We go dancing across the water

El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

Cortez the Killer

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

On the shore lay Montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.

And his subjects
gathered ’round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.

And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood
straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them
to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up
with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

And I know she’s living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can’t remember when
Or how I lost my way.

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, Cortez
What a killer

~ Neil Young


El Castillo
Chichen Itza
Yucatan, Mexico

Taken during travels, 2011

Looking through some pics I took in Mexico a few years back. When I hit upon this photo of Chichen Itza’s remarkable central pyramid, Neil Young’s song “Cortez the Killer” came into my mind immediately. Montezuma was an Aztec, and Chichen Itza is a Mayan ruin, so the reference is slightly out of context.

But the reference is also pertinent and poignant for the present. Young wrote this incredible piece of music while still a high school student, studying history. A history filled with hubris and mayhem. Korea would have been in the news. Vietnam was about to get underway.

Forty years ago, Young recorded this version with Crazy Horse, and it seems we still have not learned much as a species. ISIS is bad enough. But with American Republicans bragging about how many innocents they are willing to kill in order to end ISIS… Well…

They all go dancing across the water.

Certainly, Young idealized the Aztecs. But then, too, isn’t an ideal like Young’s a better dream to work toward than war?