A Parable: Why Belize’s Howler Monkeys are Having the Last Scream
By Carlos El Dente
Deep within the Black Howler Monkey Sanctuary located northwest of Belize City, an enormous gathering of these black “baboons” came together to figure out why the fruits from the trees they worked so assiduously to pick, gather and store were disappearing faster than honest politicians.
One particularly paranoid monkey named Antoine blamed Sisimitos. His theory was that this hairy, Belizean mythological creature, who is ultra-fond of fruits and leaves, wouldn’t be reticent to pull off a big-league jungle heist like this one.
“If you’re so sure about blaming Sisimitos, how about staying up all night and keeping an eye on the fruit?” said Manon, an overweight baboon who depended upon a big supply of fruit to maintain her figure. She would never volunteer to stay awake all night.
“I’m too scared to undertake a vigil, and I’m not afraid to admit it,” Antione said. He skulked over to the next tree mumbling under his breath, but as his species name implies, his admission was blasted across the Sanctuary at an impressively high number of decibels.
“You’re all crazy,” screeched Hobo Joe. His motives were transparent: he sought to shame the timid monkey. “It’s Tata Duende,” he crowed, sitting back on his haunches. “Since his feet are on backward, he can escape fast without having to turn around so his greedy little secret stays safe.”
“Now you’re the crazy one,” Manon said. “Tata Duende has no thumbs. Didn’t your mum teach you anything?”
“He has an accomplice with thumbs,” Hobo Joe insisted. “Xtabai. Now there’s the creature who frightens me most of all.”
He was right, of course. Xtabai was scary because she was one powerful Spirit. Once known only for her propensity for luring humans to her Ceiba tree and dining on them with a side of Fava beans, not one baboon put it past Xtabai to be in league with Tata Duende, and there was no mystery about her ambition: she sailed through life going from one outrageous act to another.
No longer content to feast on humans, she took to acquiring wealth without regard for other mythological creatures with whom she was forced to live. As her power base grew, so did her influence. For a long time, she was seen as Teflon, until greed caught up with her when she went one step too far by threatening the food supply of the sanctuary’s Howler Monkeys.
Hobo Joe’s hackles went up every time the subject of Xtabai came up. As the oldest and wisest member of the community in Belize, he was a self-crowned monarch who often made unilateral decisions and he was fed up. Without consulting anyone else, he contacted journalists writing for Belize’s largest primate journal: The Branch. A cub reporter—literally a cub—picked up the assignment and ran with the story and before long, the fruit scandal broke.
At first, Xtabai denied every accusation—even after she was indicted by a Grand Jaguar Jury at the behest of the Crocodile Court. Charged with a litany of offenses that ran the gamut from greed, corruption, influence peddling and other nefarious acts, it was the evidence in the drive-by fruiting (in league with Tata Duende) that sealed her fate. The swift hand of justice, once in motion, could not be stopped.
Each day, The Branch exposed a new offence as witnesses began to break their silence, at last unafraid of her wrath. And it would come to pass that Xtabai was the very first mythological creature ever to be asked to resign from her job as Chief Human Consumer and turn her authority over to Xtabaiette, the second ranking spirit.
As investigators dug deep, the truth came down like July rains: That stolen fruit wasn’t for Xtabai’s personal consumption: An elaborate scheme to move contraband outside Belize in giant refrigerated trucks marked George Orwell Farms was revealed.
Confined to facility in an undisclosed location, the entire jungle rang with celebration upon hearing the news of Xtabai’s conviction. For the first time in Belize history, Howler Monkeys weren’t the only creatures celebrating the action taken by the Crocodile Court. Throughout the land, growls, shouts and roars shook the leaves from trees and shook so much fruit loose, Howler Monkeys had more than they needed to sustain themselves for a long time.
As Xtabai remains hidden, journalists from The Branch have not been given access to interview her, even as search warrants are issued for other important creatures believed to be acting in concert with Xtabai. Police hint that other arrests connected to this countrywide scandal are imminent, but diplomacy remains at the heart of moving the case forward because, from all appearances, this cartel had deep roots that would require the law to invoke multi-nation jurisdictions.
As the Croc Court and Jaguar Jury burn the midnight oil gathering, categorizing and verifying evidence, Xtabai had hired the best attorneys in Belize to defend her against mounting charges, including the latest allegations of murder-for-hire attempts in which heavy coconuts are turning up as probable weapons. Will all of this be resolved quickly? That’s doubtful given so many layers of intrigue surrounding this unprecedented scandal.
Carlos El Dente is a Belizean based satirical writer specializing in politics, society and local life.
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