Ridge after ridge spill out across my sight, eventually drowning out into hazy lavender oblivion. The closest peaks, coated in the fluffy green frosting of a tropical forest, occasionally melt their facade to reveal inhospitable rock faces shooting angry daggers at their curious onlookers. High summits stabbing the thin mountain air modestly hide their beauty behind billowing white clouds.
Even with modern advances, the Cumbres of Maltrata can be formidable to cross. Hair-pinning highways dangle precariously on the edge of cavernous valleys, fog often rolling down the mountainside, a deathly phantom wave of vapor while cars fly and semi’s chug.
It’s become almost a habit to me. As we cross and I ogle at the spectacular beauty around, I have to remember Maximilian and Charlotte, accompanied by their band of French soldiers and Mexican escorts. They came to Mexico, convinced (but delusional) that the Mexican people not only needed but wanted them there. They came to supposedly establish order, to save the Mexicans from themselves (ie Benito Juarez who really was little more than a self indulgent traitor), to annex this rich land to Napoleon III and Eugenie’s desperate and soon to crumble empire.
Many weak from malaria caught in the port of Veracruz, they trudged across the mountains on foot with only the dignitaries riding in carriages, in very relative ease if such travel could ever be considered comfortable. Bandits and guerrilla fighters roamed the hills, frequently attacking the traveling party anxious to be rid of His Royal Majesty before imperial power could ever be established.
They did somehow make it though, arriving in Mexico City which was at that time more lake than land. A mere 3 years later, years of boiling unrest, Maximilian was led prisoner to the Cerro of the Campanas and executed.
Perhaps not quite as majestic a story as Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants, but a similar outcome. He victoriously marched south to Rome, only for Scipio Africanus to rush to Carthage and claim ultimate victory.
So the question begs answer of our feeble minds. Great men and armies crossed huge mountainous barriers, both equipped with the latest technologies of their times. They overcame impossibilities, ravaging enemies and nature’s demanding obstacles. They made it, only to lose. Should they have made those journeys, taken those risks? Was the outcome worth their herculean efforts?
Humanly speaking, no. They should have stayed home, sipped some tea, basked in the titles of archduke and general. They should have been self-serving, forgetting the calls of desperate people, anxious for peace and prosperity.
But Hannibal could not close his ears to the cries of his Phoenician countrymen, bullied by the Roman spear and insatiable coveting of the western Mediterranean. Maximilian, as mal informed as he was, could not ignore the outright abuse of the Mexican people by a privileged upper class and controlling religious power.
There are mountains not made with stones, who rain not with water, whose fog is not of vapor. They are also patrolled by bandits of sorts and often take an elephant of a will to cross.
There are men and women who place obstacles in our path, they rain down on us with harsh and haughty words, clouding our name and reputation. They send out swords against us, willing us to fall by the way. They have no interest in the people or truths we strive to protect.
Should we cross that mountain?
Does it really matter if I am slain in the process, if it seems as though my convictions have lost the fight?
Having gone across and with one foot in the grave of reputation: go.
Your beliefs, the things you fight for last longer than this life, if they are of God. He is eternal, His word is forever. The truth you stand for will roll from age to endless age on the power of a risen Lord.