The Viceroy’s pontoon reached the shore before everyone else. His military escorts lifted him by his chubby arms and feet, carrying him to the dry sand. Sal and Blas jumped in the shallows, then sloshed through the waves tugging their craft full of pigs toward the beach.
“¿Dondè estàmos? Where are we? I’m sunk to my knees in sludge,” Sal said. He and Blas herded the stinking animals off the landing craft.
“I can’t tell the sticky mud from the pig shit,” Blas said. Sand and sea swallowed their feet as they slogged across broad mudflats.
“It all stinks, brother,” a nearby soldier said. “They call this place Vera Cruz—very cursed, we say.” Soldiers shoved them forward as deep muck sucked at Sal’s feet.
“God help us—these bugs,” Sal said. The air carried swarms of pesky mosquitoes that rushed into his mouth each time he gasped for breath. Is this el Nuevo Mundo or just some kind of purgatory? Sal wondered.
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