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Shape-shifting in Puerto Vallerta

Updated: May 26

Puerto Vallerta.

There is a thing. A thing called a Nagual. It is an Indian tribe, but it is also a witch doctor. A brujo.

I met a man named Eduardo. He grew up in the mountains around Puerto Vallerta and was the oldest boy in a family with a father who was frequently absent.

The Nagual can shapeshift. It has been seen on the roadside as an animal half-horse/half-dog, huge and terrifying.

I sat in my kitchen a day before my scheduled flight to Mexico after receiving a message from my Aztec son-in-law. I told him I was going to Puerto Vallerta. He told me I should learn more about the Nagual.

My daughter sent me a google document to read over. She needed help with her school work. Google signed me in as anonymous because I did not sign myself in.

It signed me in as Anonymous Narwhal.

Nagual is pronounced na-wal.

Narwhal is a unicorn-ed whale and the word is pronounced almost the same.

I met a man on the boardwalk along the hot Mexican beach in the city. He was selling pastries. I bought a chocolate covered donut and asked the man’s name. “Joe’” he told me. He grew up in a village outside Puerto Vallerta. He spoke to me in Spanish. He told me he was Indian. I asked him about his native language. He called it Nagual. He taught me how to say hello and how are you. He said I picked it up very quickly.

I sat in the car with Eduardo as we wound through the steep mountains outside Puerto Vallerta. Green and plunging, they held my attention like a flame captures a moth.

Eduardo spoke of his childhood. He spoke of growing up in Mexico. He told me a story I will recount to you.

I was about 10 and my father had gone away to work. I was with my mother and my younger siblings and we were waiting to cross the street. It was evening, but not night.

Suddenly a great creature like a giant dog or a small horse with glowing red eyes walked right past us. It paused and looked directly at me. My mother breathed one word, “Pray.” I stood frozen in my spot and the creature moved on and crossed the street.

Then in a flurried rush I bolted across the street after it. I was the man of the family. I needed to protect my mother and my younger brother and sister. But by the time I reached the other side of the street, it was gone. In confusion, I looked up and down the street. There was nowhere for it to go. It had simply disappeared.

My mother quickly came up behind me grabbed me by the back of my shirt. She pulled me to her. “What are you doing?” she hissed in my ear. “Stop this nonsense. We must pray.”

She never named what we had seen.

I did not say a word. I believed I had an answer Eduardo may have been searching for. Perhaps in his own time, he would find it.

still exploring,


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