THE GIANT WORE SILK
By Ed Lusch
Anthropologists will tell you that one common denominator existing in the history of all cultures is a preponderance of myth and legend. We have all heard of many of them: leprechauns, Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, gods and goddesses, stories from religious text and the list, of course, goes on and on.
Most of these myths are metaphorical; meant as morality lessons or guides to notions of proper behavior. While many myths have ardent supporters, their enthusiastic belief is usually in contradiction to fact.
But sometimes a tale combined with eyewitness accounts, physical evidence and…historical narrative can make one seriously wonder if even the most unlikely myth might, in fact, be true. Such is the case with the giants of Mexico.
In 1539, the Spanish explorer Coronado, along with 300 soldiers and 800 Indians, set off from Mexico City westward bound for the Pacific Ocean. Upon reaching the province of Sonora, an advance party was sent to the coast to rendezvous with Coronado’s supply ships. The group did not spot the ships but returned to Coronado’s army with an Indian guest in tow whose height held the Spanish awe-struck.
The historian and member of Coronado’s expedition, Pedro de Castañeda, wrote in his account of the journey, “They did not find the supply ships but they brought back an Indian so large that the tallest man in the army reached only to his chest. It was said that other Indians were even taller on the coast.”
Other historians have written that a tribe of Indians called the Seri lived on the island of Tiburon (shark) and the adjacent gulf of California’ s coast in Sonora. They were of enormous stature, some over eight feet tall. (The Seri Indians, of which only 650 remain, still live on the coast of the Gulf of Cortez. They say they descended from giants who lived on Tiburon Island.)
Another historian of the 16th century, Fray Diego Duran, spent his lifetime studying the Aztec and other indigenous Mexican cultures, becoming a highly respected expert on their language and history. During his 32 years living with the Indians of Central Mexico, he said he had several contacts with giants. In his book on the history of Mexico, Duran writes, “It cannot be denied that there have been giants in this country. “
I can confirm this as an eyewitness account for I have met men of monstrous stature here. I believe there are many in Mexico, who will remember as I do, a giant Indian who appeared in a procession of the Feast of Corpus Christi. He appeared dressed in yellow silk—and he was all of three feet taller than all the others.”
In another section of his 78-chapter book, Duran wrote, “These giants had abominable customs and ate raw meat from the hunt. Enormous bones of the giants have been found which I myself have seen dug up at the foot of cliffs many times. These giants flung themselves from precipices while fleeing from the Cholutecs and were killed. The Cholutecs had been extremely cruel and treacherous to the giants, pursuing them from hill to hill, valley to valley, until they were destroyed.”
Joseph de Acosta in his book, History of the Indies, says, “When I was in Mexico, they found one of those giants buried in one of our farms…of whom they brought a tooth to be seen which was as big as a fist of a man; all the rest was proportional which I saw and admired.”
Bernard de Sahagan, a foremost authority on the Aztecs, wrote in his multi-volume history of Central Mexico, “The giants of Quinametin were Toltecs and they built Teotihuacan and Choluta.”
The above eyewitness accounts were written by 16th century historians and many more accounts of Mexican giants exist in the historical record. Some recount huge Indians of enormous strength, one of whom hoisted a log onto his shoulder that six Spanish soldiers could not lift; others report thigh bones as tall as a man and mummified bodies from the Copper Canyon of eight feet in length.
Whether these huge beings were giants existing among normal-sized tribal people, or tribes unto themselves, is unclear, but the Spanish seem to have bumped into them in many areas of Mexico and in southern Florida, Alabama and the lower Colorado River.
The conquistadors found the word Quinametzi “grandes hombres deformes” or Quinames “grandes monstruosos” consistently applied by the natives throughout Mexico to describe giant humans.
Are the accounts of giants written by Spanish scholars like Castaneda, Sahagan, Duran and others simply the embellishment of stories heard from indigenous peoples to bolster scholarly reputations for historical chronicling? Did myth become “eyewitness” accounts? Quite possibly, but myth is often founded on grains of truth.
A recent theory espoused by some anthropologists argues that tribes or races of giant humans eight to nine feet tall once were the dominant humans of all North America including Mexico. An aggressive and warlike people, tribes fought against each other diminishing their populations. Races of average-sized people, far more numerous, possibly more mentally advanced, eventually killed off the remaining giants. There are hundreds of accounts of giant human bones and skulls being unearthed from many locals in Mexico and the US, and even burial sites of giants containing dozens of remains. The question is: where are the bones?
In private archeological collections? Locked in the cavernous basement of the Smithsonian? In tribal burial grounds? Theories abound but no one seems to know for sure.