They used to call us Balam and we were symbols of power and death. Our fur, a bright cantaloupe colour stained with ebony, was the night sky; constellations covered our backs. They thought of us mystical, because we knew how to blend in with thick foliage, the only proof of our existence were our beacons for eyes.
Doorkeepers of the Underground, travellers of the three worlds, born from the navel of the Moon. Our figures were captured on vases: our fangs bared, backs arched and courage hardening our bodies. Chac Bolay watched over all of us, and he kept humans at bay.
Then, the storm came. Creatures covered with steel who called upon the thunder arose from the sea. Those that worshipped us were made to withdraw, driving their deities and traditions into the depths of the jungle.
Those that were left behind went up in flames. The humans may have started to forget the stories, the names, the myths; but deep inside our forests, when the noise can't reach them anymore, the wind rises and whispers in their ears. We've never known what it tells them. It tells us to hide, or we'll go up in flames as well.
And we do. Because there's not four of us for each part anymore. Because the colors that painted our homes are changing and rotting. The bright crimson color of the Moos is harder to find. Our cousins, the Chak Sikin, have learned how to run away from the bullets threatening to pierce their skins. Even the mighty Quetzales, whose flight represented freedom, have had their feathers ripped away from the cape of Kukulkán, and put into fine hats and tourist souvenirs.
Our backs don't look like the night sky anymore, for the stars have been overpowered by the city lights. In all three Worlds, there isn't a place their hands won't reach, ready to take and lock in cages. Ready to look, wear and discard us.
Our figures are still put on display, on phone screens and bright TVs. That doesn't make a difference when our land is being barren.
Yes, times have changed. And we've learned that the ancient empires had got it wrong. They thought of us the symbols of power and destruction, because they hadn't created mirrors yet.
The Jaguars are one of the many mexican species in danger of extinction. The Mayan people considered them deities, along with many other creatures, specially the Quetzales. Nowadays, there's little over 4, 800 alive jaguars in the whole country, and despite recent efforts to conserve the species, they're still hunted for sport and their fur. Mexico is megadiverse, but despite this, the unique species that inhabitate it face many dangers out in the wild, and there aren't enough efforts done to protect them.