introduction
Writing Animal Histories
ZEB TORTORICI AND MARTHA FEW
On 12 January 1563, Juan Canuc was walking with his wife to a nearby ranch
for livestock grazing when they heard a number of chickens clucking on the
hillside near a large cross. According to Canuc’s testimony, which was trans-
lated from Yucatecan Maya to Spanish by a court-appointed interpreter, the
couple found a young boy who ‘‘had his underwear loose and was sitting on
the ground with a turkey [gallina de la tierra, a ‘‘chicken of this land’’—it
being native to Mesoamerica] in between his legs.’’∞
The boy, a fourteen-
year-old Maya named Pedro Na, from a small town near Mérida in Mexico’s
largely indigenous Yucatán Peninsula, had been caught in flagrante delicto,
committing the ‘‘unnatural’’ crime of bestiality. Canuc handed Na over to
Spanish authorities, who threw him in prison and then tried him, apparently
eager to make an example out of the boy. As was customary in bestiality
cases, colonial authorities ‘‘deposited’’ the bird as evidence, but it died
within a few days as a result of being injured by Na. Under questioning, the
boy admitted, ‘‘It was true that yesterday afternoon in the said road, he came
across some turkeys and chickens, and he took the said turkey and went to
the hillside with it and, with the carnal agitation [alteración carnal ] he felt . . .
he had carnal access with the turkey.’’≤
Some weeks later, Pedro Na was sentenced to be taken from prison on
horseback, with his hands and feet bound, accompanied by a town crier
proclaiming his crime as he was brought to the central plaza, there to be
publicly castrated and then permanently expelled from the province of
Yucatán. Adding a macabre touch to the role of animals in spectacles and
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