Geronimo Country & American Violence

Twenty miles south of Douglas, AZ in old Mexico is located the Canon de los Embudos (Canyon of Funnels) where Geronimo and General Crook discussed Apache surrender terms in 1886. There was no surrender at this point however, the event is important because of the photographs of Camillus Fly.

Fly had a studio in Tombstone next to the now infamous OK Corral and was invited by the US army to accompany Crook on his mission to take Geronimo prisoner. A number of photographs of the “last hold-out” band of Chiricahua Apache were taken and included men, women and children. They are an extraordinary series of photographs that remain the only photographs of armed, hostile American Indians in a state of war with the United States.

The canyon is a mythic site and is as dangerous today as it was in 1886. The Apache threat has gone but the darker forces ofdrug cartels and their killers have replaced it. Since beginning the Geronimo project, I have unsuccessfully encouraged my guide, Jerry Eagan, to arrange a visit to Canon de los Embudos. The drug gangsters with their corrupt police and military associates have made this simple excursion an impossibility it would seem. I am not yet convinced that a filming trip twenty miles into Mexico can’t be done. Jerry Eagan who survived fire-fights in Vietnam won’t be persuaded to venture into “Indian Country,” as enemy territory was sometimes referred to in ‘nam.

Bodies without heads, legs, arms… The other day I received an email from Jerry containing graphic images of a drug cartel warning. Human beings shot execution style, their bodies neatly chainsawed with the body parts arranged in tidy heaps of bloody flesh. Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men comes to mind. Tommy Lee Jones’ character seems to deny the bloody past and is stunned by the horrors of the present whereas Barry Corbin’s Ellis recognizes how little things have changed and that the country has always been a violent place.

Violence is the defining principle of Geronimo’s Country. Will I transgress the dividing line between savagery and civilization? Of course I will!


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