Tuesday, April 24, 2018






a novel by

Antonio Bernal


                            © Forrest Antonio Bernal Hopping 2008   

                        "Despierto cada cien años, cuando despierta el Pueblo."
Canto para Bolívar, by Pablo Neruda.

DON RUFINO —                           

Don Rufino sat in his study. The late Sonora sunlight came through the windows attenuated by the heavy velvet curtains and the deep---set 3---foot adobe walls. The peones had come back from the fields and their women were stoking fires for dinner. Their chattering and laughter at the hacienda they had named Cantaranas, made a reassuring sound. Occasionally a whiff of pozole would fill his nostrils.  Someone, surely Margarito, was playing "Adiós Mamá Carlota". Don Rufino stared at the headlines in El Imparcial,  thunderstruck. Queen Victoria had died.

"Passed away at Osborne House at 6:30 o'clock this evening. England is silent with grief . ." he read avidly. "Shortly after 9 o'clock, the doctors sent a summons to all members of the family and also to the rector of the royal chapel . . The body was embalmed and will probably be taken to Windsor Saturday. Queen Victoria is dead. Edward VII reigns."

He had always liked a story he had heard about her. Her son Eduardo, as a child had refused to salute his subjects on the street during a procession, and was scolded by his mother. "I don't have to salute them, they are my subjects," retorted Eduardo haughtily. "Yes you do,  I am your mother," answered Victoria, and spanked him. He had told the story at table with great relish. El General Torres had told it to him over cigars. Don  Porfirio had always spoken highly of Victoria, fancying himself magically related, had called her a symbol of purity and greatness in leadership. El General Torres had been at a reception at the Casino Español and knew what he was talking about.

Rufino looked further in the paper. Something about "rubber  atrocities" in the Congo. His eye caught an article declaring that a certain Canuto Neri had risen against the Porfirio government, and had wound up in the Cárcel of Belén.

"This will bring  nothing good," muttered Rufino darkly  to himself. Porfirio had already elected himself five times, and any one who protested was swiftly dealt with. It was an open secret that dissenters were arrested, were found dead in jail at daybreak, "suicides," or spirited off to Oaxaca to work on Porfirio's plantation until they died of exhaustion.

Don Porfirio always tried to put on the best face on things.   In Profirio's world there were no class antagonisms.  Mexico lived in harmony.  Any criticism that disrupted this vision was evil and must be stomped out at once.  His hatred for the Círculos Liberales and magonista groups  that sprang up around the country knew no bounds.  These rude malcontents were continually pointing out the latifundios, the fallow lands, the exploitation and poverty.  The profiristas felt that if people were poor it was their own fault.  They were a drag on the glory that Mexico could be if only they would  just go away.

"He's the prince of peace," Ramón Corral had told Rufino once at the Gentlemen's Club, with his typical fondness for hyperbole.  Don Rufino stared at him in disbelief.

Sonora landowning and commercial families had consolidated  their power primarily  through marriage.  His own grandmother on his father's side had married the influential Monteverde family, which gave them entrée into the political life of the state. The network of intermarried families had served to push out the old Spanish colonial rule dominated by the church and solidified their hold over the new commercial opportunities that were springing up.  Little by little,  fallow lands that had belonged to the Church were taken over for the interests of the new rich, pushing the indigenous towns farther and farther into the hills. To make their takeover complete, they also began to control traditional church functions, such as the civil register. Laws were passed that broke up communal lands into individual parcelas, making it easier to buy them off when the natives could no longer feed their families.

After the wars with the Apaches, in the eternal struggle between pastoral activities  and farming, Rufino's own cattle had encroached onto Ópata lands, although he had worked out a deal with the elders of donating a number of cattle to be slaughtered  for the Semana Santa festival. As an honored guest, Don Rufino was expected to open the qoquimari foot races, and stay for the dances of the Matachines. Years ago, the cacique of Masocahui had entrusted Margarito, an orphan, to his care, and Margarito from the age of seven called Cantaranas home. In this way, many Ópatas found work on the haciendas, and their quality of life slowly changed from a free semi---nomadic life to a life of peonage. The recent increase in population in Arizona and California opened up a market for beef, and once a year there would be an auction where DonRufino would sell off  part of his stock, to be driven north to the slaughterhouses in Nogales. 

Rufino took off his pince---nez and stared at the pirules outside his window. Some of his own associates at the Gentlemen's Club had signed legal papers maneuvering to take the Yaqui lands. Afterwards they had called the troops to murder the Indians, who were now "illegal".  Many of them had been deported to Yucatán, Oaxaca and even Guatemala.  He was fortunate that his lands had been in his family for three hundred years, and were uncontested. When he looked in the mirror, he could see his nose, the color of his skin, the Yaqui blood from a half---forgotten great grandmother. His brother Demetrio, who had failed as a silver prospector, had gathered his meager earnings and gone to Los Angeles. He should write to him. All he knew about Los Angeles was that many foreigners were coming in and Spanish had ceased to be the majority language.

There was a lot of scurrying about in  the next room.  The family doctor, Dr. Castro, was  out of town and had sent a substitute. The comadre had come in that morning, and remained tight---lipped. The door to Eduwiges's room opened and closed through  the morning, but he could see nothing. All he could hear were muffled sounds. He jiggled as he tried to concentrate on his newspaper. He heard Eduwiges scream. A rough, low register scream, and his heart sank with fear. It was so mysterious. She had bore him two boys and a girl, but he could not get used to the laying---in. Anything could happen. The unthinkable could happen. He would be lost without her.

Eduwiges lay back on her fresh pillow, exhausted but with a pleasant feeling well being. All day the comadre had pushed on her belly with her fingers, trying to massage the baby out with special oils taken from the desert.  Chona had scurried about muttering to herself, ever mindful of the dangers a birth could bring. A heavy rope had been tied to the four poster bed, so that Eduwiges could pull on it as she drew her legs up, until finally, once her head was out, María Raquel slid out easily onto the waiting linen and drew her first breath. Now she was washed and asleep. Eduwgies contemplated her daughter, her youngest and her last. She would turn forty that spring, and she knew that Rufino would simply have to be satisfied with the four she had given him. "María Raquel" she whispered softly to herself.  Outside Margarito and Laurita, unbeknownst to her, had buried the umbilical cord  were sweeping the dirt clean around the main house to determine Raquel's guardian, who would leave his footprint.

The only thing Eduwiges had to worry about now was plenty of rest, for childbirth was so depleting she would have to keep the quarantine, which meant no cooking and no tending to things for forty days and nights. From past experience, Eduwiges relished the leisure, although her restless spirit pushed her to order people about, and she never was able to get all the way through the rest period.  Before long she would be telling Margarito to saddle the horses and would drive into town. Even though the Durán family attended church infrequently, it would not do for any member  to remain unbaptized, and so to satisfy the Hermosillo gentry, Raquel would have to make her appearance in the same Chantilly lace and silk dress that María Elena had used. Eduwiges privately fretted over the expense, and the  party inviting all the relatives, even the most distant,  that would follow. Well, it would have to wait the forty days anyway. There was plenty of time. Chona appeared and took the baby away to her waiting cradle, and Eduwiges slipped into a deep sleep, happy that it was over at last.


It seemed as if Raquel knew from birth that she would be the star of the family. The spoiled youngest,  the last evidence of new life in the house. Everyone set about to granting her every wish, even before she could talk, and she was astute enough to understand this. She felt totally secure and protected. At nine months she was standing up and babbling, scolding those around her in her own infant language.

One day Laurita came in and spoke to her crossly, telling her to be quiet and stop screaming, shaking her in her crib.  Raquel looked and her and said to herself; "You hypocrite. You make a fuss over me when people are watching, but now that nobody is around I see your true colors." Raquel stopped crying and began plotting  how she could get her revenge. She was a year old.

It was not long before she was crawling about the house, down the steps to the garden in the center of the house, relishing her domain. One day someone left the front door open and Raquel, by then standing and walking upright, walked outside for the first time in her life. She stood a long time looking at the vastness, the mountains in the distance, the trees marking the river. She had not realized that there was a  world outside her own secure environment, that her loving parents were only a small part of the world she lived in. She stood, immobile, taking it all in without blinking. At that moment Raquel knew she was part of this land, and something took hold of her that was to stay with her always, a sense of identity, a sense of her destiny, a sense of belonging where her ancestors were buried.

She was the apple of her father's eye. Don Rufino had planted a tree for her when she was born, as he had done with all his children, and the small grove of encinos by the river was visible from the house. Raquel loved her tree, and she would spend hours under its shade, playing  at Doña Blanca with the others, or simply daydreaming and looking at the water rush by.

Ancestors  had come from Spain centuries before. They had given up everything, to come to México, the land of freedom; house and lands, jewelry, clothes, silver candlesticks, for safe passage to the most remote corner of the Sonora desert (Sonora was an Ópata word), a land no one had ever heard of, a land where they could disappear, a permanent exile.

Yet they were not strangers in a foreign land. Imperceptibly, they let go of the old ways, and started to cloak themselves with the matorrales,  sahuaros and pitahayas. They grew the feathers of the owl, a conch shell developed on their backs, their ears grew into desert rabbit's ears, and they developed the cunning of the coyotes that ran in packs at twilight. They ate menudo, and beans and wheat flour tortillas  and barbacoa. Their husbands grew crops and tended cattle. Their wives cleaned and cooked. They looked at each other, after three hundred years, all they could see was  the dark skin and gangling build of the Seri, the Yaqui and the Opata and the mestizo. In short, they had become sonorense, and proud of it.

All her childhood  she was to hear her mother  rave against the "Godamn Pope", without good reason, since the Pope had never done anything to her, but Eduwiges  enjoyed the sensation her words caused. Raquel would play in  the relative cool of the shade under  the willows by the river muttering the mysterious, atavistic words from the old world, "Adonai Eloenu", words which seemed to have a magical power to crush the enemies her five---year old imagination could conjure. She knew other words, too, a song Pascuala had taught her,

                Kialem vata hiwemai
                                         chukula hubwa teune teunevu

Over the centuries they had become one of the leading families in the province, the hot dusty desert, the sometimes meager crops, the lack of rainfall, the sullen, unapproachable natives in the mountains. A madwoman, Teresa Urea, had inspired an  uprising a few years back, and Raquel still shivered as her rallying cry "Viva la Santa Cabora"  was told again and again by the fire in the kitchen as they drank infusions or frothy chocolate before  bedtime. Legendary rebellions by El Gran Cajeme and Tetabiate were told by candlelight by the Yaqui grandmother as they dipped their pan dulce in the hot chocolate. The hot nights would wear on and the four children, sleepless, would whisper how a witch had sucked Filiberto's soul and turned him into a  zombie. Filiberto,  a neighbor's child, appeared with great welts and bruises. His mother was told to place a raw egg in a glass of water  under his bed to take the evil away.


Raquel came in to call her father to dinner and found him asleep. She started playing with his hair, thinning at the top and consequently in disarray. It seemed to her that his hair would hold together better if she braided it. She made a tiny braid of his grey hair and finally shook him to come to the table.

The table had been set for eight people, as always, but Jacinto, the youngest of the boys and the most spoiled, was  in one of his moods and had  gone to his room. He preferred to have the food sent to him. Eduwiges served the puerco con verdolagas (verdonalgas, Ramiro called them accompanied by shouts of laughter) as Don Rufino began the conversation, which the children were to listen to but not give any opinions on. On his left sat María Elena, the older of the two sisters, a well---developed girl with hazel eyes and beautiful auburn hair which she wore loose tied only by a barrette. Next came Ramiro, an angular boy now twenty  with sandy hair and dark skin, whose sweetness was hidden by a restless disposition.  His eagerness to accompany the peones on their deliveries was something recent, and he had caught  Eduwiges looking at him sharply. The

bubbly María Raquel, his baby, bounced and squealed in her chair, unable to sit still. The rest of the chairs were taken by Chona, his wife's younger  sister, and Laurita a very old spinster lady left over from the restoration of the Republic whose family connection Rufino had trouble remembering. A third sister, Nicolasa, had married and gone to live in Mexico City. Time and distance had separated them.

— Women want to vote, he grumbled. They want to smoke in public. Only fallen women do that. Women of the streets,  he rambled contemptuously.

Eduwiges, finally sitting down after seeing that everyone was served,  remained silent. Rufino continued his diatribe, aware of only expressing his opinions in his own house, expecting Ramiro, at least, to  agree with him.

— I don't want to smoke, papá, said Raquel helpfully, ignoring the prohibition against interrupting.  I don't want to vote either,  not quite knowing what that was.

— If women had the vote,  ventured Eduwiges, breaking her silence,  I doubt Don Porfirio would have won the reelection. 

She tactfully ignored the question of smoking, as everyone knew she lighted an occasional small cigar in the library, where Rufino kept his many books, some of them in Latin.

Rufino gave her a sharp look.

— You talk like an anarchist,  he said.  All we need around here is another magonista.  It's not the voting, it's what it will lead to. The emasculation of the country. Where are we going to end? 

— Papá, Queen Victoria was a woman,  interposed Raquel helpfully, knowing her father's predilection for royalty. She had heard her father express admiration for the dead icon many times.

— Rufino,  said  his wife changing  the  subject.  What  have  you done to your hair? Turn around.

Rufino, startled, turned his head as Pascuala, bringing in coffee, giggled. His braid was sticking out the back of his head as he ran his hand over it.

— I did it papá, shouted Raquel with glee. You look very handsome like that.

— Let me fix it,  said Eduwiges, not amused.  Pascuala bring the brush on my dresser."

— Sí, señora.

— You see that's what will happen when women have the vote,  said Rufino, laughing to cover his embarrassment.  Men will wear braids!


There were 52 square blocks in the outskirts of Cananea where the miners, mostly Pimas, lived.  There was no indoor plumbing, and the streets were unpaved.  After an irrigation project that had flooded ancestral lands,  Mario Equihua decided to try his luck in the copper mines.  He could not live in El Ronquillo, as the settlement was called, until he started work. The first time he saw the monster elevator descending into the bowels he felt fear and loathing.  He could never go under the ground like that.  It wasn't natural.  But that was the only job open to him.  He got into the narrow space crowded with miners around, pressed up against him so could not breathe,  and hung on for dear life, as the elevator descended, too fast, squeaking and groaning and, it seemed to Mario, breathing fire as if it had been some prehistoric dragon.  Indeed, the temperature rose the farther down they went.  His job was to shovel the broken rock onto the waiting cars  that would screech along a rail until they surfaced on their way to the foundry.  He never got used to it, although he pretended he had.  The suffocating heat, the dim lights, the constant noise numbed his brain. 

The only thing that made it bearable was the companionship.  Most of the other miners were Pimas, as he was, and they spoke the language when they didn't want the foremen to understand what they were saying.  He had gotten into an argument with a Pápago until the man, Savanino, could prove that they were related.  Savanino had proven it by saying that they were the bean people,  papwi o'o tam, and Mario was satisfied as he recognized the words.   Savanino was named after a leader centuries back who headed an uprising with a Pima named Luís  against the hated Spaniards.  The Seris  had joined forces with them  and burned down the Mission at Tubutama.  After that Savanino and Mario went everywhere on their scarce time off together.  Their ancestral connection gave meaning and direction to their present life and gave them hope.

Mario worked twelve hours a day or more and would arrive at his  shack and throw himself on the cot to sleep, sometimes too tired to eat.  At a nearby cantina he met a girl from his village, who recognized him and tried to hide the fact that she was waiting tables.  She had told her family she was a housekeeper with a Yori family.  The shame would have been great if the news--- transformed into gossip that she was a prostitute---  got back to her family.  To reassure her, he ordered a beer and, behaving like a gentleman,  asked to see her when she got off.  Eventually Margarita moved in, and he tried to support her on  85 cents a day.  He promised they would go back to Bacoachi and be married by the elders, in the traditional way, someday.

He confided in Savanino his dream.  The store was so expensive, and it was the only one in town.  He would open up a little puesto, then get a  license when he had enough money and rent a building and sell everything cheaper than the Cananea store.  That way everyone would buy from him and he could leave the mine.  Savanino laughed at him.

— Don't you know, pendejo,  he said ruffling his hair,  that the store belongs to the gringo that is the owner of the mine?  You try to open up another store and he'll have you put in jail.

— What do you mean?  asked Mario, taken a back.

— The gringo owns the store, the mine, and the roof over your head,  said Savanino bitterly.  The only thing he doesn't own is the cemetery.  Not only that, he pays the gringo miners he brought with him more than he pays us.

Mario digested this in silence.  Maybe he could get Margarita to sell vegetables at the open market.

— Look, said Savanino, I want you to come to a meeting with me in three days, but you can't tell anyone about it.  Promise?

Mario nodded his head, not daring to say a word even now.

They met at the house of a friend of Savanino, José María, because it was larger than the others, and Mario was surprised to find people he knew mixed together with people he guessed were from out of town.  The workers milled about for a while talking in low voices (they had been cautioned not to draw attention to the house) until José María broke the relative silence.  He spoke of the need to lower the work day to eight hours, and to raise the minimum wage to 5 pesos for everybody, since some received more and some less, depending on the work they did.  He spoke of the need for health care, and burial services, and the need to prohibit work for any one under 14 years old. 

Mario listened, transfixed, as the speaker said that the mine must be prevented from imposing fines on the workers, or to pay them in any other way other than in national money, or to pay foreigners more than Mexicans for the same work.

Mario was excited.  He had never heard any one say these things, although he had felt them in his bones. Just the fact that someone was saying what he knew to be true energized him.  He realized how valuable it was to join the others.  He felt that together they could make changes in the hard, dirty dangerous work they were asked to do. 
A young man came up to him, barely out of  his teens and shook hands.  He introduced himself as Ramiro Durán.  Ramiro had taken loads of wheat to Nogales with Margarito, when they had stopped at Magdalena at Margarito's Aunt's house to rest and have lunch.  Good manners dictated that they bring the food to save the aunt from the embarrassment of telling them she had no food to give them. They bought some cecina and avocados at the market and his aunt prepared the food.) Aunt Ofelia had also invited José María Ibarra from the Círculo Liberal, and he in turn had invited the young men to the meeting. 

Ramiro attended whenever he was in the area, transporting goods to market, and had even met a man who knew Pancho Villa personally.  Ramiro was being drawn into these events unknown to his parents.  There was a certain danger and excitement which he relished.

— How can we make the gringo lower the working hours?  Mario asked Ramiro.

José María joined them in the conversation.

— Work stoppage,  he said offhandedly.

— The mine stops working and the gringo can't sell the copper,  Mario answered, more to himself.   Then he will have to make conditions better to get the copper moving again.

— Exactly, said José María smiling.

— But a lot of people won't stop work, Mario argued.  They can't afford it.

— We'll see, said José María.  That's why you have to talk to them and make them see that it will only work if everybody strikes.  But be careful.  Governor Izábal has plenty of henchmen around pretending to be miners, to find out what is going on.

— How could he do that to us, said Mario, incredulously.  Why would he help the gringo that way?

— Money, said José María.  Greene has given Izábal thousands of dollars to keep quiet and let him run the mine the way he wants.  Here, said José María, take this home.  It explains all the details of the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company and how it works.

Mario took the leaflet enthusiastically, not letting on that he couldn't read.

After some chatting among the members and guests, some tisgüín served by José María's sister, and some pan dulce, the meeting broke up.


— All right boys, shouted Méndez, the foreman, lets get a move on.  The miners were gathered around the entrance elevator ready to go down.  He noticed Mario running up, late.

