This is a quetzal:
The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. And it is beautiful. It's also been on my mind recently.
For the Mayans, the quetzal is the god of the air, a symbol of goodness and light. In a couple of languages the same word used for quetzal is used for precious or sacred. It's because the bird really is wonderful. It's been illegal to kill one since Mayan times.
Legends say that Tecún Umán (as he is generally called) was being watched over by a quetzal when he had to lead his people into battle against Don Pedro de Alvarado, the conquistador. The ancient Guatemalans fought well, despite many disadvantages. But when Tecún Umán and Don Pedro had a face off, the luck ran out. As Don Pedro tried to attack, Tecún Umán killed the horse the conquistador was riding. But as the Mayan prince tried to go for the rider, he was run through with a spear. That's when the quetzal came down from the sky. It landed on Tecún Umán as he was dying. Right on his wound. To this day, his belly is still blood stained.
Also, he won't sing again until Guatemala is truly free. His "song" kind of sounds like a crying puppy.
The bird is widely recognized as a symbol of liberty. It can't be held captive. If it was caught, it became so depressed it would commit suicide. It stops eating or drinking. It's beautiful long tail feathers fall out. Then it dies. I was kinda sad when I learned that a zoo in Mexico had successfully kept one in captivity. It seemed almost... wrong.
Anyway, these legends and symbols are really important to Guatemala. The quetzal is on the flag, the money, the buildings, the markets, the gas stations, etc. The money is called "Quetzales."
I think the biggest reason I've been thinking of the quetzal so much is because I REALLY miss Guate right now. One year ago today I was finishing up my first full day in Guatemala. I went to the temple in the city and my cousin got married. I bought aroz con leche from a lady across the street. I fell in love with the air, and the cousins, and the green, and the warm, and more. For the first time I can remember, I'm wishing winter was over. Not really. I just wish I was away from winter and in the land of the eternal spring.
Guate, I'm there in my heart.