Piker Press Banner
June 17, 2024

Lake Zinzunzan

By Michael McLaughlin

Lupita lived near Lake Zinzunzan in Michoacan, Mexico and was a small Mexican woman with a cute face, quick wit and more than enough energy to be crafty. It was not the death of her husband that brought on the gloom -- the problem had been building for years -- it was her little village of Lake Zinzunzan slowly dying before her eyes. There were no tourists and no reason for them to come. All the young people moved away to larger cities like Guadalajara. Who could blame them?

When Lupita talked to the business men in the village about the problem, all she got were shrugged shoulders and Mexican barberos -- empty smiles. Lupita was at a loss as to what she could do to bring tourists in. Our Lady of Guadalupe never appeared there, and there were no Aztec pyramids. Nor were Mayan ruins nearby to bring in busloads of paying tourists. The only fame the village had was that Cortez had marched through and burned down the village, salted the land and hung two dozen men, women and children in the name of gold, glory and God. Not a good thing in Mexico. There was even no church in the village. People in Lake Zinzunzan thought that God had passed them by. Except Lupita.

One night, when fast clouds raced across the full moon in the darkened sky, Lupita walked down the path that circled the lake. She stopped walking, sighed, and looked out over the dark water. Maybe she too should move away to Guadalajara. Then a small wind came up and Lupita saw strange, sinister shadows moving on the lake's moonlit water. Shadows as bizarre and dangerous as Peyote dreams.

Suddenly, Lupita knew what she had to do to save her village. Slowly a dangerous and fantastic word rose from the depth of her soul ... Lupita feared saying the word, knowing the word that would change her village, and most of all change the waters before her eyes forever! She crossed herself to make sure her feelings came from God and not the devil. The word was ... "sharks".

With her mind buzzing, Lupita ran home and turned on her computer to surf the internet for freshwater sharks. She discovered that Bull sharks swam in both salt and fresh water. Another quick search and she turned up a shop outside of Guadalajara that sold small sharks for aquariums, no bull sharks, for that she would have to go to the ocean at Manzanillo.

By bus the next day she traveled all the way to Guadalajara and returned at sunset with six live fresh water sharks. She carried the fish in a plastic lined bag in her backpack. The six fish were small and not man-eaters, but they would do. In one month's time, after Lupita's traveling to Guadalajara and back for more sharks, the idyllic lake had by Lupita's account, thirty-seven sharks and was now unofficially shark infested.

Next, Lupita wrote a letter to the Mexican government asking if they knew anything about the shark sightings in the lake and insisting they should do something about it before people were eaten. She followed it up the next week with more letters of suspicious origin also demanding that something be done with the dangerous sharks in the lake. Then an Indian boy caught one of the sharks and Lupita took a picture and sent it in to the government with a note that the strange fish was under ice and ready for inspection. This time the Mexican government did something they had never done before -- they sent out their expert to examine the fish. The fish was to be examined by Director Pancho Garcia from National Fishes and Lakes. While Pancho, Lupita and the rest of the village waited at a small store or tienda for the fish to be brought to him, they all made good fun about the whole Mexican shark affair. Lupita and the entire village laughed and all agreed it was impossible. Somebody hollered out to Señor Hernandez, the store owner what he thought. He blessed himself with mock seriousness and announced with a big Mexican smile, "If it's a shark -- cerveza gratis!"

Lupita got up and moved closer to the beer cases.

Everyone had a huge laugh again about sharks in the lake and how the whole affair was ridiculous. When the laughing stopped and the silence filled the air once again, Señor Garcia spoke in an ominous tone, "It is all quite possible. There are fresh water sharks in Lake Managua in Nicaragua. There was one Bull shark caught, a six footer, 3500 Kilometers up the Mississippi river in the United States. How far are we from the ocean here?"

Lupita answered, "200 Kilometers."

The crowd got deathly quiet.

Señor Garcia continued, "Imagine some innocent boy or girl in the water, they get a bloody finger, there's blood in the water and ... " His voice dropped away. "Certain times of the year the female sharks go into heat and the male sharks go loco and strike at anything in the water. And once a shark has tasted human flesh, well ... " He let the words dangle in the air for dramatic effect.

Then, like in some silent film, a barefoot Indian boy walked in and took a small fish wrapped in paper out of a shoe box. Mr. Garcia raised the fish, looked at it head-on and opened its small mouth with his fingers. He shook the fish and then put in back in the shoebox. He looked to the store owner, rubbed his forehead and said calmly, "Shark."

Lupita was on the crest of the wave into the free beer.

From that day forward the sun shone brightly on Lake Zinzunzan. Tourists came from around the world to scan the lake for the "man-eaters." Occasionally a small shark was caught and marveled at. Wild stories spread like pandemic diseases that Cortez himself put the sharks in the lake. Or that gangsters dumped bodies in the lake to get rid of evidence. Of course, with every fish caught, Lupita could be seen the next day on the bus into Guadalajara with a waterproof backpack and a smile on her face.

Article © Michael McLaughlin. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-01-29
0 Reader Comments
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.