— You, he said,  step out.  You don't work today, and you'll be docked.

— But I was moving some boxes for Mr.  Williams, Mario protested.

— I don't care if you were moving Mana from heaven, grunted Méndez.  You stay out.  It won't make any difference anyway.  The others will get out as many tons as usual.  That's why were cutting back.  You won't even work here tomorrow. 

Mario, stunned, could think of nothing to say. With its infernal creaking and groaning, the elevator started its descent.  Mario managed to catch Savanino's eye.  Savanino waved in a gesture that said "wait".

The rumors ran like the lighted fuse the barreteros  used after cutting into the rock with their pick axes.  The explosion of anger at company policies  that resulted was no surprise to any one, except to Mr.  Greene,  who could not see  his miners as anything but  docile and somewhat stupid.  His plan was that teamsters, stevedores, helpers, sweepers, all were going to be cut back, but the metal was to be taken out in the same quantity and with even greater yields. Profits would be huge.  Mario went back to El Ronquillo and talked to the neighbors so that people hung out uncertainly all day on the dirt streets in little knots.  By the time the miners came out, the members spontaneously converged at José María's house for a meeting.  Instead of the usual quiet conversation, a kind of angry, muted roar spread  like an overlay to their voices, quickening the pulse, throwing their usual reticence to the winds.

Baca Calderón called the meeting to order.  He explained the plans of the company, to cut back and increase production.  An enraged storm broke from the miner's throats to hear their  fears confirmed.

— We can´t make ends meet now, and they want to cut back, shouted a miner's wife.

— We've talked to Luís, but he just cursed at us, said a miner.

— We get paid in I.O.Us said another one bitterly.  We can't spend the money anywhere but in the company store, which costs more.

— My cousin was beaten because he felt sick and wanted to go home.

— What about the gringos?  Someone from the back shouted.

There was an uneasy silence, as some heads turned to look at a handful of gringos that were congregated near the door.

— There are no gringos here, said José María, after a pause.  Only miners.  Those that are white work just as hard as those that are brown.

— They get paid in dollars and we get paid in pesos, the man insisted.  They get twice as much as we do. 

—  They don't make policy.  The company makes that policy to divide us.  Divide and conquer. If they are willing to go out on strike with us, they are our brothers.

A general cheer of approval went up. 

Divide and conquer. Mario  had never heard that phrase, and everything seemed to fall into place as soon as he heard it.  That's why some men got three pesos, others four.  Others eight.  The ones doing the hardest, dirtiest most dangerous jobs always got paid the least.

— Well now what are we going to do?

Baca Calderón stood up. 

— Comrades, he said, and the room fell into a hush.  If we strike, it may be a long strike.  These people are not kidding around.  Greene has gone to Bisbee to get arms to give out to all the foremen.  If fact you can be sure that someone here is ready to go back tell them everything we say and do here.

— Let them, someone yelled defiantly.

Baca Calderón continued. 

— We need everybody to get paid a minimum of 5 pesos for eight hours. He was interrupted by a roar of approval.

— The foremen that have insulted the miners should be replaced.  Show the capitalist that you are men,  not beasts. You are in your own land and deserve the benefits of  that land.

— They shouldn't hire anyone under fourteen, a mother whispered, as if to herself.

Gutiérrez de Lara started to assign posts to the volunteers.  No one would report to the mine in the morning, instead they would march through El Ronquillo to let everyone know of the strike and ask them to join it.  Baca Calderón and the others would make up the demands to be presented to Mr. Greene.  Excitedly, the miners poured out of the house and walked to their shacks to continue their discussions.  By dawn few of them had gone to bed.

Mr.  Greene said he would study the matter.   He cautioned the workers not to do anything rash that would serve as an excuse for the goons to attack them.


A wall of  about 50 rangers brought in from Texas met the miners as they gathered in front of the mining company's offices. The red and black strike flags began to congregate early  in front of the doors  and the miners started shouting  "Five pesos, eight hours!  Five pesos eight hours!  Viva México!"

 They were armed with their iron candle holders that they used in the mine.  By nine o'clock two thousand miners and supporters had gathered in the area, and they started marching through the settlement, past the hated company store. The miners made their way to another Greene enterprise, the lumber company  up on the hill to call those workers to come out and join them.

A Greene employee came out and exhorted the miners to go home. 

— This can only be solved through negotiations, he screamed above the noise.

He made a gesture to the firemen who had brought out  the horse---drawn fire truck and they opened jets of water on the strikers.

— Don't go along with  the  provocation!  Baca Calderón shouted to the miners who were being pushed by the guards---many of them Americans that had been brought in from Bisbee--- and were starting to beat them  back. 
— Come out!  Come out!  Yelled the striking miners, and a great shout and applause went up when several workers from the yard joined them.

Shots rang out, and several miners fell, bleeding. A small dark---skinned Tarahumara, who everyone called  "El Xochimilcas" had fashioned a torch from a piece of wood and some rags and like a latter---day "Pípila" had run around the open back end of the building and thrown the torch onto a pile of shavings.  They lighted instantly.  Workers and employees streamed out of the building, and the small fire truck tried to do its best, but it was too late.  They had spent  too much water on the demonstrators, and there was little left for the fire that greedily fed on the lumber and the building itself.  The miners, enraged at the shootings, surrounded the employees George Metcalf and his brother and beat them unconscious with their iron candle holders.  It was not until their fury was spent that they went back to the City Hall, in an effort to talk to the authorities.  They never made it that far. Greene employees drove by in their automobiles, shooting as they went, killing five miners and a six---year old boy.  The crowd scattered.  Drunk  U .S. snipers stationed themselves on the roof of the Hotel Los Angeles and shot at anything that moved, shouting in glee if they saw a "Messican" crumple to the ground.  The streets of Cananea became deserted, except for the 13  who lay dead on them.  Eventually a Municipal wagon was brought to gather them up.

The police swung into action. They went among the shacks, and if  they found an adult male, they arrested him, knowing him to be a miner.  The American families in the town beat a hasty retreat to the railroad station for the next train to Bisbee.  In a matter of hours, both the jail and the train were full of humanity, each with its own destiny.  Greene had telegraphed  Vice President Corral in México City, who assured him the Federal Guard was on its way to put down the rebellion. 

Jacinto Ocomol had been walking for a day and a half with a turkey in a wooden cage he carried on his back.  His wife and he had been deliberating for days whether to sell it at the market in Cananea. Finally they decided that they could no longer hold off buying the ax Jacinto needed to cut wood to build their fires for cooking.  The old, chipped  ax had slipped its moorings, and there was not enough wood for gathering.  "Get some cooking oil" his wife told him.  Jacinto set the cage down and wiped his brow.  Tired and thirsty, he looked down the main street and wondered why it was deserted.  He saw a large house set back from the street, and noticed a spigot where he knew he could get some water. Better ask first, he cautioned himself.  Maybe there's a gardener I can talk to.  One of Greene´s volunteers saw the Indian walk up to him, and shot him between the eyes before he could open his mouth.

In front of the City Hall, Greene and Governor Izábal were holding a meeting before about 400 strikers.  Izábal did the talking, since Greene spoke little Spanish.  First he called for silence, and declared in a solemn voice that George Metcalf and his brother had died of their wounds. 

— The guilty will be punished.  He declared sternly.

The strikers remain silent. 

— We will not submit to threats and intimidation, he called out, his voice rising.  This is not the way to do things.  I have discussed with Mr.  Greene the way to help you with your petition, but you don't realize the high cost of running the mines, the lumber and  cattle companies.  Mr.  Greene has many responsibilities.  If he paid you any more, he would have to close down the mine, and  then everybody would be out of work permanently.  The best thing to do is for everybody to go back home, take the day off and report to the mine early tomorrow morning.  Mr. Greene will meet with your representatives and try to work something out.

Some strikers began  to make cat calls, and the police moved in and arrested them.  The other workers milled around aimlessly and finally dispersed. Izábal, under  telegraphed orders by Ramón Corral, ordered a curfew for the entire population, Mexican and American.  Kosterlitsky, the chief of gendarmes from Magdalena, ordered the Rangers to pack up, and to take their dead with them.

Mario went to Savanino's house, disoriented and unable to think of what to do next.  He had not expected such a violent response to their petition, and he felt heartsick at the bloodshed.  When he arrived he met  Ramiro at the house. Don Rufino had been incensed when he learned that his compatriots were being paid less than the Yankees for the same work, and doing the most dangerous work to boot. Ramiro and Don Rufino had loaded up the wagon with sacks of beans from the granary to take to the strikers. He practically ordered  Ramiro to load the wagon, with his blessing. "And take Jacinto with you," he instructed.

— Diéguez, Baca Calderón and Ibarra are in jail, said Savanino desperately.  Izábal wants to have them  shot before a firing squad.

Mario trembled with fear.

— My father heard that Ramón Corral gave express orders to Izábal to process them with a trial, and under no circumstances are they to be shot.  The Díaz government is shaky enough without more scandal, said Ramiro reassuringly.

The strike had lasted only six days.  Hungry miners returned to the Sierra they had come from, looking for odd jobs and traveling long distances.  Their  fires  glowed in the hills at  night, lit by the people scattered over  the mountains looking for work to take money back to their families as they cooked their food and told stories and  huddled together in the night chill.  Their bed was the same jorongo that  they wore in the day time, their hat was their pillow.  The mountain people were proud of their meager existence. It proved they were tough. Some found work in other areas.  Some went to Phoenix and Los Angeles and found work as stevedores and cooks.  Overall, there was a sense of  betrayal that the Círculo Liberal had been unable to make good on its fine promises.  Still, the idea of dignity had been sewn, and the country had been shaken by the news of the killings.  This was not the last word.

One day Adelina Patti gave a concert attended by the crème de la crème of Hermosillo society, and Raquel decided on the spot that she would become a singer. The Queen of Hearts had gained considerable weight, but remained an imposing figure at sixty---two. Besides, she was guaranteed a warm reception by the culture---starved audience that fancied art belonged to them because of their discriminating taste. Raquel, unimpressed by art, simply concluded that to hold an audience spellbound while wearing beautiful clothes seemed to her a much better future than overseeing the cooking and cleaning, as her mother had to do, no matter how many servants one had.

Raquel was taken, as had her sister, to the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Hermosillo. A small horse---drawn bus made the daily rounds and picked up children from the rancherías around to take them to the converted mansion that had belonged to the Tournié family, a house left over after the fall of  the Second Empire. The building has been chosen for its size, to accommodate the students, who were all ages, and the best that could be said for the flat---roofed building was that it was stone and built to last. At first Raquel was curious as to what awaited her. She naturally assumed that she would be treated as at home, and the teacher would acquiesce to her every whim  and need. Instead she had to stand when someone entered the room, remain silent and speak only when spoken to, study boring things like mathematics, and was generally miserable. The only class she liked was sewing class, because the young ladies would retire to the corridor overlooking the garden and were permitted to chatter about whatever came into their heads.

She pestered her father to get her a  piano. She hated the school for young ladies. She hated the discipline, which made her pace up and down like a caged lion.  She could be disciplined when it was her choice, but not when it was imposed  by others. She resented being told what to do. Her father explained rather sternly that lay schools for young ladies had been one of the "conquests" of Juárez, and she was practically a traitor to refuse to go. Then, more effectively, he promised her a piano if she finished the eighth grade. It cost her a "broken spleen", a phrase she had picked up from one of her classmates, but she finally finished and was glad to be out of it.

The piano was brought around the Horn of Patagonia from New York.  It took three months. It arrived in Mazatlán and was loaded onto the train along with silks and  tea from China and spices from Manila. Then the laborious trip to Hermosillo through the suffocating heat, which did it no good.

El maestro Azcárraga was enlisted to teach her. His qualifications were that he had  studied at the Conservatorio in México City, and had met Adelina Patti on her tour. Raquel studied religiously, because she liked it, her habit of ordering people around make her play strongly, like a man. She felt the power of the music, and she liked as always to be the center of attention. Her voice was a light soprano, but as she got older it darkened to dramatic registers. She eventually learned Dov' è  l'Indiana Bruna from Lakmé and Un Bel Dì from Madama Butterfly.


Eduwiges awoke with a start. The dogs were barking. There seemed to be a commotion in the stables. She got up and lighted the oil lamp. 2 am! She heard muffled voices. She dressed quickly and left  Rufino to continue his snoring.

— Pascuala!  She caught the servant  scurrying with a pile of sheets in her arms.

— Nnnothing señora, stammered Pascuala, terrified at getting caught.  Margarito had an accident and hurt his leg. It's nothing, Go back to sleep.

Eduwiges ignored her and hurried to the stable.

— What do you mean he hurt his leg in the middle of the night? This is no time for Christians to be up and about!

It was not Margarito. A man was lying in the straw, bleeding from a chest wound. Pascuala spoke to him in Yaqui, trying to comfort him. 

— Allí viene la señora.

Eduwiges became calm.

— Bring some  water and the bottle of iodine in my dresser. And bring me the scissors.

Pascuala returned with the things and fifteen year old Cleofas, who stumbled about in his underwear with his eyes shut, unwilling to wake up. She had Pascuala cut the man's shirt away while she bathed the wound and tried to imagine the seriousness of the bullet hole. The man was conscious, and breathing hard. Under the uncertain light, she caught the glint of the bullet lodged in his rib cage. It had not gone in very far.

— Bring me the pliers, she told Pascuala,  and grind some dried beans in the molcajete and bring them.  The girl obeyed silently.

Eduwiges poured iodine on the pliers and then stood poised over the man.

— This is going to hurt,  she told him, and poured iodine liberally over his chest.

The man made no sound. She fearlessly worked the pliers into his chest and grabbed the bullet. It slipped a few times from the blood, but she managed at last to grab it firmly and extract it. She sprinkled the bean powder on the man's wound, coagulating it,  and the bleeding stopped.  She had Pascuala cut the sheet  into strips while she and Cleofas  bandaged the man's chest.

— Take him to the  room next to the granary,  she instructed the other two, Pick up the things and well see how he is in the morning.

— Are you going to call Doctor Castro,  ventured Pascuala timidly. Dr. Castro had attended the family for years, but he was connected to the Ramón Corral family. It would not do for him to find out that Eduwiges had helped one of Maytorena's men. Maytorena had gathered several hundred men in Chihuahua against the porfiriato.

Eduwiges gave her a long look.

— No I won´t. But after you're through here come into the kitchen. I want to talk to you.

— Sí señora.

Eduwiges put some carbon into the old adobe stove, lighted it and began fanning. When the coals were glowing she got some water from the vasija and poured it into a pot. She started soaking a tablet of chocolate in some milk  while the water boiled. The she put it all together and started whipping the chocolate into a froth with the molinillo. Just as she was pouring the chocolate into two fired clay cups Pascuala walked into the kitchen.

— He's asleep, she said in a low voice.  Ill give him the atole in the morning.

Eduwiges motioned for her to sit down.

— Now what is this all about, Pascuala? Who is this man?  Her voice rose in spite of herself, with fear and anger.

Pascuala began to cry.

— Oh señora, they are treated very badly,  she sobbed.  How can they live if they don't have their land to plant corn in? The Yori invaded his lands and now his family is  living in Hermosillo sleeping on the street and begging every day. When his mother died he borrowed money to bury her, and he couldn't pay it back, and now the police are looking for him.  There are some people in Guaymas who sell guns and he was trying to buy some to take to Bacatete and get the lands back. Pascuala wiped her eyes with her apron.

— How could he buy guns if there was no money?  Asked Eduwiges severely.

Pascuala was calmer now.

— The elders of the eight towns got together and decided to pool what they had. Señora things can't go on like this. You're a Yori, but you are a good woman.

— Que Yori ni que Yori,  scolded Eduwiges, offended.  I had a grandmother that came from the Sierra de Nacozari, so don't tell me about Yoris.

— Si señora,  answered Pascuala, unconvinced.

— You're putting us in danger. Eduwiges's mind was racing.  Tomorrow I want you to take the ladder from the orchard and put it into the dry well. Get Margarito to help you. Put some bales of hay around it so you can't see it. The old dry well will make a hiding place in an emergency.

— He can't stay here. Couldn't he go with his  relatives in Hermosillo?

— He has an uncle in Mazocahui,  answered Pascuala.

— That will do. There's a shipment of beans to Cananea that we have to take in a three days. He'll have to be well enough to move then. It wont be easy. He'll have to ride under the costales. Los muchachos can drop him off there.

Pascuala blew her nose in relief.

— Thank you señora. God bless you.

— Never mind. Go to bed you still have to get up in--- ¡Que barbaridad! Two hours!

The two women hurriedly cleaned up the dishes and blew out the lamp.


Raquel started among the huizaches, past the sahuaros and pitahayas, ------plants that hummed with intense energy------ paying little heed to the rattlesnakes and scorpions that might be lurking under cool rocks. She ran over the desert. There was wind and there were fast---moving clouds. She felt as one with earth and sky. She flew with the clouds, muttering.  I am the flower---woman, the bird---woman, the reptile woman. I am the star---woman, all is struggle, all is goodness, all is work.  Suddenly she drew herself up and stood stock still.   A coyote had stared at her from behind a rock outcropping. It was a good omen. The coyote was her animal, for Margarito had found his tracks around the house on the day after she was born.

The cardones, full of water in this dry land, the colibrí macho penetrating the open vulva of the cactus flower, picking up its pollen in a sensual, irresistible  dance.

Raquel was part of this land, not because the King of Spain had said so, but because her blood had flowed here for ten thousand years, and the drop that came from Spain had diluted and disappeared as if it had fallen into the dry Sonora desert sand.

She saw some men in the distance, on horseback. There were many of them, she could tell by the dust they raised, maybe a hundred. She turned and walked quickly the mile back to the ranch.

When she got past the adobe archway and onto the grounds proper, she headed for the kitchen, one of the largest rooms in the house, and her favorite. La Tía Chona was preparing chiles en nogada. She was toasting the chiles poblanos over the coals, while fanning the fire with a straw fan and coughing mightily, tears streaming down her face. She would take the chiles off the fire when they started to pop and wrap them in a clean cloth so they could sweat. Laurita was shelling the almonds. Raquel, swollen with her news, filched an almond and sneaked it into her mouth.

— Leave that alone, niña,  scolded la Tía Chona, knowing that it was strictly pro forma, since Raquel could do exactly as she liked.   You'll spoil your appetite.

— I saw a lot of horsemen today,  ventured Raquel importantly.

— Hush, child, said Laurita.  Listen to what your Tía is saying.

— And what do you think? Continued Chona with her story. They have street cars running through the city, without horses, all being run by electricity. They stop at the corner, you  get on and in no time at all you're home.

— Jesús, María y José, countered Laurita, starting with the pomegranates.  I'd sooner walk. It sounds like the very devil's work. How can a street car go without a horse?

— It's like the train to Nogales,  said Chona impatiently.  They just go in the city and are pulled by electricity. They even have some that fly through the air. She added wickedly, but wavering a little, afraid that she may have gone too far.

Laurita, mystified, remained silent.

— Where is that?  Asked Raquel, her curiosity piqued.

— In Los Angeles. Your uncle wrote us a letter, and sent a picture. Look, she added, taking out the treasured post card.

Eduwiges walked into the kitchen.

— Is dinner ready?  she joked, knowing that it would be an hour yet.

There was an edge to her banter; it could have been taken as criticism. She was a tall, imposing woman, also used to getting her own way. Her hair swept up, her impeccable dress with a bustle, her brooch at the throat, her aquiline nose and her heavy eyebrows made Raquel think again, as she had a  thousand times, of a living portrait. She fantasized that her mother had stepped out of the small daguerreotype that stood on her father's desk in the study, and was walking around.  When bedtime came she would go back to her portrait.

