Villa de Leyva

Michael Royce


Villa de Leyva, nestled between two fingers of the Andes, rests in a harmony of white stucco walls and red tile roofs: proof there is still peace in this troubled world. Ancient doorways line the street trailing bouquets of bougainvillea. On the sidewalk, an old lady displays jars of raw honey, fragrant with a hint of flowers and minerals, in early and solitary anticipation of the day. Fossils from the cretaceous past, when the village lay covered by a warm and shallow sea, grace the steps and bell tower of Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Rosario.

An iguana, swollen to the size of a dog, navigates riverstone-cobbled streets; lines between the real and magic blur. Early-risers pay no notice to the bulging cheeks and crenellated forehead of the prehistoric reptile as it lumbers on abbreviated legs around and beside them.


When the lizard reaches the Plaza Mayor, the fountain, silenced during modernity’s brief wrinkle in time, erupts into a full spectrum of colors. The reptilian form, now as large as the taxis that later will cruise the main streets, weaves toward this rainbow while humans trickle into the square. First they come in ones and twos, and at last in a great torrent; but they see neither the behemoth nor the multi-hued waters.

The monster yawns, and Xué, sun god of the Muisca people, escapes the gaping mouth to leap back into the sky. The stone bed of the plaza glows, and a violent tremoring knocks the sweat-stained hat from the head of an aged campesino, smelling of the earth he tills, who woke before dawn to make his trip to town.

Clouds, held by the sapphire sky, tower above the mountain peaks. The iguana, finally bigger than the tourist busses that descend on the village each weekend morning, trails the deity of the ancients up into the heavens like a gargantuan but faithful hound. No one watches as the two dissolve under the unrelenting light of the present, and Villa de Leyva wakes from a magic dream of its past.


MICHAEL ROYCE is a graduate of Portland’s 2011 Attic Atheneum, a one-year alternative to a MFA program. His published fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Fringe, The MacGuffin, PANK, Prick of the Spindle, Prime Number, and other on-line and print journals and anthologies. His series collectively called “Mississippi Freedom Summer in Eight Vignettes” was published in the “Best of the Net 2011” by Sundress Publications.