The Legend of the Quetzal by Robert García:
In my Guatemalan roots the Mayans hold the quetzal sacred. The resplendent quetzal is a parakeet-sized bird with a blood red chest and a shimmering emerald green body and a three foot tail with iridescent blues and greens above and white below with a small yellow beak.
The legend of the quetzal is that when Don Pedro de Alvarado, one of the most blood thirsty of the Spanish conquistadores, met Tecun Uman, the leader of the Mayan people, in hand to hand combat, the quetzal flew in the face of Alvarado to distract him and help Tecum Uman. Alvarado nevertheless killed Tecun Uman and conquered the Mayan empire. The red chest is said to be a stain from the blood of Tecun Uman as he lay dying. It is said that the quetzal has the most beautiful voice of any bird, more beautiful than a canary, but the queztal stopped singing the day the Spaniards conquered the Mayans and will not sing again until the Guatemalan people are free. It is said that the quetzal will not live in captivity but will die from a broken heart if caged.
Today the quetzal is an endangered species on the verge of extinction.
My sons have each learned the legend of the quetzal as soon as each has learned to talk. I learned the legend from my grandfather and my grandmother. A picture of the quetzal hangs in my house.
Robert García is executive director of The City Project in Los Angeles, California.