Chona had that plain, big beamed---coarseness that marked her for an old maid, although she was younger than her sister. Chona was never sure that she missed being married, although she had suffered agonies when as a young girl she was expected to snare a man. The worst possible life was in store for you if you failed, and Chona tried, each time feeling more foolish than the last. If a man were to succumb to her silly wiles, she didn't want him anyway. Little by little her mother Concepción gave up on her. After whispered, frightened conversations with her neighbor, Concha had settled in to the idea that her Chonita was not going get married. Chona for her part, came into her own. Now that the pressure was off, Chona felt relieved and self---assured. She had adopted her nieces and nephews as her own, in exchange for looking after them. She was the other mother. If Eduwiges had to go to town, or if she was sick or too busy, Chona  stepped in without a word. She had her niche, and time had given her a patina of authority.

Doña Laurita had been a young girl when the French had  landed in Guaymas. They were armed, and pretended to help the Mexican army in pacifying the Indians, but if fact they were looking for gold, adventure  and territory to conquer. They were met with protests from the governor, and in time they were defeated in battle.  Their leader, Count Rousset de Boulbon, was put to death after a court martial.

Laurita knew none of this. She had met Jean Pierre in the park, and had successfully lured him on into the church, where they could talk at length. She was fascinated with the lonely boy's accent, his eloquence, so different from the boys she knew.  Jean Pierre had seen the world, and talked to her of Paris, as if it were far superior to Hermosillo. This annoyed her a little at the same time it impressed her. She saw him again, under cover of night, and they went to a rooming house he had rented.

Jean Pierre talked constantly, in a sometimes incomprehensible Spanish, of his dreams and plans for the future. He would take Laurita back to France, where he lived in the provinces, and they would have a farm. Or he could stay in Hermosillo and they could open up a bakery. To show his willingness to stay, he had taken to eating chile, but also because it was rumored that at the battle of Puebla the wolves had eaten the corpses of the French soldiers, but had left the Mexican corpses alone because they didn´t like the taste of the capsicum.  To Laurita, it was a new world he proposed and, breathless, surrendered and felt herself a fallen woman, one with her very own  secret that gave her a thrill whenever she thought of it.

Before long it was time for the French to move out back to Guaymas. Laurita heard about it at the last minute, and desperate, she ran to the garrison, claiming she was a relative. She hated the knowing smiles of the guards, who told her the detachment had left and was heading for the train station. Not caring who saw her, Laurita ran toward the  station only to see the train for Guaymas pull out. She never saw Jean Pierre again.

Her nana had gone shopping at the same time and  saw her sitting on a bench near the mercado and brought her back to the house. Nana did not question her, falling silent before the expression on Laurita's face. Neither did Laurita say a word, and spoke rarely for many days afterward. When she was herself again, she devoted herself to the church and visiting the poor, giving away her clothes and begging her father for money to buy  supplies of beans and dried corn that she gave to needy families.  She took to wearing face powder several shades lighter than her natural color, as silent testimony to her Frenchman.  It was as if she wanted to show the world what a child of theirs would have looked like.  It gave her a filmy look. In time her family  died and there was nothing for it as an unmarried woman but to move in with her  distant cousin at the ranch.  The daughter of Eduwiges's mother by a second marriage, she was already forty five years old.  Imperceptively, as time went on she became a part of the fixtures, as much a part of Cantaranas as the very walls.


Raquel could wrap anybody around her little finger, her father, the stable hands, her sister did not dare contradict her, but with her mother she was strangely submissive.  Raquel  adored her, but she was also intimidated. There was a mystery about Eduwiges, a reticence that implied that she knew more about you than you did, but breeding kept her from revealing any secrets.

Chona and Laurita began stuffing the chiles.

Eduwiges turned to her daughter.

— And now, Coscolina, she scolded, where have you been?

— I went to the Peña,  answered Raquel meekly.  I saw a hundred horsemen.

Her news might get her off the hook, and she had guessed right. Eduwiges was interested.

— Which way were they going,  she asked feigning casualness.

— Towards La Colorada, answered Raquel, watching intently for some information.
— Maybe they were going to join Maytorena,  breathed La Tía Chona. The latest gossip was that the  former governor had been thrown out of office by Porfirio Díaz  and rumor had it that he was striking a deal with Madero and  Villa in Chihuahua to bring down the regime.

Things were changing. Don Porfirio, claiming fondness for mineral---rich Sonora, tried to hold on tight to the treasure. He had carefully installed in the northern state his lieutenants to keep all power centralized in México City. His local  protegidos  saw their futures written in far---away political appointments in the capital, and the old families began to lose their influence.  After the federal army expelled the great Apache leader Gerónimo, and later shot  Cajeme before a firing squad, Sonorenses realized that their fate was in the hands of the científicos in the capital. Resentment grew among the more liberal  landowners, and many started pinning their hopes on  Maytorena, who had declared himself an antireelectionist. Ramón Corral, as governor, had brought about educational reform and electricity,  but quickly fell under suspicion when he had the State Constitution modified to do away with elections in favor of political appointments. The violence of his campaign  against the Yaquis made even the landowners cringe.

— Jesús, said Laurita, too confused to even finish her habitual utterance. She seemed to have fallen into a reverie. She spoke as if to herself, her fingers twitching.

— After using up all his resources, el Gran Cajeme hid out at a friend's house in Guaymas. Someone informed on him, and General Martínez arrested him. They put him before a firing  squad in Cocorit, along with Anastacio Cuca. Thousands of mayo and yaqui surrendered. The people went back to work in the fields and the haciendas, but the haciendas were again attacked. The yaquis had secretly bought weapons and become guerrillas, attacking in the silence of the night. 

She stopped speaking and closed her eyes, as if she were asleep.

No one said anything for awhile. Eduwiges knitted her brows, digesting her daughter´s news.

— I don't know what's going to happen,  she said finally.  Madero's been arrested and Don Porfirio has gone back on his word about allowing elections.  She looked at la Tía and spoke in a kind of shorthand.  Perhaps Demetrio is right. Their brother had left for Los Angeles, vowing never to return until he had money of his own. He had bought a  bridesmaid's shop on Broadway and seemed to be doing well.

— But what will you do with  the orchards, the cattle, the crops? Rufino can't do it alone. Ramiro is still too young to take care of business, ---she passed Jacinto over as a lost cause---  and as far as Manuel, you know you'll delay more in  leaving the train station than he will in cheating you. Chona's opinion of the foreman was not flattering. Feeling indispensable, part of her outrage was envy at having to stay while the other women  went to ride the cars in the city.

— We'll talk about it later. Now let's get supper ready. Raquel, put the candle in the window, it's Friday.



Mario Equihua  had escaped to the border, hitching  rides and sneaking onto the bus for part of the way, until he crossed Nogales.  There he begged for food from a stand, and the owner after a moment's hesitation handed him a couple of  tacos without a word, which Mario took in equally silent dignity, without thanking him. He walked a ways out of town and selected a tree where he spent his first night, sleeping on the ground, not far from the road. Eventually he made his way to Tucson, where he joined other day laborers that gathered before dawn waiting for the contractors to come and pick them up and take them to work in the fields. When he had put enough money together he bought a bus ticket to San Diego. There he was unable to find work for more than a day or two a week, and he hitched a ride on the trains that went to Los Angeles.

When he hit the rail yard in Los Angeles, it was nightfall. He had had nothing to eat for a couple of days. In the shadows he saw a fire burning on the ground, with a man hunched over it, as if cooking. His hunger drove him toward the apparition, but he stopped short when he saw that the man was a gringo. Was he a Texas Ranger, he wondered. Cananea lay heavy on his heart. The man looked up.

— Hello, friend, he said amiably. My name´s Smiley Jackson.

Mario was too shy to speak, but when  Smiley, seeing who it was, started speaking to him in Spanish, Mario was surprised. Outside of a few miners he had known, this  was the only gringo who had treated him without hostility, and even as Smiley handed him a piece of the skinny chicken he had stolen, Mario marveled at his good manners.

Smiley had just hopped the rails in from Phoenix, working his way out from Pittsburg, where he had participated in a strike. Mario, too, had been in Phoenix.

— Very hot, he mused, like in Cananea.

— Were you in that strike?  Smiley´s voice rose in admiration.  Woe---wee, that was a bad´un.

— Yes, Mario laughed, feeling better after eating than he had felt in weeks.

Smiley was  a friend. Smiley rummaged in his duffel bag and produced a weathered banjo, which he called "his girlfriend". He started to strum the chords. In a cracked voice, he sang with his heart.

        Tie ´em up, tie´em up! That´s the way to win
        Don´t notify the bosses til hostilities begin!
        Don´t furnish chance for gunmen, scabs and all their like,
        What you need is One Big Union and One Big Strike.

Intrigued by the instrument he had never seen before, Mario asked to borrow it and awkwardly tried to strum a corrido.

— Too bad the way it turned out, though, Smiley was chewing on a piece of dry grass, as if his jaws demanded more activity than the bit that had been supplied.  But now they´re going to see some real fightin´. They just killed some chap in Durango, plum riddled him with bullets.

— Puebla,  said Mario. He had heard about Aquiles Serdán.

— That´s right,  said Smiley good naturedly.

— That´s what we need here--- a revolution.  It will happen. We just need to have one big union, all of us stand together, one for all and all for one. Uno para todos y todos para uno.  Smiley was warming up to his favorite subject. If you do the work, you should own the factory. That´s the only way a working stiff is going get an even break around here.

Mario listened, fascinated, trying to find his way through the odd mixture of English and broken Spanish that came cascading out of Smiley.

— If you´re looking for a job, it says here that they´re hiring at the LA Times,  he said, pulling out a dirty copy of the paper.  Here, I´ll give you this piece with the information. Go downtown and ask around, you´ll find something,  he finished optimistically. Mario thanked him, they shook hands and parted their ways.


Mario wound up in Boyle Heights. He worked at odd jobs, cleaning, moving dirt and once helping an old Jewish lady build her wall in the back yard, in exchange for which she let him stay in a shed she had there.  Weeks later, out of work again,  he stopped to eat a  sandwich a neighbor had given him, and sat down in front of the downtown church of Nuestra Señora. Smiley had just gotten off the night shift and recognized him.

— Mario!  he called out and rushed to shake hands warmly.

Mario was glad to see him. He had lost the paper Smiley had given him, and he couldn´t remember the name of the place. Maybe now his luck would change. Maybe, just maybe, he could send for Margarita and they could set up a house together.

— Sure, said Smiley. I´m working at the Times right now. I can get you in, loading on the dock. Meet me here at 11 pm tomorrow, and we´ll see about it. It´s just down the street. Right now I gotta get home and get some sleep.  Smiley was rooming with a Mexican family on Boyle Heights.

Smiley got him an ID, on the promise that he would pay it back with his first paycheck, and the personnel manager, knowing full well it was fake, scarcely glanced at it. Mario started working the night shift on the loading dock, a boring and exhausting job, but he had fun. Most of the other workers were gringo or Mexican, and even one Chinese man called Charlie Fang, the butt of many good---natured jokes. To pass the time, there was a steady stream of conversation from check---in to check---out.

The foreman came around.

— All right boys, 1 hour overtime tomorrow morning.

— I´m getting sick of the overtime,  said Eddie, his round face beaming with sweat as he watched without enthusiasm another shipment of paper  backing up to be loaded onto the dollies.  It´s cutting the hell out of my social life.

Eddie seemed fearless in his complaining. Nothing the foreman ever said or did was satisfactory to him, and the foreman ignored him, seeming more amused than angry.

— The least they could do is to pay extra. I have to sleep all day and then I just barely have time to get up and get back to work. I saw Frankenstein the other day,  he went on changing the subject,  Uhhh its was terrible. This doctor is boiling some stuff in a pot and he keeps throwing arms and legs into it until this monster comes out.

I like Broncho Billy, myself,  said a tall, lanky man from Tennessee who had recently escaped from the earthquake in San Francisco. Unnerved by the event, he headed for the open spaces of Southern California with the idea of becoming a cowpuncher, but had been caught up in the rash of hiring for the Times.

Mario worked silently, listening and learning, maneuvering the dolly and loading and unloading the huge paper rolls, inks and endless boxes of supplies needed to get the paper out. He would see Smiley occasionally, and scarcely have time for a fast greeting before the foreman called him to "get the lead out." It was easier, but not that different from Cananea, really, except he was out in the fresh air and could have breakfast  in a little park about a block away.  Sometimes, overcome with home sickness he would enter La Purísima,  the Catholic church down the street and sit and dream of his Pima village, and Margarita, wondering how he would ever get her here. He wanted a family, but stubbornly refused to go out with the Mexican girls he saw around town, finding them too agringadas.  Something in him refused to give up his past.

One day Smiley came up and whispered that he wanted to talk to him after work. He whispered conspiratorially that the Times was the most unfair and unscrupulous and malignant enemy of the unions. There was an "action" planned against the Times. If they were successful it would pave the way for a city government where working people would run a socialist ticket and have their rights of salaries, housing, education and medical care respected.

— We have to show the bosses that they can't push us around, he said. The Times is the worst rag in the country--- it publishes nothing but lies. Look at how they acted, lying about  the Cubans blowing up the Maine just as an excuse to invade Cuba and take it over. Not a word about their motives. It's time to denounce them, to break the silence. The millionaire Otis passed that anti— picketing ordinance and had a lot of people arrested. Well,— Smiley's eyes glinted with an inner light—   they're going to get their comeuppance this time.  We'll show that united we can't be stopped.

— What are you going to do? Asked Mario hesitantly.

— We are going to do it, answered Smiley, grinning and slapping him lightly on the back. You know all those ink boxes stored in the alley? They'll go up in an instant. Then everyone will know we mean business. We've tried every other way to get a decent salary and benefits, but he just acts like we're not there. He's in cahoots with the mayor, the police and every other corrupt government agency. He'll have no choice but to negotiate, and then we can run a clean election and finally working people will get a decent shake.

— OK, said Mario, not quite sure as to what it entailed.

— Meet me in the park at midnight, said Smiley. I just need you to help me move some boxes. We have to act fast so nobody will notice.

Smiley was there on the dot, and strode toward his friend to shake his hand. ---Welcome to the revolution, he said solemnly. This day will go down in history.

— You're going to blow up the inks? Won't that set the building on fire? Asked Mario. There's people working inside.

— Nahhh, said Smiley. It'll just make a big noise and scare everybody.  It right on the side of the business offices. If they don't pay attention one way, they'll just have to pay attention another way.

Since Mario had worked in the copper mines,  he had an idea of how to set off a detonator. He and Smiley dragged the cable into the street and lighted the time fuze. Then both men ran across the street to watch. The explosion ignited the boxes, alright, but  then something unexpected happened. Gas lines on the other side of the thin walls ignited and set off a series of unanticipated explosions. The roar was mind---boggling.  Mario instantly thought of the lumber yard in Cananea, and yelled at Smiley "Run!"  Both men took off and ran into the nearby Bunker hills and hid until daylight.

The Los Angeles Times building was going up  in flames. Smiley and Mario could see the red glow in the sky and smell the smoke.  People started pouring out into the streets to watch as a hose fire wagon raced up the street. The truck had no ladder, and it was little it could do to reach the upper floors.

It was a disaster. People were jumping out the windows onto safety nets, but they did not always hit the target and smashed on the sidewalk. Lynotype machines gave way and caved in on the floor below, killing several editors. Even at a distance, the two conspirators could hear the screams of people and sirens. Twenty---one people died.

To Smiley's disappointment, the paper came out the next day, with a defiant note from the managing editor that the Times would not be silenced, and the "demons" would be brought to trial. A detective, William Burns was put on the case, and he eventually uncovered two unionist brothers named McNamara and another man named Ortie McManigal in Detroit. All three confessed under torture and agreed to be witnesses for the prosecution. 

Rumors were rife, spies were everywhere. Some said that the Times had blown itself up to gain sympathy for the incumbent mayor who had gotten fewer votes that Harriman the socialist candidate in the primary.

— There will never be a socialist mayor in this city while I am alive, thundered Otis, the old general. The McNamaras will hang, and so will Harriman, if necessary.

It was crucial that the two brothers confess in time to prevent Harriman and the socialists from winning the mayoral elections. None other than Clarence Darrow  was brought in by the AFL to defend the unionists. In an effort to save them from hanging, he changed their plea to guilty, but the price was the election. It was all over. Harrison was roundly defeated and the capitalists swept back into City Hall as if nothing had happened. Smiley and Mario disappeared and it was long time before anyone heard of them again.


Raquel was half asleep. Something had awakened her, and she resisted opening her eyes. Everyone in the house was outside, in the central patio, murmuring and pointing at the sky. Luís, Margarito's fifteen— year — old,  and Jacinto  were on the roof dancing up and down while Eduwiges yelled at them to come down before they poked holes in the roof with their feet and it would need to be repaired.

— Raquel, come and see this, she called. Finally Raquel got up and stumbled toward the patio. Laurita and Pascuala were crossing themselves amid prayers.

Eduwiges pointed to the sky and said; 

— It's Halley's comet. Look at it for good luck. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to see it again.

— It's a bad omen,  insisted Laurita.  It means the end of the world. There will be fire and destruction. 

Pascuala shivered and started to pray in Yaqui. 

— God keep our mother and father,  she whispered, echoed by a solemn "Amen" from Laurita.
— Don't breathe it!  Cried Jacinto, covering his nose with his hand.  Its throwing off noxious gases!  He had learned the phrase at school. We'll all be choked to death and there will nothing but dead bodies everywhere!  He whirled around merrily.
— Laurita's right,  said Don Rufino ironically.  There has been enough fire and brimstone around here to set off a dozen comets. In Culiacán the federales opened up with machine guns, and you know who returned the fire? Women with rifles, hiding in the church! What has the world come to? In Casas Grandes. . .

— Don't spoil it, dear, said Eduwiges softly.  Let's just enjoy it. How long will this go on?  Pascuala, bring some lemonade, and let's go outside and sit  under the pirul, where there is a breeze. 

They watched the libélulas  introduce the cosmic show; the ball of icy fire in the night sky, and listened to the roar of the cicadas.


Eduwiges, up before anyone else in the house,  started banging pots and pans and slamming doors, as was her habit, hinting that others should get up also. A  yawning Pascuala appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and silently  placed some kindle in the stove to start breakfast. She poured some oil in a deep comal and started to fry the corn tortillas for huevos rancheros. She had eleven year old Jovita grind the chiles serranos, the onion and chop the cilantro and the tomatoes. That done she started mashing the beans that had been placed in the well the night before to cool.  Outside she could hear Margarito saddling up the horse and hitching it to the buggy.

— Are you going into town today, señora?  she asked, knowing the answer.

— Yes, and I want you to go with me, so hurry up,  answered Eduwiges.

Sales from the wheat they had taken to be ground into flour had been good, and Don Rufino had generously given her some money to spend on anything she wished. Besides, she had to shop for dry goods at the market. Pascuala was also pleased, in town they always bought ready made corn and flour tortillas from the recently invented tortilla machine, and she would not have to make them herself. Eduwiges had settled on a hat with ostrich feathers. She knew a shop right near el Palacio de Gobierno where she would surely find something elegant. They drove the kilometer or so into town. As they came into the town square, both women craned their necks at the sight of a Packard parked at the curb. Gas powered cars were still very much a novelty, and Eduwiges  reflected how mysterious and forlorn they looked without an animal about.

