The sun shines over the pristine stillness. A giant witness sees across the Valley, hearing the hum of insects, a concert of bird sounds. The witness feels the oak trees and the grasses. The witness is still, you might say perfectly still.
There have been the comings and the goings. The witness knows the trees and grass, the animal life, the coming of the humans, first the native people who lived in harmony with the land. The natives were part of nature, too, but experienced and used their human bodies and human minds. They thought, they planned, they hunted. They built shelter. They used language, their coded vocalizations to communicate with one another. They spoke in bonded, close communion in their own tribes and also with those who were only a short remove, like cousins, in the neighboring tribes of the Valley and the region.
And then the Spanish came, the Spanish who were much louder, clanking along with their armor and with their imperfectly round wooden wheels. The lead group of Spanish were priests and soldiers. Later, there would be settlers. The Spanish also brought foreign natives to the Valley, those who had already fallen under the Spanish sword or spell. The Spanish contingent rolled into the Valley with their noise, their fair skin, and their hairy faces and bodies. They had clothes and metal helmets. The natives were near naked in the warmth of the Valley and their weapons were merely knives and spears, nothing that could explode from a distance and then blow a targeted animal or man to pieces. The natives were generally soft, with some variations to be sure, but they were not cruel, not domineering like the Spanish.
The priests led the procession, flanked by soldiers. They believed they were doing the work of God and of Jesus to civilize the savage souls and bring them into the benign light. For the purer of the priests, the great mission was to minister to the heathen. Yes, they were inferior—just look—and easy to overwhelm, but they had souls and could be put to meaningful work, learning and serving and helping establish the Spanish life with high dedication. Of course, there were corrupt priests who could see their advantage and there were the soldiers, schooled in a rougher life, who would take what they wanted if they could. This included the taking of women.
The first day the priests, using the tongues of their servants, spoke to the natives of God and the new and better life. The first night, the soldiers stayed in their encampment. They ate the meat of the local animal bounty and flat bread made from the meal that they brought from Mexico. They drank water from the creeks, but left the transported wine bottles laying in padded wooden cases untouched.
The second day, the soldiers eyed the bare breasted women, the maidens and the fecund young mothers. They looked with disdain upon the matrons and made jokes about them to each other. The second night the wine came out. The priests saw what was to be. They’d seen it before, but in the sometimes necessary violence of the whole enterprise, they allowed that these rough men would be who they are and would do what they would. The officers, the leaders of the soldiers, made little moral judgment other than perhaps an inner twitch. They understood that their men were men and that what they did with the poor subjects before them was a natural consequence of their drives and their opportunity. They had come all this way, which was not always easy, and so let them have their pleasure.
The wine flowed through the afternoon of the second day and in the twilight the soldiers, joking and laughing, walked in a body from their encampment to the native village, entering the gathering of huts under the oaks by the stream. The noises of the village were suddenly quieted. The danger and the fear were thick and present. The black cloud had come, and the stormy terrors were about to be unleashed.