The author speaks: I decided to set the plot of “Ahuizotl” in early New Spain (a couple of decades after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire), becaue this period represented the primordial soup of the present Mexican idiosyncrasy. Aztec mythical creatures and gods, like the ahuizotl, were considered to be demons or diabolical beings by the Spaniards, so it was pretty interesting to “play” with the narrative, mixing that ancient lore with Lovecraftian Mythos and actual historical details.
—Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, Historical Lovecraft 162
During their lifetimes, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard began to incorporate elements of Mesoamerican myth and geography into their Mythos fiction. Howard’s strange pillar in the Yucatán in “The Black Stone” (1931), and the Temple of the Toad in Guatemala in “The Thing on the Roof” (1932); Lovecraft with stories like “The Transition of Juan Romero” (written 1919), the invocations of Quetzacoatl in “The Curse of Yig” (1929) and “The Mound” (1940) written with Zealia Bishop, the hybrid exclamation “Cthulhutl fhtaghn! Niguratl-Yig! Yog-Sototl—” in “The Electric Executioner” (1930) with Adolphe de Castro. These snippets have fueled much speculation as to the interaction between the Mythos and Mesoamerican religions and cultures as explored by Richard L. Tierney in his essay “Cthulhu in Mesoamerica” and Stuart M. Boland in his “Interlude with Lovecraft.” The basic idea, I suspect, influenced Mike Mignola’s interpretation of Aztec religion and the Ogdru Jahad in the pages of Hellboy.
Howard, Lovecraft and his revision clients were not setting out to create any kind of cohesive mythology in the 1930s, the incidental references to Mesoamerican religion are fleeting and hinting glimpses of ties to a rich—and in the 1930s, still largely mysterious—mythology. Aztecs and Mayans in pulp fiction were often depicted as bloody-handed followers of pagan gods, contemporary prejudices against Mexicans and Native Americans mixing with the genuine excitement over the strange and fantastic ruins and artwork left behind. It is good to see someone pick up these threads and do something more with them.
They sand in an odd tongue, but repeated constantly “Chlúha! Chlúa! Dagoatl! Dagoatl!” and howled like dogs, their cries increasing.
—Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, Historical Lovecraft 160-161
Most of what we know of the ahuizotl comes from the Florentine Codex, although there are other artistic depictions of the “spiny aquatic thing,” and the depiction of the creature here—and its habits—are in accord with that. García-Rosas wisely goes into little detail about the creature’s relation to the Mythos; we are treated to odd dreams, strange encounters, a small obsidian image…and that is it, basically. There is more of implication than exposition, and that is generally how it should be in a Mythos story, where the mood is all-important.
What mood is that? “Ahuizotl” is very brief, almost a sketch. A journey from Old Spain to New Spain, where unknown horrors wait. The troubled nun, once Elena Villaplana, and for the last thirty years Ágata de la Inmaculada Concepción, follows in the footsteps of her conquistador brother and finds…something more than is dreamt of in her philosophy. She sees things without understanding them, records images and events without grasping their meaning. Almost an allegory for Spain itself, which tried to conquer, subjugate, and swallow entire peoples and cultures into itself.
“Ahuizotl” was translated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time (2011), and reprinted in The Apex Book of World SF 3 (2014/2015). Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas has written a number of other Lovecraftian stories, including “Tloque Nahuaque” (2011) and “In Xochitl in Cuicatl in Shub-Niggurath” (2014) among many others.
“Ahuizotl” is available online at the Innsmouth Free Press website.