Their first stop was at the tortillería, next to the central market.  Some women had  been there since dawn. Tortillas sold out quickly and the lines were long. The machine was capable of turning out 16,000 tortillas a day, but sometimes it broke down, or they ran out of masa. In any case the demand was great.  The two women noticed that something was wrong. People were not going about their normal business, but standing about in knots, talking.

Eduwiges caught sight of Dona Francisquita and signaled her to wait for her to catch up.

— What has happened?  she asked.

— My dear, Doña Francisquita was out of breath with excitement.  The Maderistas have taken over Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Parral, San Luís Potosí. . . Dona Francisquita counted on  her fingers to try to get it right.  Hidalgo, Nuevo León,  Morelos,  she added gamely.  It's the Revolution! Porfirio cannot hold on much longer.  What nerve!  She scoffed, after promising free elections, to reelect himself again for the seventh time!!  Dona Francisquita's voice rose an octave in her indignation.  I never liked that Corral anyway, she lowered her voice, in spite of herself.

— I thought Madero was in jail, said Eduwiges, unable to take it all in.

— He  escaped to the United States!  chortled Dona Fancisquita.  Maytorena is in Arizona. They're having an armistice now, and Madero and Limantour  are having talks. Pancho Villa attacked Chihuahua anyway and Madero was furious!  He almost ruined everything.  They're going to have general elections and Luís said Maytorena is going to come back as governor of Sonora  with Madero as president of the Republic. Luís said that the gringos have sent 20,000 soldiers to the border to defend the yankee's life and property, whatever that means. "

— But what is going to happen to the federales?" Eduwiges was worried about the federal police force that seemed to her invincible.

— Well, they'll just have to go along with Don Panchito,  said Francisquita  reasonably.  If he becomes president ---she quoted her husband Luís enunciating carefully, as was her habit, as if to a child--- "the army is subject to the supreme powers of the nation."  Oh,  I have to go---there's Luís now. He's been at a meeting all day at the Gentlemen's Club.  She hurriedly kissed Eduwiges  and sped off.

Maybe it was for the best, mused  Eduwiges. Maytorena,  Madero, and the others  were all good men — not murderers and torturers. She had heard terrifying stories of Porfirio's police. Ramón Corral, who had actually visited their house once,  handsome and charming, had made her uneasy.  Eduwiges still remembered with distaste how he had spoken of the Indians as if they were something under his feet. 

Eduwiges and Pascuala quickly got some drygoods and, forgetting about her hat, raced back to the ranch. As they drove up they noticed the carriage of José María Ibarra, who had become friendly with Don  Rufino as a result of the Cananea strike.  Ibarra had been sent to the prison at San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz, but had been released.  Ibarra had since visited to thank him for his support, and he  had been drawn to the crusty old man, with his frank and open weatherbeaten face.  They had become friends.  Eduwiges rushed in to offer the gentlemen some coffee, but they politely declined, smoking their cigars, and made it plain they did not wish to be disturbed. Eduwiges looked at Ramiro in the room and realized her son had become a man, and she had no choice but to tactfully close the door behind her, but not before hearing Ibarra say in a worried tone;

— This is just the beginning. Flores Magón is disassociating himself  from Madero and has invaded Baja California. 


Ramiro had taken charge of the deliveries to the mill and other merchants.  This gave him the opportunity to wander the area, and it opened his eyes to some things that were unreported in the newspapers.  The Revolution was in the hands of the maderistas, and while they lost battles their advance was overwhelming in the long run.  They occupied Caborca and Pitiquito and Agua Prieta.  The day came when, under Francisco Morales, they entered Hermosillo with horses' hooves clanging on the cobblestones and wild cheering from the population.  The old guard sequestered themselves in their houses behind shuttered doors and windows against the "fanatics" and refused to some out.  In Cananea the Consolidated Copper Company gave the newly elected maderista mayor 15,000 pesos in taxes.  As far as Cananea was concerned, William C.  Greene had seen the handwriting on the wall and turned his back on the old General.  

Díaz and Ramón Corral had finally fled the country. Ramiro was one of the first to know of the imminent return of Maytorena in his bid for the governorship.  Preparations had been under way for days in Hermosillo and the whole Durán family decided to go.  The end of the regime seemed like a weight had been lifted, and their hearts were light.  After all, they were as maderista as the next person.  The idea of having real elections, instead of the heavy---handed sham that had been their lot for over 30 years, invigorated the population.  Booths were set up, and merchants happily brought out their wares in anticipation of a bonanza.  Long before Maytorena's army was due to make its dramatic entrance the smells of deep fried pork, roasted corn, menudo, bubbling moles and sopas aguadas wafted  through the air, drawing scores of dogs looking for leftovers.  People searched for whatever change was in their pockets to consider which of the exhilirating choices they could afford.  The band played in the kiosk, and with the girls in their best finery walking in giggling  groups of twos and threes, it seemed that the Revolution was over.  When finally some shouts were heard announcing the arrival of the Maytorena forces, people gathered excitedly along the street to watch the Revolutionaries, experienced in battle, as they rode triumphantly up to the Municipal Palace.  The local kiosko band played the Diana. Eduwiges and Chona exchanged disapproving looks when they saw many Hermosillo girls hanging on to the arms of the rageddy soldiers.  Still, these were special times and a little frivolity could be forgiven.

Maytorena, looking grand on his sorrel stallion, rode up to the City Hall steps and dismounted.  A podium with tricolor bunting had been arranged for him.  He made a speech about democracy and the right to vote, and that he would follow the will of the people.

Voter registration booths had been set up, and truckloads of peasants that had been brought in for the occasion were being registered.

— Enjoy yourselves,  he shouted, waving merrily.  Today is a day for a party.  Viva México!

"Viva!" shouted a thousand throats as the band struck up a corrido and people started to dance in the square.  Raquel was beside herself with excitement and wondered  how she could get up there and perform.  She fantasized that she would just get up, quiet the band, order  them to play a selection as the crowd hushed, and then they would all be enraptured as she showed them what real music was. A look from Eduwiges scotched the idea. 

Ramiro was off to one side talking to friends he had met in the Cananea strike.  They talked in low voices and did not seem to participate in the spirit of the festivities.

— No jobs,  Savanino was saying.   Only those Yaquis who surrendered in 1909 are getting army pay. Madero wants everybody else to put down their arms. They want everybody to stop now that they're in power.

— Madero is as much a latifundista as Profirio,  agreed Ramiro.  He's left half the científicos in his cabinet. All he knows is to reward his protegés and has no plan for really solving the problems of the poor.  And he hasn't touched the question of foreign ownership.

— There's a new Yaqui uprising in Sonoita.  Madero hasn't said anything about giving back the communal lands.

A man who was selling elotes got into the conversation.

— Go with Pascual Orozco, he said.  He really knows how to talk to the people.  Madero is doing Washington's bidding.  Orozco is the real patriot.

Ramiro responded hotly. 

— Orozco is a demagogue.  If you want to see someone who is really for the peasants, look to el coronel Villa.  The emancipation of the peasants has to be the work of the peasants themselves.

– -Orozco is also a peasant,  replied the elotero stubbornly.

— Orozco is a well to do rancher,  Ramiro said furiously,  and he just wants to get rich.

Savanino put his arm around Ramiro's shoulder.

— Leave him alone, he said as the three walked away, munching their elotes.  The point is that no one can trust Madero.  He's turned his back on creating credit for the peasants, as he promised.  The rural banks all lend to the big landowners only.

The elotero spat on the ground after them.


Chona stared at the headlines of El Excelsior in disbelief. Madero had been assassinated!  Just when everything had gotten back to normal.  She had gone into town to do some shopping, as Eduwiges, feeling unwell,  was spending one of her rare days in bed.  Chona read the paper, without buying it.

"On the 18th, General Victoriano Huerta joined the uprising and broke with the government, being apprehended Mr.  Francisco I. Madero and Licenciado José María Pino Suárez and taken to the Palace headquarters.  Mr.  Madero and Adolfo Basso were later taken to the Ciudadela, where they were shot."

She went into the market and ordered several pounds of huachinango, which she was going to make Veracruz style, and went to La Española, as the lady was called, to see if she could get some capers or olives.  When she came out of the market she saw students pouring out of the Colegio de Sonora, on the main square, shouting and shaking their fists.  They were protesting the events and calling on Maytorena to break relations with the new Huerta government.

— Get inside, lady, said the leather salesman at the entrance to the market.  There's going to be trouble.

Some of the merchants were boarding up their shops on the Plaza side, leaving only the back alleys open to the public.  As Chona watched, horse's hooves thundered over the cobble stones as a fire truck drove up.  Maytorena himself came out of the Governor's Palace and gesticulated to the crowd.  He called upon the crowd, which had by now been joined by shoppers and passers by, to reject the Huerta government and to join forces in raising an army against the usurper.  He asked one of his staff, Ignacio Leyva, to repeat the call in Yaqui.  An enthusiastic  cry went up from the population and tables were set up to sign on volunteers.

Chona hurried back to Cantaranas with the news.


The two sisters, Raquel y María Elena, were in the parlor, doing their habitual needlepoint. Raquel was valiantly trying to do a square that would be used to upholster a chair that was being renovated by Don Margarito. Margarito's real interest was carpentry, and he had set up a  shop behind the stable. Raquel's  was a flower design, and she was doing a credible job.

Her fifteenth birthday was in a month, and she wondered when the subject would be coming up. It was not just any birthday. I would mark her rite of passage.

— I got a note from the post office today, began Eduwiges.

Chona smiled, knowing what it was all about.

Raquel waited.

— Don't you want to know what it is?

— What is it?

— A package has come from Los Angeles. We have to go pick it up tomorrow.

A package from Los Angeles! That could only mean one thing. Tío Demetrio was sending something from his bridal shop and what else but her quinceañera dress!   Eduwiges had offered to make her a dress on her pedal sewing machine, but Raquel was adamant.  It had to be professionally made or not at all.

— Oh mamá lets go now! Why do we have to wait until tomorrow?

— Not  today, dear.  I have to pay the peones, your father won't be back from Culiacán, and Chona has to see to dinner.

— I could go by myself,  said Raquel boldly.

Eduwiges smiled tenderly.

— You're not fifteen yet .


Raquel could not sleep with the idea of her coming---out party the following day. She tossed and turned and finally got up and went into the patio in her nightgown. The trees, so necessary for making the summer bearable, hovered over her, casting long shadows in the moonlight, trying to tell her something. They indicated she should go outside. Someone was waiting for her. An old woman dressed in a  rebozo was waiting under the willows. Raquel approached curiously, without fear.
— Who are you? She asked softly.

The woman smiled and said nothing. Raquel waited. Finally, the old woman spoke in Yaqui. Raquel could not understand all of it, but she felt comforted by her presence. The woman praised  her, and said she would have to bear great burdens. Be strong, she murmured. Then she turned and walked away, upstream. Raquel returned to her bedroom and slept.

It was the rainy season, but the next day was bright and warm, with a slight breeze. Raquel saw that it was not going to rain. She jumped out of bed, hungry and eager for her breakfast of watermelon, nopales and egg, rice and her first cup of coffee. Eduwiges poured a half cup into her glass of milk, still warm from the cow, and Raquel became an instant aficionada of coffee.

Eduwiges had spoken to father  Montecasino  months before to make the arrangements for an eleven o'clock mass. Much as she disliked the man, she knew that her daughters would be shunned by Hermosillo society if they did not go through the quinceañera ritual, and, accordingly, on this occasion she was charming and civil. She had taken Chona along for moral support, and the priest seemed affable. "

— He'd better be, Eduwiges told Chona as they left, he's  charging enough.

After that they had gone window shopping, looking at gold chains and crosses, wondering which would be just right for their Raquel.

After breakfast, Raquel raced down the hall with its fired clay tiled floor  to her room. Pascuala had laid out her clothes on the bed. Now everything was ready. Her pale blue watered taffeta dress from Los Angeles  that reached down nearly to the floor, complete with white stockings and black pumps. A sprig of white silk flowers with pearls for her hair lay beside it.  A prayer book and rosary lay discreetly on the pillow.

There was a commotion at the front door. It was her godparents.  They had bought a car and couldn't resist honking the horn everywhere they arrived. The Sánchez Coronado family lived in town, but they had been friends with the Durán family ever since Don Rufino's father had hidden Emilio Sánchez Coronado from the invading French in 1865, thereby saving his life. A genuine affection tied the two families together. Unquestionably, Raquel was on her best behavior, since her godparents were paying for the mass and were expected to bring presents. But even then it was not smooth sailing. Ramona Sánchez Coronado put away her parasol, and the hat with ostrich feathers, lifted her long skirts slightly, and propelled  her considerable girth into Raquel's room.

It was time for the advice.

— Sit down, daughter, she began solemnly.

Raquel gave a burst of nervous laughter, which annoyed the older woman. To make her point, she took her hand and held it firmly, transmitting her energy to the girl, telling with the gesture that this was nothing to make light of. (Doña Ramona, as did her husband, belonged to the secret society of Masons, and was a firm believer in the healing and arresting powers of the human hand).

Raquel now sat quietly, rapt.

---You know there are things that women have to bear. I know that you have experienced some of it already. Don't pretend with me, we're speaking heart to heart. A woman's life is a tragedy, but also there is great joy. The month can be a curse, but out of that comes the miracle of children.

She was unwilling to explain any further, but Raquel as a country girl, knew full well how babies were made. 
— A husband, too can be a curse, but there is great joy in serving him and having the position in society that only he can give you. Soon you will have a husband, and the most important thing is to find someone  whom you  can care for. If you're lucky, you will love each other, but even if you don't, you can still have a good marriage as long as there is mutual respect.  There is a partnership between spouses— she went on,  her voice deepening— that can be better than love.

Doña Ramona was a staunch admirer of Josefa Ortíz, and throughly approved of the reputed affair with Allende, every woman's dream. The women of the Independence were very much her cup of tea.

— Find your way in the world, she went on,  and don't forget to give something to others.

Raquel, unable to sit still for long, could not restrain herself.

— What if I don't want to get married, madrina?

The older woman smiled.

— You don't now, but you will. You are only half a person now, you will find your other half. It's a woman's destiny. A man's, too.  That doesn't mean that you have to give up being who you are. It just means that you have to think of others and not just yourself.

Raquel was silent, because she didn't know how to phrase a question that flashed across her mind. Didn't thinking of others mean doing what they wanted?  Where was the freedom in that?  Wasn't it better to choose one's life, even if it meant flying in the face of public opinion? Raquel sat without moving.

Eduwiges came in and smiled fondly at her daughter.

— Well, have we had the advice?  she asked cheerfully, aware of the heavy atmosphere, ------Ramoncita, come to the parlor for some gaznates and some agua fresca. We wont be able to eat until very late.

Doña Ramona, her duty done, accepted with alacrity.
The mass started late. Father Montecasino couldn't find his stole and spent the time boxing the ears of the acolyte supposedly in charge of putting things away in their proper place. Finally, he appeared, and the rustling conversation died down somewhat.

— You have left behind a carefree childhood, —  he intoned —  you are now entering adulthood, and with privileges come responsibilities. You must keep yourself pure. The man destined to be your husband will appear at the most unexpected moment, and he should find a young lady who has been waiting for him, ready to share his love for the first time.

— In other words, don't spread 'em too soon, — whispered Jacinto to Luís and Ramiro sitting next to him, setting off a cascade of giggles, making father Montecasino look up sharply.

— Honor your parents. Be a credit to your people. The path of righteousness is the path of God. Nothing can be accomplished outside His glory. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.

It was time to go to Don Jesús T. Noriega's,  for the photographs in her new dress, and then home for the party. The peones had slaughtered two goats the day before and early in the morning buried them in the ground with live coals over tezontle, lined with maguey leaves. They would be ready in an hour or so, and then the festivities would begin.  Don Rufino, believing that the Guaymas musicians were better than the Hermosillo ones, had hired a group from the portal city, and when the family arrived they had already set up the stage and were tuning their instruments. Raquel, beside herself with being the center of attention, went from guest to guest, greeting them graciously and inquiring about their health, the relatives who had been unable to come, and wishing them a very pleasant stay at her house, which was theirs.

Six  banquet tables for fifty people had been arranged outside, under a canopy.  Under Margarito and Chona's watchful eyes, the peones broke open the clay with which the opening  of the pit had been sealed, releasing the aroma of the barbecue. The guests clapped at the success of the enterprise, for one could never be sure that the meat had not been hardened by improper installation. As the men pulled out the tender pieces, first the head, then the legs, then the back, then the prize — ground organs stuffed into the intestines, as  sausages, into waiting cazuelas, the guests arranged themselves in a flutter around the tables. Baskets of tortillas began their steady procession from kitchen to table, while the rice, beans, and salsas were passed around , along with clay cups full of steaming consomé. As the late afternoon glow cast long shadows, the band broke into a corrido. After the guests had eaten their fill, Don Rufino tapped his glass for a toast to his talented daughter.

Night had fallen. Eventually the party drifted into the house, which had retained a certain coolness thank to the thickness of its adobe walls. The musicians started setting up in the main hall, while several wives congregated in the kitchen and gossiped, sneaking little pinches of left over barbecue as they did so.    
— Lets go out into the verandah, proposed Raquel.  The boys immediately agreed. The verandah ran all around the inside of the house, in the Moorish style, enclosing the huge garden where Japanese lanterns had candles burning softly at strategic points. Carlos walked over to the fountain in the center of the yard. 

— Look over here . 

They all ran to where he was pointing.

— Its only a frog.

Frogs seemed to appear out of nowhere during the rainy season. Many of them became permanent residents at the fountain. The seven boys closed around Raquel. Always ready to be the life of the party, she was enjoying herself.

— I thought  it was a snake,  said Carlos.

— How could it be snake, —  laughed Raquel merrily, — frogs don't look like snakes.

— I've got a snake right here,  said Carlos.

The others became suddenly quiet, seeing what she would do.

— Really?  said Raquel quickly,  where?

Then she realized, too late, what he meant.  Victorino put his hands on her breasts while Carlos put his hands on her waist from behind and rubbed his snake up against her. With a low moan, Raquel took Carlo's hands and rubbed them on her breasts. Her breasts were growing, and they hurt. The soft stroking felt wonderful. The others pressed closer so she could hardly breathe.

Chona stuck her head out the door and saw shadowy figures in the garden.

— Raquel!  She called sharply, — the waltz! 

Raquel ran in and took the waiting Don Rufino by the hand for the Club Verde Vals. She was to inaugurate the dancing, and all the guests stood in a circle while father and daughter danced. She was to dance with all the boys, and they lined up to take their turn. Raquel flirted and teased, sure of herself, sure that she felt superior to them. Even the ones older than herself were just children.  She remembered about what her madrina had said about marriage, and felt comforted.


The "conservatory", which was an adjunct to the parochial school, gave an annual concert of their best students. All  Hermosillo  would be  in attendance. Raquel could not wait for her piano debut. She had a cause. She studied day and night, until her Chopin étude (Opus 12) flowed easily, almost as if she were not there. The music came alive in her hands, something mysterious, she felt as if it were an animal she was taming. She had discovered herself. Music was to be her sustenance, without it she would have died. Don Rufino was charmed at his talented daughter. Eduwiges, more reserved, worried that she would not be sufficiently prepared for life. What man wanted a woman who could sing, play the piano and do little else? She pursed her lips, but said nothing.

