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Empire of Ashes

The Imperial Woodpecker, Campephilus Imperialis, was the largest woodpecker that ever existed. It lived in the high pine forests of the Sierra Madre mountains of northeast Mexico. Like all big woodpeckers of this sort, it was a dinosaurish beast, like a Hoatzin or an Archaeopteryx, scraping lizard-like up the rough trunks of the Ponderosas and fishing grubs from under the burnt bark of trees with its inscrutable and magnificent tongue. Humans encroached on its forests and its population dwindled, losing out to logging interests that cut the trees it nested in. In the 1950’s it was ruthlessly hunted and poisoned, accused of damaging valuable timber, and populations crashed catastrophically. By the time that the drug cartels came to clear-cut and burn the forests and plant their high-value crops, its slow fade had accelerated beyond recovery. An apocryphal story attributes the death of the last one to the appetite of a truck driver, who described it as “a big piece of meat”. The last Imperial might have fed that man’s family, in a charred and empty landscape strewn with skulls and stumps; the endpoint of the endless demands that Capitalism and organized crime (two faces of the same coin) have placed on the people and lands of Mexico. Would that but one egg had held through.

This was made entirely by hand, with no computers, copiers or electronic printers involved, and printed at the Flight 64 studio in Portland, Oregon.



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