PART 2 – JULIETA TO THE RESCUE
Our story left off with my humbling epiphany: that the radiant mandala that had seemed to show the world that I was chosen by the sacred mushroom was actually shit I had deposited on Julieta’s floor after eating tainted strawberries . How embarrassing! Luckily I had time to change my pants before the machete wielding police of Huautla de Jimenez came to arrest the Texan and I for buying magic mushrooms.
Escorted out of Julieta’s shack, we grabbed our backpacks and musical instruments: the Texan’s guitar and my piccolo. Then the police ushered us off to a filthy medieval style prison cell where we were sure that we were going to rot or be sent off to the Black Castle Maximum Security prison in Mexico City. But about an hour later Julieta arrived at the jail and spoke to the local sheriff. The serious little man carried a long knife instead of a gun, which made him even scarier. After Julieta left, the Sheriff came and told us that a respected members of the community had vouched for us, saying we were good boys and not “heepea” (hippie) marijuana smoking troublemakers like the one that had bitten the chicken’s head off. Then he told us if we could play our instruments for him we wouldn’t have to donate them to the Huautla Orchestra.
The Texan had a good voice and so we played one of our favorites, “Here Comes the Sun.” Lighting up with an unsuspected joy, the sheriff was soon joined by two smiling guards, singing along and swaying to the beat. After an encore of “No Tengo Dinero” and eight dollars, we were released from jail and invited to come back and play again. Before we knew it, we were on a bus down the winding road of death marked by tiny shrines dedicated to all those that had perished on the buses route of peril down the mountain. At the time, it was hard to find magic mushrooms and I would have never believed that I would be tied to this mountain for the rest of my life, but that is a different story.
To this day, almost fifty years later, whenever I pass through Huautla to get to my rancho I still try to visit my old friend Julieta if she is in town and not traveling the world with the other 12 Indigenous Grandmothers. We still laugh a lot about how crazy the culture clash has been since outsiders discovered the magic mushrooms and I shit on her floor. Heather and I visited her right after she returned from her first world Tour with the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Julieta was excited about her travels, because she had not even been to Mexico City before the Grandmothers began. When I told her that I heard that she met the Pope, Julieta’s expression of joy turned sour.
She did go to the Vatican, she said, but the last Pope wouldn’t see her, saying that Julieta was an infidel and a Pagan and not a true Catholic because she performed the velada mushroom ceremony of her people. This hurt Julieta’s feelings since she considered herself a devout Catholic.
“How could the Pope, of all people, not know that these mushrooms grow from the blood of Christ?” And how could he not support grandmothers trying to bring peace to a planet gone mad with violence?” She said that maybe someday a new Pope would come to Huautla like the Dali Lama and make up his own mind about Jesus and the sacred mushrooms.
Julieta went on to say that the most difficult part of understanding her experience with the Grandmothers was not the Pope. The sponsors of the Grandmothers had taken them to Hiroshima where the US dropped the atomic bomb on Japan and created a giant mushroom cloud of destruction. Julieta was asked to perform a ceremony to purify the spot where the bomb imploded, but she did not have the sacred mushroom with her for a ceremony, so their request made no sense to her, as the sacred mushroom was the heart of the ritual. When she told me this story I was also confused and thought that maybe what the organizers wanted was more of a photo-op performance than an actual ritual, so I asked her how she had handled it, given the difficult circumstances.
With a big smile and a twinkle in her eye she said, “I just winged it.”
Then with great enthusiasm she danced around the room showing us the ad-lib ritual she had created to perform in the hole where the Atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, while we laughed until we cried.
Back in my current hometown of Sebastopol, California everyone I meet seems to know Julieta. It’s the strangest thing to know someone from such a different time who has since become a strange kind of celebrity. From a young fellow I ran into while walking my dog, to my neighbor and then an acquaintance’s house we visited who has a picture of her on his wall, Julieta seems to be everywhere. Once again fifty-years later, the sacred mushroom has reappeared on a world stage that is currently threatened by another ominous mushroom cloud, this one arriving in a curious shade of orange. Maybe it’s time for the new Pope to finally meet the chiquita pero picosas Julieta. After all, in the Americas, grandmothers have always been the ambassadors of peace.