The day was chosen to coincide with 5 de Mayo, although it fell on a Wednesday, and the concert could only be on the weekend. The day of the concert Raquel started to get ready four hours ahead of time. She refused to see her relatives that dropped in to wish her luck. Miffed, they sat in the parlor while Pascuala served miniature sweet tamales filled with raisins and pretended they did not think her a brat while they eagerly drank ice cold tisgüín and gossiped about anyone not present.  Raquel didn't care. Only her mother and Pascuala were allowed in her room, to dress her. Her mother tied a deep blue sash at her waist and an identical one was fashioned into a ribbon to tie her hair back. Then Raquel soaked her hands in warm water for half an hour, rubbed a cream that had been made from desert plants by Doña Eloisita for the occasion, put her white gloves on, and was ready to go to the school.

The first number was a declamation. (The conservatory doubled as an acting school). Fidencio Valderrama stood up, visibly shaking. He swallowed two or three times. He had no saliva! He had forgotten his lines! After an eternity he began in a whisper

                Soldado mexicano
                Que vas a la trinchera.
                Donde la muerte extiende
                Su manto de dolor.

It was very hot. The ladies in their flounced dresses (hems had gone up a few inches off the floor, much to the consternation of the old guard) were visibly sweating as they fanned themselves with an assortment of lace and conch fans, feathers and plain paper or palm. The agitated fan waving created a noise that was difficult to prevail over. Fidencio wavered bravely on.
                Soldado, noble hermano,
                Así es la lucha fiera,
                Si nadie te comprende
                Que le hace, tu bandera
                La Patria representa
                Y tu eres salvación! 
There was polite applause. La señorita Cárdenas had wanted an ode to Zaragosa in honor of the occasion, but Fidencio refused to learn the long and complicated lines. She applauded, unsmilingly, while Fidencio stumbled off the stage. There was a long period while volunteers rolled the piano downstage. Raquel felt she was losing momentum, and started to get angry. Perhaps this helped her performance, for when she finally sat down she attacked the étude with such controlled violence there was an audible gasp from the audience. The music rolled over them, making them forget the heat. Raquel felt a sense of triumph, of excitement, and knew that this was what she wanted. All the backbiting, the intrigues, the gas, the sweat were forgotten for the moment. The hundred people in the room became one, fixed on the slight girl with her long lustrous black hair, her fingers flying over the keys, leaving them breathless. They had come to show off their clothes and their breeding, but they left transformed. When she was finished, the Rodríguez brothers were the first on their feet, clapping enthusiastically, and the rest of the spectators followed suit. Raquel was in her element. She stood and smiled while they yelled "bis" and "bravo. Unflustered, she sat down and played the last section over again.


Don Rufino liked to go out with the peones as they unloaded bales of hay for the cattle. He was no longer the robust young man who had started with 3 calves after the French war was over, and had developed the ranch to its present 800 or so head. Force of habit drove him out. He was like a retired man, lost without his habitual activities.

Don Rufino paused under a sauce  that grew by the river, and kneeeld down to wipe his face with a wet handkerchief. He walked to the base of the tree and sat on the ground, leaning against the trunk, out of breath.  He had developed a blinding headache, and wondered how he could get home. Too proud to ask for help, he waved the workers on, yelling at them that he would follow later.

He sat there a long time, sweating in the shade of the weeping willow, waiting helplessly for a breeze that would cool his brow enough for him to get up and make it back to the house. He looked at the far off hills, and seemed to see figures drawn in the clouds, the old ones, who were gathering to see him in his hour of need. Slowly he closed his eyes and slept.

When he awoke it was nearly dark. He was shaking with a chill, but his forehead was hot. Weakly, he mounted his horse and let it make its own way. He felt relieved when he saw the Cantaranas arch in the distance, and then his heart contracted when he saw the lone figure of Eduwiges standing there, waiting to see from which direction he would come. She ran out to meet him.

"Marida", he said, using his pet name for her, "Im very sick." As he got off his horse he vomited.

The peones carried Don Rufino into his bedroom. He had  a  high fever and was delirious. Eduwiges bathed his face and called for Chona to make an infusion of borraja to try to get the fever down. She started to undress him and saw the smooth, oval swelling in his neck, and her heart sank. Years ago, there had been reports of the plague in Mazatlan, but she had dismissed their significance, even though there had been  occasional reports of outbreaks more recently. She stared at the swelling, unable to speak. It was a nightmare she could not wake from. She told Chona to call Dr. Castro.  Rufino started having a seizure as she watched helplessly. 

Chona had called Dr.Castro but his wife said that he would not be back until later that evening. She would give him the message.

Eduwiges had a table and the rocking chair brought in by Rufino's bed, where she kept hot and cold compresses, infusions and bandages. She had Margarito run back and forth with the towels to keep them hot and cold, in turn, and apply them to Rufino's tortured body. Rufino slept fitfully, tossing weakly and calling out in delirium. At one point he vomited again, and Eduwiges could see his vomit had developed a blackish tinge. He lay back, exhausted and finally stopped breathing.

When the first rays of the sun made their way into the room, Eduwiges realized she had not moved for hours.  She heard Dr. Castro's horse and buggy clatter into the courtyard, but remained where she was, as if paralyzed. Margarito knocked gently at the door. Finally, she went over to meet him.

"Go with Cleofas to gather wood and put it outside. We have to burn the body right away. I'll go down and see Dr. Castro and sign the papers."

She remained dry---eyed during the following weeks. They had burned Rufinos body in a funeral pyre, and disinfected his bedroom as well as they could, locked the door and never opened it  again. A mass was said in Hermosillo for his soul, and Raquel cried inconsolably to the point  that she had to be taken out of the church, hiccuping.  Others in Hermosillo had died of plague and had been taken outside the city to be burned. There were no funerals; no one would have attended them. Eduwiges went through it without flinching, but her eyes acquired a dull look. Her life had stopped making sense.

Even though she had practically run the rancho herself, she was now forced to take on added duties, which only increased  her resentment. México was a ship that was sinking. What was the use of continuing a pretense of the  hacienda? It was impossible to take the cattle to Nogales any more---the federales would prevent it. Carrancistas, orozquistas, maderistas, obregonistas,  villistas all would sweep through in turn and take a few head with them to feed their men. The livestock had been decimated. Eduwiges had to sell silverware and other heirlooms to pay the peones who were left. Entire battalions of Yaquis had been formed by Obregón, although many others had joined Villa's army, and had deserted the ranches.  Eduwiges went through the days mechanically. Not allowing herself to feel anything. If it hadn't been for her children she would have died of sadness.

One day, in town with the girls, a terrible nostalgia entered her soul as they passed the church. On an impulse, Eduwiges dragged them into the sanctuary. The three sat there in the cool twilight in silence, resting their feet, each lost in her thoughts. A noise distracted Eduwiges, and she looked up. It was father Montecasino who came toward her with his habitual scowl. Eduwiges reacted instantly. Whatever sacred there might be in the church, it was not in the presence of this man in a dress.

— It's a shame that you do not consider it important enough to attend mass more often, hija mía.

— Well, father its a shame that I have so much work to do running the ranch after my Rufino died.

— Matters of the spirit are as important as matters of the flesh.

— But father you said yourself  that God has created all things. If He created me, he can see me at the ranch as well as here.

Father Montecasino smiled.

— It is natural to love God. Why do you deny yourself that pleasure? You can only know God in His house.

— But if he is everywhere. . . .

— It is only in the Church that you can save your immortal soul.

Eduwiges had had enough, and this emboldened her to rudeness. The father seemed so smug about everything, she felt she could punch him out. She gathered her brood and started to walk outside, with the priest walking placidly by their side.

— How do you know, father? she asked, irritated.

— We know things by studying, by using our God-given rational thought.

— Why doesn't God save  people from the plague?  She asked, her voice rising,  You can bring an apestado to the church and he will die just the same. Why didn´t God save my Rufino?

— God has a plan for each individual soul,— answered Montecasinos, looking pained.

— He has a plan for dirty water? For fleas and lice?  Asked Eduwiges rhetorically.

She was bitter that with all her cleaning and sweeping she had not been able to prevent Don Rufino's infection.

— If rational thought leads you to a different conclusion, what then?  She asked recklessly.

— Revelation is the supreme guide. Rational thought is a bi- product of His greatness, His gift to us. But it can´t contradict the Scriptures. These questions are sinful, my daughter.

— Well my rational  thought tells me I have to hurry and see that the cows are  fed and   watered, and the humans, too. Plague or not, we have to eat.

She motioned to Margarito to bring the wagon closer to where they were standing.

— Goodbye, hija mia,  father Montecasino smiled, trying to hide his annoyance at the heretic. Ever since she became a widow she had started down the wrong path, and had become rude and short-tempered. He noted sadly that the Indians were also answering back, and many had openly defied him and el Santo Evangelio.

— I'm not your daughter,  Eduwiges said under her breath as she got into the wagon and waved goodbye.

— Mother how could you talk to the priest like that.  María Elena said, horrified.  — Mrs Morales was looking at you the whole time.

— Let her look. That mojigata doesn't have anything to occupy her time with, all she does is follow him around. Así de fea, vieja y arrugada, I think she's in love with him.

María Elena and Raquel  lapsed into a confused silence. Sometimes they were secretly embarrassed by  their mother.

Eran tiempos de la canícula.

The winds that could have mercifully come in from the sea were stopped short by the sierra of San Pedro Mártir, and turned the central plain into an oven. The heat was overpowering. The peones had stopped working, the cattle crowded under the few trees, seeking a bit of shade. Eduwiges sat  under the arches with a jar of lemonade and fanned herself listlessly. The children were sleeping their siesta. How can they sleep in this heat, Eduwiges, asked herself, as sweat streamed off her. Her clothes stuck to her body. Ramiro was somewhere mending a bridle that had broken. Eduwiges saw a cloud of dust in the distance and wondered aloud, "Who would be out riding in this weather?"

Her instinct told her to move.

— Pascuala, she screamed.  Take the children in to the dry well, quickly! Ramiro! Ramiro! Get the carbine!  Eduwiges ran into her husband's study and grabbed a pair of pistols that Rufino had acquired during the French invasion.  She ran to the side and rang the bell that called the peones to dinner.

She was barely able to get back to the main house where Ramiro was already standing with the carbine as the horsemen entered the archway. The man in front stopped the horse and said in a stentorian voice:

— I am General Juan Banderas and I am commandeering this ranch for mi general Carranza and for the Revolution.

— They'll name anything General nowadays, answered Ramiro, cocking the carbine. You cannot set one foot in this ranch.

— Ramiro por lo que más quieras, be still.  Eduwiges was more terrified of what Ramiro could do with his foolishness than of the soldiers. 

— My men and horses need food and water, señora, said general Banderas We are taking over the ranch.

Ramiro's face was white with anger.

— You cannot set foot in this ranch!  he shouted.

Eduwiges saw, rather than heard Ramiro's head burst open as he fell. From that moment on, she lost all sense of time. She got a horrified Margarito and Cleofas to bring in Ramiro's body and lay it on the dining room table, the same table where they  had all sat in harmony once, unconcerned about anything more complicated than what they would be having for dinner. That was so long ago— Eduwiges brought herself up short—  it had only been 6 or 7 months  that that they had all been gathered around in eating and joking, the war a subject of lively conversation, but not like this—  not in the shape of her favorite son with his broken body and his face smashed in, not this obscenity bleeding on the table where she had served so many life— giving meals. Now her Rufino was gone,  and this — this meant her life had ended.

General Banderas stole softly into the room and stood a respectful distance in the doorway.

— Señora,  he coughed softly,  I want to express my deep regret over what has happened here. Things happen in war that would never happen in peace time. My men are used to fighting anything that gets in their way, and some of them are real hot---headed.

Eduwiges turned and stared at him, wondering who this man was and what he was doing there.

Uncomfortable, Banderas swallowed hard.

— I am setting up my soldier for a Courts Marshall, he said  unsteadily.

Eduwiges continued to stare, asking herself  how that could possibly make any difference.

Wanting nothing more than to get out of there, Banderas saluted stiffly, turned and walked out.

The other soldiers headed toward the stables and dismounted, rubbing them down, relieving themselves and getting water from the well for the animals and for themselves. Some set out slaughtering one of a family of goats that Ramiro had kept penned in the barn for happier barbacoas, and soon the smell of cooking meat wafted through the ranch, riding on the same air that carried the guitar strains of a corrido.

– -General,  said Eduwiges, I want you to order the man who killed my son to dig his grave.   

Banderas stared at her and said nothing. In the end some soldiers dug the grave, but Eduwiges had no way of knowing who they were. She had never seen her son's assailant. It had all happened too fast.

Having no choice, Eduwiges went about numbly tending to the soldiers. The children  had come out of the well and stayed in their rooms, terrified. The soldiers were not interested in the household, they only wanted to rest and get on with it. 

At one point she went  into the granary where  no one could hear her and started screaming like a crazy person,  "pinche puto país" She had never used obscenities in her life, and the violence of her words made her feel better. Eventually the occupying soldiers left, leaving a barren ranch in their wake. It looked the same, but everything seemed empty. It was time for them, too, to pack up and leave.

The thought had never occurred to any one before. Leave this land? Leave the ancestors, the sky, the mountains in the distance?  Eduwiges reminded herself that long ago, others had left when conditions had become unbearable, and the time had come to tear her heart out and walk away from this place.

But she could not. Laurita, old and infirm, would never make it past San Luís Río Colorado. She might as well kill her right then. The children had to be protected from further violence, and though it was the hardest thing she had ever done, she gave them her blessing. Chona was to take them to Demetrio and they would have to work things out for themselves. She was tired to her marrow. It was hard for her to stand, and her legs trembled, her head throbbed.

She would sell the ranch, and with the money she would buy a small house in Hermosillo, for her,  Laurita and Margarito. They could make candies and tamales and sell from the window that gave out onto the street. She would set Cleofas and Pascuala to sell with a push cart. They would survive.

María Elena refused to go to Los Angeles. She did not like the gringos, and she did not want to learn English, although she knew a little.  She had seen newsreels of elegant ladies on the Paseo de la Reforma, and she wanted to see the monument to Independence. She would wait, she said, until the ranch was sold, and would take a small  amount of money to buy a ticket and join tía Nicolasa. She would get a job there and send money back. Secretly she felt a thrill of excitement at the idea of being in the capital of the Aztecs, but justified her ambitions by coating them with a mantle of benevolent intentions.

Finally, it was settled. Still, the parting was hard. They packed a steamer trunk Rufino had bought for a trip to South America, never taken, and carried other belongings in hand luggage. The day came, which  seemed unreal, when the forlorn, left---over group assembled at the Hermosillo train station. The black train with its round forehead came lurching like a giant flatulent gastropod onto the platform. There was no more turning back.

— Take care of my children Chona, Eduwiges  said dry-eyed.

    Chona put her arms around her and hugged her tightly, as if she would never let go.

— Come with us she pleaded. There's nothing for you here. Even if Demetrio sends you money, you'll be far away from us. We can´t live like this —  María Elena and Nicolasa in Mexico, you and Laurita here, us in  Los Angeles. We´ll all be better off in Los Angeles, away from this dirty war.

— There is nothing for us there.

— There is nothing for you here.

Eduwiges looked out towards the mountains in the distance.

— Nothing except our past, she said. I´m too old to start over. I don´t want to. Here is where our grandmother Emilita is buried, and my Rufino. Ramiro. . . Look, she said, waving her hand at the dry desert ,  Here they are, you see? her voice broke. How could I leave them?

She gave the younger woman  a push.

— Go and take care of them. They´re yours now.

Chona turned and gathered Raquel and Jacinto, while a grim faced Margarito put the suitcases on the train. The children, suffused in tears, got on the train obediently. They had made their mother promise that she would join them.
A group of Easterners fleeing the  depression of 1884 had the idea of petitioning  the government for  the use of land on the western slope of the Sierras.  Joined by the International Workingmen's Association in San Francisco and  rebels of all sorts,  atheists, ecologists and vegetarians, they formed a cooperative determined to prove that socialism and love could overcome all barriers. As with the Indians, property would be held in common, work would be obligatory for all members, and the wealth would be equally distributed. They would create an ideal society in which private property, the root of all evil, was soundly condemned. They had pure air and water in abundance, and all it would take would be hard work to make the land yield up its treasures. The flowers would bloom, the rivers would sparkle, the children would grow up in a safe and sane environment. The existing system of exploitation would be dispelled by example, by the spreading of their ideas.

They nearly froze to death that first winter. Hope kept them alive. Trust in their beliefs, hope in the perfectibility of man.  

Max loved socialism without understanding it. While he professed an admiration for Owen and John Muir and even Baboeuf and the French Revolution, his hatred of the  bourgeoisie was not based on a worker's view of the world. His idea of socialism was to work in the fields, like Tolstoy, shoulder to shoulder with his peasants, who would all love him, the benevolent master. A kind of stubborn pride kept him from making money. He would join the poor; although an educated man, he could never be like them.  He read Tennyson to his children, to allow them to feel the futility of   war with "The Charge of the Light Brigade",  and he had them memorize The Song of the Shirt;
                Stitch, stitch, stitch,
                In poverty, hunger and dirt;
                And yet in a voice of dolorous pitch,
                She sang the song of the shirt.

Richard, their first born, had indeed seen his mother sitting mending their clothes as a ray of sunlight broke through the Western Yellow Pines to illuminate her lap, and the image of the poem remained with him all his life.

Leonors, his sister, was a rabbity blond with a perpetual smile. Max insisted that she continue her studies, as a Socialist he had his ideals, but life got in the way. Leonors never finished College. She met a young man studying architecture and married him, had three children and lived with him forty years, until he died of prostate cancer.  Jeremy, the other brother, was a dark-eyed, introspective boy. In spite of Max's best efforts, he became more and more religious until he eventually became a follower of Gandhi. 

Kate was willing to work. God knows, she did nothing else. The question was, where did sweeping the ground, hauling wood and cooking  get you? How did washing in the river further her children? Slowly, secretly, she started planning, almost unconsciously, to subvert the Colony. Something had to change.

There  were wild Indians. Mexicans were on the rampage. "It's their right," Max would say, unconcerned. "This is their land". Richard, wondered how the Government could give them, strangers, land that belonged to someone else, but he didn't dare ask.

The men seemed perfectly willing to go on living in tents while the children grew and the world changed around them. It was up to her. The good wife would lead them to disaster, disobedience would lead them out of the wilderness.

In the small Colony library Richard read avidly. Shaw and Darwin figured prominently. There was Georges Sand, a clarion call so far away as to be on the moon. There was Lola Montez. He fell in love with her dark beauty in a newspaper picture. Sitting on a log bench, shivering from the wind that seemed to come through the very walls, he felt he almost knew her, even though she had died years before.  She had gone to San Francisco and had horsewhipped his uncle after an unseemly remark he made to her on the street. Later in the house in Porterville,  it became a favorite dinner anecdote, although delicacy forbade the repetition of the remark. Richard didn't know what it all meant, but it stirred excitement in his breast. San Francisco! Santa Barbara. Madera. Merced. Se---quo---yee---ah. He tasted the unfamiliar non---English words, which  reeled in his brain, making him short of breath and giving him a strange, almost pleasant pain in his scrotum.

One day Richard was about ten, and he sat  reading one of his books when he looked up and saw a snake, inches away from him.  All the cautionary tales he had heard about rattle snakes came rushing about his head and overwhelmed him. Sure enough, there was the diamond pattern the malevolent flicking of the tongue. Desperately, he lunged for a hoe that had been left nearby, and started beating the snake on the head, feeling brave and heroic. He bashed the snake's skull  partly in and the animal hissed in pain, and scurried off to die in the underbrush. To his dismay as the reptile moved away, Richard saw that it had no rattles. It was a common garter snake!  He felt sick to his stomach. He realized that fear can make you commit atrocities. That snake gave up its life so that Richard might learn.

