Bloodshed, Cries the Elder God

Photo by Pilsen Resident and Artist Nathan Mansankan

The neighborhood is whispers upon whispers upon whispers. In the most congregated corners I can still hear the mourning of the dead. The tragedy enveloped me since I arrived a few years ago. I felt like a conquistador ready to conquer new land. I was unprepared for the long walks during the night in which dead thugs tug at me from a horrifying limbo. It did not frighten me however. The morbidity intrigued me. These walks, these explorations, became nightly. For several months did I survey the shadows and disembodied yearning. I would leave my residence and I can feel Xolotl waiting for me down the front steps, his grin twisted in wry amusement as he escorted me throughout the urban decay. “¿Ves a los muertos?” he would cackle quietly. Couples and strangers walked past and I winced at their ignorance. Their disregard for the roving spirits that want to molest them. Their oblivious laughter and uncouth minds in the presence of visceral torment leaching into this world.

At some point in these twilight hours I became aware of the nature of Pilsen. A ghastly epiphany struck me. It had been gnawing at me each night, a familiarity if you will. That this neighborhood was the gates of Mictlān was unsettling, but logical.

The Mexican people settled here decades ago, removing the original inhabitants, much like the Mexicas removed the Toltec people. And like the bloodied mess the Mexica people left behind, their descendants too have raised weapons against their neighbor. A revolting cycle of degeneration. I hear the grim accounts of Pilsen’s history of violence by numerous decadesold occupiers and I remain stoic at this confirmation; the stories and the spirits unite several nights of contemplation at why dead worms slither down residential blocks. Pilsen apologists will argue for the hard blue-collar workers that make up the neighborhood and the ma and pa shops that have given the location vibrancy. True words, no doubt. Also, words of contrition, a scraping for loose change under a broken couch. When the dead claws at one from vulgar realms one’s emotions can sway, dejection to anger to guilt. One’s weakness is how such entities consolidate into this world. I remained steadfast. I gave them no drink.

I feel a thousand dead gangsters wanting sustenance. And there are more: children, bystanders, fathers, visitors. So many. So many lost lives in Pilsen’s thirst for blood.

Bloodshed. Anger. It is almost as if there is an “Other” that I was missing. It is now established there exists a proliferation of desecration in the neighborhood. The reason kept me awake. I could almost detect it, like a word on the tip of one’s tongue that one quickly forgot. I sensed there was a veil. One that separated the cause and the effect. Xolotl, with his mournful chuckle, alluded to a dark gnosis. Perhaps the Mexica gods are still demanding blood sacrifices from descendants of the people who would voluntarily kill to honor their gods.

The genii loci, the prevailing spirit of a place migrated with the modern Mexicas. I feel it each day. Each night. It has faces in the building murals. It has form in the crooked streets. It has personality in the culture. It has substance in the blood spills that vein the concrete cracks. It has darkness.