"The salamander, long a metaphor for the Mexican soul, risks extinction unless its sole habitat, the canal system of Xochimilco, can be restored."
"MEXICO CITY — Somewhere underneath the hull of Armando Tovar's boat, the aquatic manifestation of the great god Xolotl was slithering along the muddy canal bottom, digesting bugs, laying eggs and trying to avoid extinction.
Even though he could not see the creature, Tovar knew it would be confronting its troubled environment with that weird fixed smile, the one that makes it appear to be in on some cosmic joke.
As a 9-inch salamander, of course, the ajolote (pronounced ah-ho-LO-tay) couldn't know its own cultural significance in Mexico. It couldn't know its role in the Aztec creation myth. Or its freak-show star status among biology nerds for its ability to regenerate lost limbs, heart cells and bits of brain. Or its allure, in the world of arts and letters, as both a cryptic literary symbol and a metaphor for the Mexican soul."