After living in a hollowed-out giant  log that was their bedroom and living room that first year, and living in tents for too long afterward, his mother realized that being close to nature was not enough for children of  hers. Why did people think that men were the practical ones? Max saw no problem, he felt that he could rely on the Colony, and the Colony on him. Maybe he would strike gold. There was recent news of gold in Nevada. In the meantime, he would continue to work for the Colony, plant his squash and hunt an occasional deer. He breathed deeply often, to satisfy his lungs with the clean, pure air.

The railroad was being built in the Valley, and that meant jobs, it meant people like them, it meant schools, and maybe a small house and an orchard. In the Valley Kate could raise chickens, beef, milk, honey, and get real money, not scrip. People were going to a real  school, bureaucrats were becoming necessary and consequently, arrogant. A government representative came by once and asked to see their homestead papers to make sure they were in order. Max, deeply offended, ordered him off their place.

They had stayed seven years in the mountains. Under the terms of the squatters, they legally owned one hundred acres, although they had no real way to make a living there. Under Kate's urging, they had sold half (the part with the river) to an Easterner who planned to raise cattle in the mountains. In Porterville they bought a small house on the flatland, and Kate's dreams seemed to be on their way. The first thing Max did was to nail a horseshoe over the door, with the points upwards so------he explained– "our luck won't run out." They  planted some orange and peach trees,  and zucchini.

Richard discovered that he had a talent for drawing. The man at the general store, sensing something in the boy, had kindly given him a tablet and charcoal, and from this Richard drew his mother and sister with amazing likeness. They seemed  to be breathing. From  his charcoal pen blossomed fantastic architecture, entire surreal and science fiction cities, with buildings in the air and cars that flew, and bridges spanning other structures that spiraled into apartment complexes, complete with stores and movie houses. The drawings absorbed  and calmed him, so that hours at the table moving his hands with a kind of confidence reassured him and made him feel whole.

Max was picking fruit in 100 degree weather one day when he felt an intense pain in his neck, chest and arm. Doubled up, he tried hitting the pain and coughing, trying to dislodge the incubus that had like a thief taken over his body. Gasping, he stared at the sky and said, "I'm sorry", his last words. Kate had been washing in the tub outside and did not realize what had happened until she took a sheet to hang up on the line which gave her a view of the orchard. He saw his crumpled body and called on the children to come and help bring him into the house. It was too late. 

It was up to her then. In a way, she welcomed the challenge. It was a relief not to have to ask any one else's opinion. Max's death allowed to openly reflect on how little she agreed with him, and now she was able to decide what her life was to be. Fortunately, they had bought  the land and, no matter how poor they might be, that ownership gave them a security the communal lands had never given them. She bought two cows with
what was left after the funeral  and lived by selling the milk, some of the harvest, cheese sometimes, and anything else she could think of. The children had to go to work from an early age, something that gave them an unnamed longing.

After the freedom of the High Sierras, school was too religious,  too repressive.  The teacher, a classical old maid who spent weekends on the verandah of her small house in the company of a neighbor, rocking back and forth and talking small talk, with only occasional references to the problems she had with the children, and how "Mexicans were coming in" to work on the railroad.

— Anyhoo, they're only here temporary. It'll be alright if they go back where they come from when the railroad is finished,  complained Ida. She had it all figured out.  (She, like all the others, had come from someplace else, in her case Vermont, and was placidly unaware of the contradiction. This was America, after all.) 

— They should be glad of the opportunity to work. All they can do is sit around Buckwell's grocery store and drink. I cant even go down there sometimes, there are so many men around.

— I saw something really strange the other day, mused Violet.  A Chinee with a pig tail. What do they wear those for? They look like women, she giggled derisively.

— My grandfather wore his hair long, countered Ida. 

— Anyhoo,  they should cut it off,  insisted Violet.

It was easy for Richard to sneak out of school. Violet felt that if a child didn't want to learn, it was his loss. A small legacy paid for most of her expenses and she didn't feel capable of dealing with rebellion. She worked because she could think of nothing else to do. When Spring arrived the kids would tumble out of the building chanting;

                Spring has sprung   
                We are free
                From these walls of misery
                No more pencils no more books
                No more teacher's dirty looks.

Then it was time for Richard to go to work, selling  the fruits and vegetables that Kate had set up by the road.

On one occasion  Richard was tending the stand when a white Rolls pulled up, raising clouds of dust. The driver called him over and asked to see the strawberries. Richard recognized the girl at once, and felt an inner tremor. Dolores Costello!  She and the man with her, whom Richard could not identify, had decided to get away to Lodgepole where he had bought a cabin, to get away from the Hollywood crowds. Hollywood by now had lost its charm of the orange groves, and new hotels and movie theaters were sprouting like mushrooms, and they felt hemmed in. They needed to get away and breathe the pure air, drink melted snow water from the streams. The strawberries were a good omen, he felt as he handed the nickel to the sullen boy.

His mother was picking peaches for a pie. Richard loved the smell of cooking, but he was the one that had to carry the firewood . It was too hot, sometimes 115 degrees. Fortunately, there was the Tule River that served as his refuge. He would go and hide in the cattails, the fish swimming up to him and nibbling his stomach.

There was something on with the railroad workers. The busy activity had stopped. People stayed in their homes, whispering that Mexicans with guns would kill anyone in sight. The truth was that the Sheriff and his deputies were enlisted to prevent the American Railway Union from coming into the Valley at all costs. Some of the White boys from the Eastside had gotten drunk and had tested their manhood by driving through Mexican Town, screaming and shooting off  their hunting rifles. There had been no casualties. "White trash". Sneered Kate, when she heard about it. The violence had upset her. Richard secretly rooted for the Mexicans. A lady who had been selling tamales on the street  had given him a tamal once and he had been enchanted. He had no money, and she insisted on giving it to him. He felt  he had never eaten anything so delicious. Her daughter looked like a beautiful deer, all slick inky  black hair and tiny hands. Her eyebrows looked like fine, black feathers. He wondered what it would be like to kiss those coffee---colored lips.

The cars had stalled. Someone had jammed the switches. The railroad  workers stood about while the company representatives  rushed to the scene. A crowd had begun to gather, wives, relatives, children. Anacleto Vera had been elected as spokesman. Mr. Bucholz from the railroad spoke to him in a friendly tone, telling him and the men to go back to work. Police cars drove up and surrounded the area. Vera stood his ground, insisting that a delegation talk to the owners. Bucholz told him that the owners were in Pittsburg and that it would be impossible for them to come out here. Vera answered that they would not go back to work until they had a meeting to reduce their hours and raise wages. Mr. Bucholz the walked away, and the police opened fire on the workmen. The scene, which had been tense but orderly, broke into an uproar. People were running in every direction while the police pursued them with batons, cracking anyone within reach. María Ramírez ran to the scene, her five year old in tow and rushed to the body of her husband who lay in a heap in front of the cars. She knelt beside him in anguish while her little boy screamed in fright at the confusion and the blood. Eventually an ambulance came and took them away.

An AFL representative came down from Sacramento and worked out a deal. They would get the same pay but would only work ten hours. The railroad workers, exhausted after three weeks, unable to get food on the table, gave in.

He saw Consuelo often, they both worked at the packing house, packing oranges. By custom, Mexicans were not allowed on the conveyor belt, they had to work outside in the sweltering sun. It was an article of faith among the ranchers that because of their dark skin they could stand the heat better than Whites. He was supposed to sort the oranges according to size. Consuelo  would pick up the boxes and put them on the outside belt that led to the truck. What drove him mad with passion was the way she ignored him. He followed her with his grey eyes as she moved from belt to platform, her hips grinding while  his hands shook as he let the oranges roll past. After work, the Mexicans would leave to their side of town. The few Whites that worked there did not mix, by custom. It was unheard of that someone from the proper side of town would go to the Westside.

One day, he followed her, his heart beating taquicardially. As he approached her, she pretended to be surprised. He asked her if he could feel her titties. She gave a small scream and ran away, as if she were frightened by him. Hurt, he stopped following. He felt the humiliation and never glanced her way again, afraid someone might find out.

With Armida, it was a different story. Armida was sunny where Consuelo had been  solemn. She was always laughing behind her hand, her sparkling eyes drove him on. After the Consuelo experience, he learned to be more respectful, and managed an invitation to visit her house, Armida laughing, her eyes flashing, embarrassed. Her house was small, as were all the houses except for those of the new rich, the Easterners who crowded in  to profit from Mexican labor, those who lived on the Northside, had servants and kept to themselves.

There was a dog tied in the yard, and a pile of lumber stacked on the side of the house, where Mr. Domínguez dreamed someday of adding to their small abode. Every year he was newly unable to afford the construction, and the lumber kept getting more and more weather beaten. He greeted Richard ceremoniously,  shaking his hand and graciously offering him a  seat as if to visiting royalty. It had little to do with Richard himself; anything less in his manners would have brought shame upon the family. Armida's mother managed a shy smile, and offered him some champurrado and some homemade bread with a sugar crust.  Armida sat on a stool and blushed. Her younger brothers hung around her neck and stared at the gringo, trying to sense friendliness or hostility. In spite of the strangeness, Richard started  to relax and feel at home. There was a warmth that he had never known. There had been  something unspoken between his own parents that prevented  this communication that he now sensed between these family members, something akin  to instinct, an agreement as to what was right and what was wrong. What was right was to make the stranger welcome, and to show class and good manners. Richard  fell in love, with Armida, with her father and mother, with her mute, staring, silent   brothers.

Kate had been feeling poorly of late. Her unceasing work had started to get her down. She could not lift the heavy tubs for the washing any more, and her back pains had gotten worse. She would go see Dr. Buckman because he was the only doctor that would treat her for free, although she had to pay for lab work. The day came when she had go into the hospital as a charity case. Liver cancer, Dr. Buckman had said.  Kate lay in the clean white bed and rested, remembering all the pesticides she had sprayed her beloved trees with to keep the fruit coming and selling. She had often breathed the spray It just didn't seem right. She was only trying to do the right thing.

After the funeral the little family had a meeting. Leonors had a boyfriend, Charles, who would move in see to the running of the house. Jeremy wanted to stay there so he could go out into the mountains to meditate. Richard would go to Hollywood and try to get a job as a stage hand or, he hoped, set designer. He got on the Greyhound and rode for six hours until he got to  Hollywood, feeling that he had entered another world.


After staying with Demetrio and his wife for a few weeks, Raquel, Jacinto and Chona  had found a nice two---story house on Bunker Hill. It had a porch and a yard in the back. Chona had four days out of the week in which she had little to do, while everyone else was away working. It was different from Hermosillo, where the work never stopped from dawn to dusk. Here she would clean whatever was left over from the night before, have a nice cup of coffee, read El Heraldo, published locally, and later put on her hat to go shopping in Chinatown down the street. With the success of Demetrio's  store, where she worked the other three days a week and where  Jacinto spent  time  driving the delivery truck,  la Tía Chona  had become a lady of leisure by comparison. Her only further responsibility was to have dinner ready when the others arrived. Raquel had intermittent engagements singing at the Alondra, a night club on Olvera street.

Relishing her newly---found spare hours, Chona  had developed an annoying habit of speaking very distinctly, as if that made her more genteel. She had started to learn a little English. Gone were the days when, out of frustration, she would say helpful things like "Flin flan lo que se le pone al pan", when asking for butter, or  "servilleta y canasta, con  eso basta" when asking for a grocery bag. She had taken up reading (in Spanish, of course). This time it was The Good Earth. Bunker Hill was not far from Chinatown, and she felt a kinship with the Chinese. They did not seem exotic at all, but rather like Mexicans peasants from the countryside.

---Imagine,  she murmured in a tragic tone to Raquel ---they were so poor that they had to follow the horses and mules to pick up their dropping to use for fuel.   She had heard storied  similar stories in Mexico. All peasants were alike, she realized, as she admired "her" recently bought Karpen furniture.

She had taken a fancy to the owner of a small grocery shop down the street, Dorothy Hsiu, who always had very fresh vegetables from the Imperial Valley, and was about her own age. In  time Dorothy took to stopping  by for White House coffee and the two women would gossip and giggle like  schoolgirls. If it was none of their business, that was what they zeroed in on.  If it was out of bounds, so much the better. Over coffee and green onion  pies they formed unsuspected  ties and a  chumminess that developed into a kind of  loyalty. They seized on every new scandal, foreign and domestic,  with relish, and in the process laughed affectionately  at human nature and the world. Over her capirotada they tore apart Valentino's sex life, and Lupe Velez's army of lovers. Dorothy's eight---treasure rice pudding saw the German surrender  in Europe and was topped off with a tequila toasted  to the end of prohibition. Chona's voice dropped dramatically on the matter of the Arbuckle case.

---He was so fat, he burst her kidneys, poor thing,  she whispered, while Dorothy's eyes widened in shock as she  served herself another empanada.

---Men are such pigs, she clucked, making a face, and off the would go on the red car to see Chaplin, or, at the Million Dollar,  when it was  having stage shows such as La Dama de las Camelias, directed by Carlos Stahl. 

Raquel came out into the spotlight and sang "Estrellita" in a full soprano voice, with just a  hint of  mezzo--- a suggestion of a darkness under the bell---like tones. She stood 5'3", in her pseudo Spanish dress so as to not disturb the gringo stereotype, and the great mother---of---pearl peineta,  to make her much taller, her black eyes with their heavy eyebrows forming a smoky background for her olive  skin, her classic profile standing out in the darkness, her body draped in a mantón de Manila.   Richard's heart stood still. As soon as she was off, he rushed out to the flower seller outside and ordered four dozen roses, which he delivered himself. He was too shy to speak to her, and just handed them to a woman who opened the dressing room door and mumbled please give them to Miss Durán, and turned and fled, breathing heavily and rubbing his sweaty palms against his cummerbund. He had written,"para la voz de una angel" in his uncertain Spanish. He decided to go back the next day.

Since Raquel had begun singing at "La Alondra." she slept late and was able to avoid most of the hated housework. Demetrio practically lived at the bridal shop. La Tía Chona and Mercedes shopped and swept and criticized with a vengeance, but mostly kept out of her way, for they knew her temper.  Jacinto disappeared every day mysteriously, frequenting the world of pool halls and heaven---knows---what. She adored Jacinto, as her friend and co---conspirator. She could trust him. He picked her up every day at five in the afternoon to go to "La Alondra", without fail, in time for coffee at the Luz del Día before the show. On this day he sat down with her, but had to leave early. She dallied over her coffee, enjoying the warmth of the waning sun and the splash of purple  and orange bougainvillea in front of her.

Richard, who had come around for just such an opportunity, spotted her.

---Miss Durán . . . I  wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your performance last night, he stammered in spite of the carefully rehearsed speech. It had its effect, however.

---Thank you,  she beamed. An admirer. At any rate, he had manners. Won't you sit down?" she offered graciously. After all, this was the twenties. Women were being more independent, and there was no one to catch her.

He agreed with alacrity.

---Please let me get you another coffee, he begged.  My name is Richard Lewis. But people call me Ricardo, he said daringly. She did not laugh as he feared. She smiled her most charming under her cloche.

---How do you do, Ricardo?  She extended her hand, and he kissed it. This was the way she liked to be treated, she thought  triumphantly.  She was tired of the customers talking over her songs. She hated the pseudo food; chiles rellenos, beans and rice forever. The customers had no manners. They had no taste. They wanted cheese and crackers on everything.

---I have to go,  she declined with a moué. She had painted a mole near her mouth  that was particularly fascinating, as it brought attention to the suggestion of hair on her upper lip.

---Would like to see the show tonight? Im sure you don't want to see it again. You'd probably be bored. He was extremely handsome.

---I'm on my way now.

They began walking away from La Placita.

---Do you know any songs from Carmen?"

---Im a soprano,  she said reprovingly. She made a little chiding noise with her mouth which expressed her distaste. She could see herself prancing around acting like a lowlife. Eduwiges had mentioned once that Carmen rubbed garlic in her armpits to make herself more alluring. Raquel disliked Carmen then instantly, as she disliked any display or offering of oneself. This did not mean she didn't love showing off. Like all good performers she left her body, so to speak, when she was in front of and audience. That was different, however. It was against her nature to pursue. Men were to gather around her to make her feel pampered and loved, but she would always remain  distant, an object of admiration, even worship. La Traviata was much more distinguished. Violetta lived in a beautiful house and entertained lavishly. She was quite unaware of how Violetta made her money.

---They just had a performance of Carmen in the bullring in México City, he went on excitedly.  I read about it in El Heraldo. It must have been great.  It started to rain, but nobody left.

---Oh, habla usted español?

---Un poquito, he answered, pleased.

They were in front of the club. Richard explained that he was working as an assistant set designer for the studios. 

---I have an invitation to a party at Ramón Navarro's,  he blurted. Dolores del Río is going to be there. Would you like to go? Richard had indeed gotten a job at the studios as a set carpenter, and had been so admiring of Dolores, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, that she invited him to her house for a party, where he had met Navarro, who had taken a shine to him and invited him in turn.

She feigned indecision.

---I'm sorry, I cannot go anywhere without a chaperone, she said in stiff way that enchanted him.

---Bring your chaperone! I can get all of us in without any trouble. Dolores is a good friend of mine,  he bragged, conscious of the sensation this caused.

---Ill have to talk to my brother. Jacinto would jump at the chance. Now I really must go . . . 

They went to the party, Jacinto happily along in the back seat of the coupé, eager for free food and drink. Dolores never showed up and Ramón  got so drunk he threw up on the carpet.  Richard had to spend half an hour looking for Jacinto and pile him into the back of the car, while Raquel sat grim and tight---lipped next to the driver's seat. Some  short, hairy fat man had tried to paw her, but Richard had stepped in and spirited her away. She had not enjoyed herself, her expectations had come to nothing. Richard was such a perfect gentleman, however, that  she decided to forgive him.

She made little conversation during the long drive back to Bunker Hill. Raquel stared out the car. She saw an old adobe house, almost in ruins, but still occupied. There had been  Mexican ranchos all over. In Chino, in El Tejón, in Verdugo, and she felt safe there, in her own neighborhood. It was home now.   

Neither of them had drunk much, she out of propriety, he out of a need to put his best foot forward. She began to talk about  about the Revolution, and how they had lost almost everything except the house, which had to be sold, how her sister María Elena had refused to come to "grindolandia" and was living with an aunt in México City, how they had come up  because her uncle Demetrio had been living here  and could take them in until they were settled. Now La Tía Chona was old and she needed the children  around for company. I have to do all the cooking and sewing, she said, looking for sympathy. My brothers, of course, wont lift a finger.

---Do you ever think of going back? he asked seriously.

---Oh no! We like it here.  There's so much history buried here.

Raquel could not betray her real feelings. She longed for the Summer twilights in the desert, but she had come to understand that her life had changed in a fundamental way.

---Mexico is fighting for its  nationhood, for its identity, for national development. Why, Obregón has distributed lands among the . . .
---Yes, yes, said Raquel bored.

He went on with his ususal hyperbole. Sometimes he felt he was turning into Max.

Raquel was silent for a while. She was thinking of her mother, after Don Rufino had died. It was as if all her upbringing and faith in the immutability of her existence had snapped with that one event.

