTURO BELÉN SALAMANCA
© 2012 Augustine A. Zavala