“Birth of Tzinakantli” is based on a Pipil oral tradition story of Tzinakantli, the bat, keeper of cosmic equilibrium. My purpose with this painting is to put forth traditional stories and present them as basis for addressing current environmental problems. The bat image here comes from an ancient Pipil ceramic figurine found in the remains of a sacred site. Napo, a local and contemporary sculpture artist from Suchitoto found the ceramic bat figure in the back of his house that is located near a sacred site. The sacred site was home to one of the few spiral pyramids ever built by the Native nations there, Maya and Toltec. Sadly, this pyramid has now been completely destroyed by the Salvadoran government that constructed an artificial lake made in 1974 for the construction of the Cerrón Grande hydro-electrical dam leaving many sacred sites submerged under water. Because of the government's lack of respect for sacred sites, the pyramid is currently entirely under the waters of the dam. The construction of the dam caused a loss of productive lands, the displacement of 25,000 people, environmental degradation and the loss of ancestral sites. This ceramic bat from which this image was made from represents one of the many cultural legacies our ancestors left despite government’s attempt to erase it.
Story of Tzinakantli: Keeper of Cosmic Equilibrium and Giver of the instructions on how to plant white maize to the Pipil and the role of Women in conserving seeds:
In the Pipil oral tradition, Tzinakantli, the bat, lures a young Pipil woman into his cave. Her beautiful smile captivates Tzinakantli. They fall in love and have a child who is half bat and half human. During this time her people suffer a great famine. Her father scolds her for leaving her town and abandoning her community and demands her to return. Tzinakantli is torn, however he gifts her with specific instructions: she must go back to her community, remove her white sparkling teeth from her smile, and sow each tooth into the earth. When the time is right, the people are instructed to harvest the fruit of her teeth. She does as Tzinakantli instructed and after the rains, corn stalks grow out of her teeth. With the harvest she is able to feed her entire community. With Tzinakantli's instructions, the daughter was able to save her people from famine and it is said that because of her smile the Pipil were given the gift of white corn. Bats are the main pollinators of the rainforrests, they pollinate the sacred Ceiba tree and the agave plant among many; and thus they are keepers of the rainforests' health; the lungs of our Mother Earth.
Alicia Siu excerpt from "The Coloniality of Violence in the 1932 Massacre and Art for Healing"