---They're all thieves and murderers, she said, echoing Eduwiges.

---Maybe you object to the closing down of the churches.  He paused delicately.

---I don't give a damn about the churches. She said, yawning. She felt as if Eduwiges were giving her the words.  The priests are just out for money and whatever they can get. Those poor peasants are being used by the priests as cannon fodder. She did not elaborate, but in her mind priests practice unimaginable acts behind monastery doors.

He was glad to hear it. He was afraid her religious feelings might interfere with their relationship.

They were crossing the River.

---When can I see you again, he asked, giddy with new found power and responsibility. Jacinto lay in the back, snoring.

---I don't know, she was being deliberately vague. The evening had not turned out as she had planned.  Perhaps you can come over for dinner sometime. My aunt Chona would like to meet you. 

Chona was, in fact sitting on the porch when they arrived. She would not dream of going to bed until  they had gotten home. A trip to Beverly Hills was something akin to a trip to the moon to her, and she could not even imagine it. Much better they stayed around their own neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else. Besides, nothing could keep her from getting a look at Raquel's gringo.

The car came up and stopped at the curb. Chona was her most charming, flirting shamelessly with the young man.  You must come over for dinner on a Sunday, she said. We would love to have you, even if its just beans.

Just beans, he said to himself, not realizing it was a figure of speech.

---Of course, I would be delighted.

Jacinto's sleeping body was a dead weight and he was having trouble getting him out of the back of the coupe. Finally the three of them walked him up the steps and Richard said good night, tired but happy.

La Tía Chona, neither late nor lazy, set about planning a meal to impress the gringo. She remembered the fabulous barbecues in Hermosillo, where the peones dug a hole in the ground and lined it with maguey leaves, and a goat was slowly cooked over the coals for a day and a half until the meat fell of the bones, juicy, tender and tasting like heaven. Not  possible here. She settled on Olla Podrida.  She decided on a scaled down version of pork, chicken and chorizo, with whatever vegetables were available at the Grand Central--- cabbage, spinach, mushrooms,  onion, garlic, ginger, corn on the cob, chiles, garbanzos and rice, with a cup of wine thrown into the mix. The chayotes in the backyard were just ready for picking. For good measure she threw in some herbs she had gotten from the yerbero on Whittier. If Richard  was interested, no harm in giving fate a hand.

They had a simple wedding at the Church of La Purísima Concepción on 4th Street. Richard's portfolio of drawings had impressed the Studio personnel, and he had been promoted to set designer, and they decided to splurge on a traditional wedding. Raquel wore a white lace dress, supplied by  Demetrio, and looked more beautiful than ever, although Chona joked fondly that she looked like "a fly in milk."  Dorothy had a restauranteur friend who let them have a banquet room for half price, and they gorged on menudo, chicken in mole and ensalada rusa, with membrillo and fresh goat cheese for dessert. Richard moved into the house and the happy couple occupied the whole upper floor.  A month or two later Raquel discovered she was pregnant, which sent her into a depression because it would interfere with her career.

---If it's a girl, I'll call her Laura, she told Chona, remembering Cantaranas.


María Elena felt  great excitement as her train pulled into Buenavista station. The ride had been endless, boring and hot, but it gave her the opportunity to see a México she had never known, far from her beloved desert. The lush, green vegetation, the unending moisture around la Sierra de San Andrés, the smell of elotes tatemados, the fog, the Indians walking,  working,  marketing, in a ceaseless activity for their daily tortilla, had opened her eyes to a broader vision. México,  Distrito Federal, was at that time at the crossroads of history. Foreigners were coming from all quarters, mainly Europe and the United States, to experience  first hand the great social experiment. Revolutionary fervor was in the air, breathable and transforming. The new rew ruling elites  had reached an accommodation with old porfirista money and forged ahead rebuilding the destruction caused by war.   The new Soviet Union exercised a powerful restraining influence, forcing them just by its competitive and unwelcome  existence to institute social reforms promised by La Revolución.  As México settled down with a world crash hovering over it, new battles loomed ahead.

La Tía Nicolasa had received her telegram and was there to meet her. María Elena could not have guessed how Nicolasa dreaded the idea of another mouth to feed, and could see that María Elena had been a spoiled ranch girl with little job skills. Still, maybe she could find something  soon.

Nicolasa ordered the porter to put María Elena's  scarce belongings into a  taxi outside the  station and  gave  the address. Perugino  Número 5, past  the  Parque  Hundido.

---Tell me everything, Nicolasa breathed.

She was younger than Eduwiges, and was struggling with 3 children. Her husband was working for the CROM  and was involved a series of unsavory deals with management that she knew nothing about and wanted to know less. Minor union leaders didn't make much, and Nicolasa had learned to pinch  every  penny. Now family obligations forced her away from her habitual worried expression into a bright smile and interested attitude.

María Elena could hardly answer. She felt breathless  from the sights and sounds around her. The taxi wound its way past the newly built Gran Teatro Nacional, with its shiny marble facade, and turned  before  reaching the  Legislative Palace in the distance. She had never seen such activity, so many people, so many elegant buildings with their Mansard roofs and stone carvings. In a moment, she fell in love with the great city.

--- Well mamá sold the ranch, and went to live in town with Laurita. Demetrio asked the others to go live with him  in Los Angeles. She did not elaborate, keeping Nicolasa ignorant of the worst. Ramiro remained unspoken between them.

---Why didn't you go with them?  Asked Nicolasa tactfully.

---Look, tía, There's Raquel,  Jacinto and Chona. You think tío Demetrio is going to be too happy with all those people? I don't want to go there. I can get a job here. 
---Nicanor  knows the manager at the Palacio de Hierro. Maybe you can work as a sales girl there,  said Nicolasa, preoccupied.  In the meantime, you'll have to sleep in the maid's room. No one is using it.  The maid's room was a cement room on the roof  the size of a jail cell.  Nicolasa spoke  with intent, making  it clear that María Elena was welcome, but there were no luxuries to be had at this house.


The manager was very nice. María Elena was more than presentable with her hazel eyes and auburn hair. Mr. Rodríguez gave a her a short test on math and took her around the cavernous steel structure on 5 de febrero, softened by pink lights and art deco installations that showed off all manner of elegant clothes to best advantage. María Elena's head started to spin as she saw the Paris and New York fashions, the shorter skirts, the hats,  the feather boas, the beads,  the furs. Mr. Rodríguez finally brought her to the perfume  counter and introduced her to the girl who was going to train her, a street---smart girl from Puebla. The smell of the perfumes, the plush carpeting under her heel, made María Elena felt like she was in heaven. Never mind that her salary would barely pay for her food and transportation; she would work that out later. It did not escape her that women would be buying clothes, but rich men would come to the perfume counter to buy gifts of introduction, or reconciliation, or conquest, and María Elena might find someone that would make her forget the horrors that she was fleeing. 

Actually, she did not find a man there but she found something much better. An entry into la vie bohème. Tina had been early on her way to Machete headquarters on Bolívar, and had decided to wander around the capitalist sanctuary to kill time.  She had  an article from Il Lavoratore, a communist paper out of Chicago's Little Italy denouncing Italian fascism,  that had been sent to her for translation, and she was on her way  to use the only available typewriter. At the perfume counter she paused, fascinated  by  the striking girl, and set up a conversation with her.  It turned out that she was from the country, and naïvely offered information on how to make your own perfumes much cheaper than what was on the counter, as la Tía Chona did. Tina, charmed by her candor,  invited her to a photography exhibit on Veracruz street that her companion was giving.  María Elena scarcely took in the word companion, but she was intrigued at the beautiful  slight woman dressed in black, who seemed so sure of herself. Her hair was tied simply in a bun, but her face, without a trace of make---up,  was alive with inquiry. Her eyes were so  black they seemed to disappear, were it not for the fireflies that danced in them.

The reception at the photography exhibit was a revelation for María Elena. She stared, awe---struck at the pictures of her own country, things she had never realized before were expressions of culture. Just as fierce was her reaction to the many photographs of Tina--- the sublime, other---worldly face, the expression  of  nameless suffering. It was hard to reconcile that anguished visage with the young woman who chattered in such a lively manner at the reception, unobtrusively making sure that every one was at ease. When María Elena saw a picture of Tina, completely naked, her black, lush pubic hair shining,  she accepted the outrage without question.

As soon as Tina saw her she came over and hugged her as if they had been friends for years, and María Elena's isolation melted away instantly. She was introduced  to Weston, the photographer, and spoke to him in halting English. All her siblings had studied English and had enough contact with tío Demetrio over the years so that English was not entirely a foreign language. Weston answered in heavily accented Spanish. Tina  took her by the hand and steered her toward a heavy---set man with thick lips talking to an aggressive  woman  that María Elena thought looked like a Tarahumara.

---Diego, said Tina in English,  come and meet my new discovery, slipping her arm through María Elena's. Maybe you can use her as a model at the SEP.

The Tarahumara muttered under her breath.

---My wife, Lupe,  said Diego. He stood squarely in front of her, sweating, and smiled  inches away from her face. His obvious attentiveness toward  her, with his wife standing there, made María Elena feel ill at ease. 
---Are you a photographer? asked Diego, smiling kindly. María Elena felt even more  uncomfortable — after all she didn't  do anything. She was barely struggling to survive.

Then she thought of Ramiro.

---I'm Sonorense,  she said. My brother was killed in the Cananea strike.  Not exactly true, but close enough.

This announcement was greeted with gasps of sympathy and appreciation. There were few people there who had not experienced death in close proximity, if not in the Revolution, then through its residuals, like the tuberculosis than ran rampant and unchecked through the country. María Elena realized that her loss was not  hers alone, but everyone's. Ramiro had been her brother, whom she had loved and had had sibling fights with.  But he was also a Mexican patriot. Now she saw him in a new light. He had been, for all his youth, a fighter for the miners,  for justice,  for dignity,  for sovereignty. Even his death at the hands of the army--- a stupid, useless death--- was still in the context of protesting the big Carrancista landowners.

---I'm a magonista, she said, defiantly, sounding very, very young indeed.

Diego's smile lighted up his eyes.

---You must come see us on Lucerna,  he said.  Tina will give you the address. We're having a get---together on Sunday.

---That's enough, Diego, said Tina cheerfully. You can't monopolize her, she's my discovery and I'm taking her home with me.

Tina lived on Abraham González street, on the 5th floor, from which you could see Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl. The majestic volcanos, seen through the pure and lucid air, seemed to breathe and watch over the city. When Tina and María Elena arrived there was already what María Elena thought was a party in full progress, but it turned out to be a political meeting. Úrsulo Galván, founder of the Peasant League, some strange people who spoke neither Spanish nor English, and assorted communists, were having lively discussions. An Indian with a strikingly beautiful face, Xavier Guerrero, was being sent to Moscow for training, and spoken Russian flew fast and thick. Xavier himself, impassive amid all the flurry, seemed to be a quiet pool of still water, never saying a word.


María Elena did not go to Diego's that time, but she started going to visit the Westons   often. Knowing that Tina had had her stint in Hollywood, she had expected them to act like celebrities, but it was quite the opposite. She was greatly attracted by their offhandedness, their lack of airs.  Sometimes she felt they acted like peasants, and it was a pleasant sensation that reminded her of home. It took foreigners to teach her about  her native land, the millenary culture with all its depth and mystery. Secretly scandalized that they were not married, (Weston was already married), and secretly thrilled by it, she treated them with all the care and good manners that she had learned from Eduwiges, transformed into the good manners of  the capitalino, who never said what he thought for fear of being considered provincial.  The Westons, on the other hand,  greeted the construction workers and maids who were their neighbors unselfconsciously as they were family members, and María Elena slowly began to lose that protective  covering of superiority that she had been taught.  Besides, she was fascinated  by Tina and would gladly give up all her upbringing if  Tina has asked her to. Tina,  who enchanted everyone by her laughter, who strode as if into a wind, with clarity and transparency.
A  few weeks after Weston  had his photography exhibit, Tina suggested they celebrate by going to see "the biggest pyramid that was ever built."

Weston drove, with Arnulfo Espinoza in front, while Tina and María Elena sat in the back.  María Elena assumed  they were going to Teotihuacán, and was surprised when they went through Río Frío, the old Model T  chugging up the practically vertical mountain as if it were not going to make it. The icy air shot through María Elena like a knife and she began shivering uncontrollably. Tina, freezing as well, put her arm around her and they hugged each other for warmth until they began to see the valley below, the banana plants and the avocado trees, and received a welcoming breeze like a blessing. 

Just before Puebla, they turned off on a dirt road and went to Cholula. The church and pyramid were so strange, so sacred, the church and the pyramid, the pyramid and the church, the long arm of the cholultecas reaching across time, alive and pulsating. There were ghosts in the church, of those who had died fasting, of those who had fought in battle, of those who had been garroted and those who had been  buried alive. Diego and Lupe had decided to go by train and meet them there, but they were nowhere to be seen. They headed for the market where  Tina ordered macarrones en salsa de tomate, sprinkled with queso añejo, which she swore were as good as in Italy. Weston and María Elena had tlacoyos and beer.

After, Tina started walking. They followed her around as if she were the guide. She stopped to talk to some children, seated herself unselfconsciously on the sidewalk, while they crowded around her.  It was Tina, not Weston, who  brought  the old  box Kodak,  just in case, and delighted in taking pictures of the kids. The children took turns looking through the lens, amazed at seeing their friends, like at the movies, but upside down. 

It was there that Tina discovered Juana, a child of about eight, selling roasted pumpkin seeds at a penny a cucurucho, covered with flies, shivering with chills and a fever. Tina could not bear to see a child suffer, and immediately gathered everyone, including Juana's mother into the car to take them to the nearest doctor. After a hurried conference with the doctor, Tina asked the others to cooperate with some money to pay for the token charge, and they left the mother and child in the doctor's care, and resumed their journey.

---Let's go to Tonanzintla,  cried Tina, as the waning sun cast long shadows over the landscape.

Arnulfo stopped the car and they all walked toward the church at the end of the road. There  they remained silent while they saw the pantheon of the choluletecas, the cherubs, the maceuhaltin, the tecuhtli, the auianime, they were all there, carved from living wood,  looking down  impassively over the changes brought by time.

María Elena and Arnulfo  left the others and walked outside, near the cemetery. He spied something  glinting in the sun. Obsidian!  He grabbed a stick lying on the ground and dug up the  prize and handed it to María Elena — an  arrowhead. What battle was this, he murmured to María Elena. Whose blood?  She was overwhelmed by the feeling that the blood that clung to the obsidian, even after centuries, was powerful medicine. She clutched it to her, and put it in her pocket just as Tina and Weston were coming out of the church.

---Where are Diego and Lupe?  called out Weston when he saw her. It's getting late. We should be getting back. María Elena assented and they walked back to where they had left the car.

Driving past Cholula again, María Elena looked  back for one last look at her pyramid, which was simply a mountain of dirt to the naked eye. A  mound coming out of the earth itself, made of the dead bodies of the ancestors, like a silent volcano, topped by the church of the invader, surrounded by scrub land, weeds and rocks. 

When they returned to México City it started to rain. The Calzada Zaragosa became crowded with cars and people huddled trying to find an overhang for shelter. Tina looked out of the rain---swept window and cried  "Stop. Stop." She opened  the door and got a wet newspaper from a  voceador who had stood shivering at a  trolley stop. They stared at the headline, horror---stricken.  "After a general strike, the ruthless nationalist Mussolini marches on Roma and brings down the government."

---He was a teacher in Udine,  sighed Tina after a pause, feeling somehow responsible for the  dictator from her town.  Then she remembered the poverty of her life on the Via Prachiuso and fell silent, lost in her thoughts.


When María Elena finally arrived at another of Diegos' tertulias she reproached him for not having gone to Cholula as they had agreed. Diego responded with a deep laugh that they had forgotten, not explaining that he had a Party meeting at Machete  headquarters to discuss Mussolini and prepare an article.

---We'll go next time, he said rubbing the back of her neck and smiling kindly.

María Elena felt mollified until she caught Lupe's gaze as she was distributing small fired clay dishes of guacamole among the guests. Her hatchet face and her raw look  turned María Elena to ice. She was afraid of Lupe, but she waved and smiled ingratiatingly as Diego's wife turned away, ignoring her.
The place was full of intellectuals and peasants, full of revolutionary fervor. Dr. Atl  was in a corner trying to convince a man from Mízquic that he was part of the cosmic race, the universal race. Diego walked by and pointedly muttered something about Mussolini nationalism.
---Communists and Christians are  really no different,  Jean Charlot was saying animatedly,  The  Christians were superior to the Romans. They set the example, and were ferrous in their tenacity. Nothing could move them, they wore the cross on their helmets in defiance of Imperial orders. They were pure in heart, and people began to admire them. They shared every thing. The Christians were a revolutionary group who shook the foundations of the State. They denied that the emperor's will was law, they had no patria, they were internationalists. They spread throughout the empire, and beyond. They  worked for centuries in secret, until they felt strong enough to come out to the light of day.

---You're being metaphysical, objected  Diego, in French.  You can't apply the early church to today. Before like before and now like now.  The church hierarchy soon enough took all the power to itself, and goodbye to equal rights and democracy. Communists have safeguards against that kind of corruption.

---How are you going to keep that from happening again? Now who's being metaphysical?  Rejoined Charlot, hurt.
Diego was more interested in his ideas over an artists's union. Artists were to be workers, just like bricklayers, men of action, ready to work for the people, dress like the people and live like them. Art was to be socialized, always accessible to the masses, and  pequeño burgués  individualism would be liquidated.  People would work collectively, and no one would know which part of a work was done by one person and which part by another.

---Like the art of the Aztecs,  he boomed happily.  Anonymous and collective.

---Are you going to charge money for these marvels?  asked Lupe bitterly as she flounced past with the salsa de chile de árbol. Tina brought in a huge steaming tureen with spaghetti alla puttanesca and set it in the middle of the table amid oh's and ah's of appreciation.

---People will get paid anonymously and collectively, answered Diego good---naturedly.

A tall,  angular, bony woman with a slight moustache  was seated quietly in a corner by the window, where she could look out onto the street. She was quiet and unassuming, and did not participate in the freewheeling conversation. She was drinking a glass of vino tinto, alone and in silence. Her shyness was palpable. María Elena was drawn to her.   
---Where are you from,  she asked, trying to break the ice.
---I just arrived a few days ago from Santiago I'm working with the maestro Vasconcelos on educational reform. We're working on new textbooks trying to develop  native and world culture of and for the people.
---What do you think about all these crazy people,' said María Elena, smiling and noting her Chilean accent, trabajando, maestro.
---I love it! It's like breathing freedom itself. México is the only free country in our America---all the others are still under a yoke. Alessandri Palma tries reforms, but the old oligarchy won't let them flower.
Gabriela Mistral smiled, showing her fine white teeth, which made María Elena think of tender young corn, and her smile kindled her eyes.
Diego noticed that María Elena and Gabriela were chatting and spoke in his sonorous voice.
---Lucila, a poem.  Diego, to be different, called her by her birth name, which annoyed her a little.
---Yes, yes.  Everyone clapped.
Gabriela, dying of embarrassment, stood up, unable to refuse, perhaps fortified by the wine.

                Niño indio, si estás cansado,
                Tú te acuestas sobre la Tierra,
                Y lo mismo si estás alegre,
                Hijo mío, juega con ella. . . .

                Cuando muera, no llores, hijo:
                Pecho a pecho ponte con ella:
                Te sujetas pulso y aliento,
                Como que todo o nada fueras,
                Y la madre que viste rota
                La sentirás volver entera,
                ¡y oirás, hijo, día y noche
                Caminar viva tu madre muerta!
There was a moment of silence as they digested the idea of the Indian child breathing life into the earth from which he had been born. The poem reminded María Elena  of the mountain they had seen at Cholula, a mountain full of life and meaning, her sacred mountain that was at the same time a temple and a church.

Diego's eyes shone wickedly. "I know a poem, too," he said, leering at Lupe.

                Dos flores has perdido,
                Ambas en edades tiernas.
                Una por abrir las manos,
                Otra por abrir las piernas.

Lupe gave a horse laugh, and answered in kind.

                Cuando nuestro padre Adán
                Comíó la primera fruta,
                Ya tu madre era puta,
                Querida de un capitán.
                Taralán, tan tan.
Everyone laughed,  Gabriela most of all. Some applauded and yelled ¡bomba!  Some served themselves more pulque (brought by the man from Mízquic) others had  red wine. A group of workers fell into deep conversation with Diego about the artist's union.
Lupe was talking  in a low voice with Tina in a corner, venting her spleen.

---If  they had to work like everybody else, they would die of fright. They're just poseurs, armchair communists.

Tina laughed.

---Leave them alone. Nobody has a monopoly on truth. Besides, Diego is a great artist. And did you see Xavier's  self portrait?  It's very good.

Lupe's voice had been rising. The campesinos eyed her warily. They were not used to opinionated women.

A sharp cry rent the air. Lupe was verbally attacking Rafael Carrillo. He had secretly asked Diego for a large amount of money  for the Party, and Lupe had wormed it out of Guerrero.
---The Rivera family will not do without the house money, she screamed at the top of her voice. What kind of communism  is it when instead of giving to everybody they take the food out of our mouths?  Fucking communists,  she shouted.

Diego moved toward her.

---Calm down, he ordered,  I'll have more money soon. El maestro Vasconcelos is giving me the job in Chapingo.

---More lies and promises!  Lupe grabbed a clay cup and aimed it at Diego, letting it shatter against the wall. That's all you do, is hand  money out so people will like you. Light of the street,  darkness of  your  house! You never have time for me, but you well run around with every whore you see.  She pointed at María Elena, who cowered under her glare.  You just met this girl and already you want to throw her on your plate! Panzón de mierda!

With surprising agility, Diego threw himself at his wife, while she just as much fervor defended her wiry self. The rest of the crowd separated them, while Lupe, in tears ran into the bedroom and shut the door.

The party was over.

María Elena stood outside on the street uncertainly, looking in vain for a trolley. She had drunk too much and was in desperate need of someplace to sit down.
---Can I give you a lift María Elena?  Arnulfo  offered her a cigarette.

María Elena was surprised how quickly she had adapted to the bohemian life style. In spite of Diego's announced intention of doing away with "la  bohemia embrutecedora" she and Diego and everybody else were living it everyday. It made life exciting and free. Where she would have demurred in Hermosillo, she now accepted with alacrity. The fight between Diego and Lupe had stimulated her. Arnulfo held the door open for her and as she sat in his car she deliberately rubbed her sex on the seat. The possibilities seemed endless.

Through Arnulfo, María Elena absorbed the ideas that freed women from household slavery. Men and women were to do everything equally. The family was to be run democratically. Marriage was not necessary, but each member had to be respected  as comrades, with the exact same rights. Within the family there was to be freedom. It did not seem very different from her own family, since everyone did as they liked, as long as they did not openly go against certain traditions. Eduwiges was certainly nobody's tool. María Elena realized that her family had not been very typical, and the feeling of being faintly disapproved of by Hermosillo society had always hung over her, unspoken. Now she found kindred spirits in their iconoclastic indifference to tradition, in fact, she rejoiced in breaking taboos she didnt even know existed. She felt Eduwiges would approve.

Tina got into her head to photograph some artisan work, something not for tourists but which was consumed in a normal day by the people themselves. She took María Elena with her to La Merced. It was like something out of the Arabian Nights. María Elena had never seen anything like it. Piles of piloncillo, marmalade, cheeses of every kind. Fruits and seeds; pitahayas, chirimoyas, guayabas, tejocotes, zapotes, dozens of kinds of chiles, dozens of kinds of beans, habas, garbanzos. There were live animals, a flower market. A fish market, a meat market, a chicken market. There were dozens of lunch counters where steaming copper pots of menudo and birria perfumed the air. There were fire crackers and knives for sale. Playing cards and people who read your fortune. A whole city block was devoted to witchcraft, and María Elena, no slouch in that department, felt completely lost. They finally arrived at the toy market, another city block.

The toys were almost all handmade. Toy soldiers that moved, clowns that did back flips, butterflies made of tinsel. Tina was running out of film. Her last photograph was of a hand puppet. An irrepressible boy had stuck his face around it and grinned at the camera.

---The puppet represents Mussolini, puppet of the monopolies, she joked.

It was getting late and it as time to go back to Party headquarters.

On Mesones, María Elena was swept up in all the activity. There was an endless stream of personalities, most of whom she had no inkling as to who they were. Some were peasants, some workers, some foreigners--- people who spoke English, French, even Hindi. She accepted it all as natural; it seemed the rational outcome of all the dead that had drenched the earth of her land. Diego walked around with a gun ostentatiously in his belt, arguing with Bertram Wolfe  the merits of supporting Obregón against the landowners, fending off criticisms that he was not reliable because he was always painting. It was just in one such violent argument, in which Diego threatened to draw his gun, that Nahui put the phone down and shouted in a loud voice the news.

Lenin had died.

Ella burst into tears.

Preparations were made for a memorial, and María Elena volunteered for everything with an energy she did not know she had. There were to be wreaths and speeches at the Hemiciclo Juárez.  Mexico had just established diplomatic relations with the Soviets, and Mexican communists could act more or less openly by supporting the Obregón government. When the landowners attacked the ejido program, assassinating many local party members and peasants, dozens of camaradas went to Puebla to support the peasants and their communal lands. Professor Goldschmidt, a German professor of economics at the  University, invited by Vasconcelos, organized  brigades of students into a youth movement to protest and manifest wherever they were needed.  María Elena, at Arnulfo's invitation,  joined them in the International Red Auxiliary, and that is how she wound up in Veracruz protesting one of Mussolini's ships that had docked there. The students sang  songs, napped and told jokes during the six hour  bus trip, and when they arrived they converged  as agreed at La Parroquia under the arches. Diego was already there holding court. With several tequilas under his belt, he started one of his wild stories about how he had gone on a trip to Morocco from Paris, and eaten human flesh at the invitation of his hosts in Rabat. He also told a hair---raising account  of how during the Rif  uprisings he had seen decapitated human heads by the roadside with their penis in their mouth.

The students  broke up into groups  to make signs and appear at the docks on the next day. The activity, with its whiff of danger, heightened her senses and she spent the night with Arnulfo, both of them naked in the tropical heat and  under a listless ceiling fan. María Elena had finally shed the last  vestige  of provincialism and turned into a woman  who realized the power that lay between her legs. The next day, on the Malecón, under the hot sun and the warm breezes, in front of the fascist ship, María Elena was no longer a shy young girl, buffeted by events, but a woman in control of herself, aware of her secrets, a woman who could make others do her bidding.

Back in the DF, Mayakowsky had arrived on a train from Veracruz, and no one could pass up the reception at the Russian Embassy.  María Elena was surprised  at the luxury of the huge building on Avenida Revolución, but was relieved when no one dressed formally. Vladimir was surprisingly tall and very handsome, nervous, with an intense stare out of his intelligent eyes. His long, thin hands fluttered like frightened butterflies as he spoke. He gave the impression of a race horse that  trilled the ground impatiently, snorted and was in constant motion.  He made a speech thanking the Mexican comrades for their help in getting there, singling Tina out, comparing her to Elenora Duse. Everyone got pleasantly drunk. Their youth forced them into frivolity and excess. There was folk dancing and balalaikas and mariachis, awash with champagne and caviar, which were  unofficially declared the food of the working class.

María Elena saw Tina deep in conversation with a  vigorous  no---nonsense type of woman. She was Alexandra Kollontai, who had recently been named part of the diplomatic corps. María Elena listened as Tina complained that she had suffered discrimination and humiliations for showing the scandalous naked pictures of herself at the gallery. Alexandra reached over and patted Tina's hand.

---Don't worry about what other people think, Tinochka, she said forcefully. If you are doing what you think is right, screw those people. There is nothing obscene about the human body. It is in fact beautiful, and you are beautiful.

Tina smiled gratefully and squeezed Alexandra's hand.

---You must come to the Casa de la Cultura. We are having music by Los Chauixtles, and were having a very special speaker, said Tina.


---It's still a secret, because he has had to sneak across the border from Guatemala and is not here yet.

---Of course I'll come.


Diego, tired of the art vs politics arguments, eventually distanced himself from  the party, asking them to think of  him a sympathizer, because  his art was and would always be revolutionary, but he could no longer be active with  his work on the murals at Chapingo and so many other places.  To celebrate that and her daughter's first birthday, Lupe organized a costume party.  It was not entirely a success, since few  of the comrades appeared.

María Elena, worried, consulted Tina's opinion.

---Some accuse him of being an opportunist, others just wring their hands in grief, but both are wrong, Tina said. What would happen to our great artists if there were no imagination? What would happen to the Movement if there were no art? Everything can't be theory and practice. People feel that way because we are few and we are attacked from every side. The tendency is to close ranks, but that same tendency isolates us. We should welcome Diego and his talent.

---You are an artist, yet you remain in the Party. I'm sure you would do much more if you weren't always at the office doing translations, and demonstrating.

---My talent is not as great as Diego's. Anyway, politics is also an art. I understand him, went on Tina. His life away from the mural is just an interlude. Others make an art out of their political life, Diego's artistic life is his politics.

In fact Tina herself was struggling with the question of whether she should continue her photography. There were so many things happening, there simply was no time.  She was organizing a support group for  students from  La Habana University who had been jailed by the Machado government for "terrorism" and were in the middle of a hunger strike.  The Party was working to arrange for the leader to  escape to Central America and then to Mexico, where he had already been named an honorary member of the Party. His name was Julio  Antonio Mella.


María Elena and Arnulfo arrived early at the Casa de la Cultura.  People were still putting up paintings by Frida on the walls, and several chalk drawings of Diegos graced one end of the hall. In spite of his ostracism, Diego was still someone to be reckoned with, and he attended meeting whenever he felt like it. No one dared challenge him.  Julio was practicing a poem by Mayakowski he was to read later on.

Eventually things settled down  and those gathered rustled expectantly.

---Camaradas, began Francisco Moreno.  We have among us a tireless worker for socialism. His was the first voice in trying to save his  motherland from the Yankees. In spite of his youth, he is in the forefront of  the struggle. He is one of the founders of the Cuban Communist Party, a student leader, a founder of Jose Martí People's University, and the Cuban branch of the Anti---imperialist League of the Américas. Comrades, it's a pleasure to listen to the words of our comrade, Julio Antonio Mella.

A lithe, muscular man, with a taste of African giving him a  panther---like walk, strode to the front of the room. Mella had been arrested by Machado as a "terrorist",  had gone on a hunger strike, and escaped later to Central America. Days before he had been smuggled into Mexico by the Comrades.  The audience well---aware of his recent arrival, pressed forward eagerly.
---Camaradas, began Mella with a rich baritone that made them shiver.  Borders do not exist for workers, and I thank you for the warmth of your welcome to this  México, which is like my own patria.
There was instant applause. The audience settled back with a collective sigh of contentment. This was a man after their own hearts, intelligent, charismatic and a little arrogant.

He went on to talk about other immigrants, in that case Italians, who had fallen into the clutches of the law. Two young men, expelled from their own country by the very poverty that prevailed, working long hours in subhuman conditions, washing dishes, working on the railroads, in the steel foundries, pacifists, finally fed up, lead a strike against a textile factory in Massachusetts.

---Nicola Zacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti come to the attention of the fascist authorities, Julio Antonio added.

---What a scrumptious man,  whispered María Elena to Tina sitting next to her. Tina gave her a look.
---He's married.
---What a pity. replied María Elena, thinking of Weston. Tina was no longer with Weston, who  had gone back to Los Angeles finding the comrades too ideologically rich for his blood.  Isn't his wife back in Cuba?  She added maliciously.

---Shhhh . . .Whispered Tina.  Listen.

Julio Antonio went on, talking about how the empire has closed in on these innocent immigrants, whose great crime was to claim their car, which had been stolen by the guilty party perpetrating a holdup.

---The had no stolen money, nor criminal record, yet U.S. justice has seen fit to ignore scanty evidence and single them out for their political activities.
The crowd waited.

Mella looked squarely into the eyes of the people sitting before him.

---Workers and intellectuals," he said, his voice rising. You  produce all the wealth of the society! You produce  the army, even the army that sustains the tyranny. You produce the culture that greases the wheels of the regime. What we need now  to produce the rebellion that will provide the noose to hang the parasites with. To produce the laws that will make them work for once in their lives. To produce a society that is not for the rich, but for the peasants, the factory workers, and where social justice is for everybody!"

---Eso! shouted someone in the audience. María Elena and Tina clapped  enthusiastically.

---Produce also the fight to save  our brothers, Sacco and Vanzetti. They must be set free!  Produce the social revolution and the liberation of all oppressed peoples!

There was thunderous applause. Tina immediately got up, dragging María Elena with her,  going to the back to gather up the baskets which Frida had placed on a table for the collection.

Afterwards, Tina was in the Machete office working on a translation with Rosendo Gómez  when Mella burst in with some papers he was delivering. Even though Tina had been at the reunion, it was not clear that he had noticed her, lionized as he had been by people eager to hear the latest on  Machado and  the student  movement. Here, however, all activity stopped as he stared at that timeless face for a second, just long enough for Rosendo to guess what he was thinking. Tina, her eyes on her work, appeared not to take heed. Julio Antonio garbled something about having to go to a meeting, and left.

Rosendo and Tina finished the translation and went to the café de chinos. Tina was talking animatedly about a movie she had seen, El Último Día del Torero, when Mella suddenly appeared asking for the key to the office. He had to get back and do some work, but  the door was locked and there was no one there. Rosendo asked him to sit and have a coffee, and Mella sat on Tina's side. His muscular arm pushed into her side, and she felt a soft  flush come over her. The left the café together.

From then on Tina and Julio Antonio were a pair. They went everywhere together and were welcomed as the ideal working---class couple. Julio Antonio kept in touch with his comrades in Cuba, and with his wife and daughter, although that marriage was over by common consent. Julio Antonio asked Tina to post a telegram to Cuba, and he would meet her at the Post Office so they could go eat at the Lagunilla. Afterwards they returned home, walking along Abraham González street to their apartment.

There was no warning.

Two men came up, Tina noticed them but didn't think anything at the moment. They shot Julio Antonio full in the chest and ran down the street. The shot made Tina  temporarily deaf as she grabbed her lover and sank to the sidewalk with him. She could see his eyes through the blood hanging onto hers as if to life itself. But it was too much for his gallant body. His eyes closed forever.

When the ambulance came Tina hadn't moved. She was still cradling his head on her  lap in a kind of Pietà. She felt she would have given her own life to save his.

Machado's men had been following him for weeks. When the news hit the stands the right wing had a field day. Tina's naked pictures came back to haunt her. She was called a gun moll, a prostitute, a Mata Hari or worse. Julio Antonio was considered a foreigner and a terrorist who had come to subvert the peace and stability of México.

The murder demanded an answer. Hundreds came to pay their respects and to accompany the body to the cemetery. The funeral cortège, led by Diego, Frida and the others, turned into a demonstration. After that Tina was deported and it was a long time before anyone learned of her whereabouts.


After Lauro's birth, Raquel started getting back into shape. She exercised and practiced her singing six hours a day, going from the simplest chords to the most taxing coloratura glissando, until she felt sure of herself. Richard, proud of his wife, encouraged her and when he picked up inside information that Mr. Walsh was casting for a movie of called The Loves of Carmen, starring Dolores del Río, and managed a pass for her. 

Raquel could not contain her excitement. She was wearing a brand new outfit. The softest Cashmere woolen  grey dress with white polka---dots, white  lambskin shoes (they're soft as gloves, she  told Chona), and a white hat. She handed her new union card to the man at the gate,  and luxuriated in his polite demeanor. He checked her name against a list. Raquel Durán. Touching his cap, he waved her into the studio. Raquel rewarded him with her most brilliant smile and flashed her eyes at him. They  had difficulty finding the sound stage. Chona, transformed into her personal modiste, carried her costume. Raquel was going to put their noses out of joint. Finally she was to meet Dolores. Before her lay a brilliant Hollywood career.  She was going to act, not sing, but it was to be her first film. Gone were her previous reservations about the low---life character. Raquel had been practicing the castanets, and although she was no dancer, she practiced some Sevillanas arm  movements. She knew people would notice her. She had put together her mother's  huge conch shell peineta, and a long hand---made lace mantilla that reached to the ground. Chona had hastily improvised a silk party dress by adding a tail and flounces to it, and the effect was very convincing. A young man came up to them and directed them to the dressing room.

In the dressing room there was chaos. The two women were taken aback at the actresses who were apparently unconcerned about their nudity, and men walking from one end of the room  to the other equally oblivious.  No one paid attention to them either. A little miffed, Raquel wondered where she could change . Her idea was that she would appear fully costumed, as Minerva leaping out of the head of Zeus, and she did not want anyone to see the transformation. She looked around anxiously for Dolores, who was nowhere to be seen. She wanted to introduce herself and tell her they had a friend in common.
---Here,  said Chona , I found a screen. Get behind this and against the wall and you can change. Take that off quickly. They'll be calling us. In a way typical of the women in the Durán family , she became  calm in a crisis. Raquel began to change and was reassured  as the embroidered silk caressed her body. She placed a gold and coral filigreed crucifix that had been Eduwiges's around her neck. She sat down at an empty seat and began applying her make---up, dipping her fingers in some gel to make little spitcurls on her forehead and around her ears. Chona pulled her hair into a tight bun and secured the peineta with pins. Next she pinned the mantilla securely and placed artificial flowers on top of Raquel's head. A little more eyeshadow and Raquel was ready to go out onto the sound stage. Chona gasped when she saw what looked like a street in Spain in the cavernous stage, lighted up like daylight. Over one of the doorways was a sign FÁBRICA DE TABACOS. Mr. Walsh was leaning over and talking to an extraordinarily beautiful young woman who was seated in a camp chair smoking a cigarette. Dolores, Raquel guessed, with a pang. Raquel scarcely had time to catch her breath when a loud young man sashayed through the crowd yelling at everybody to go behind the set.

---You, he said to Raquel,  take  that thing off and put the shawl around your shoulders. You're supposed to be working, not going to a party. Costume! He yelled. An anxious woman came up. Get her a simpler shawl. That one's too fancy, he said as he walked away. There was nothing for it but to hand the mantilla and the peineta to a disapproving Chona and go in with the other cigarette girls.

Mr. Walsh came over to them and spoke very kindly. He instructed them to come out in bunches, and loiter in the street, talking to each other, until Carmen came out. Raquel was paired up with a squat woman she took an instant dislike to, but, she told herself, you're an actress now, and smiled, put her arm through hers,  and acted liked they were lifelong friends. There was no script for them, it was all improvisation. The woman, thank goodness, spoke Spanish. Raquel noticed uncomfortably that few, except for Miss del Río and a few others, seemed to be Spanish speaking

---Cómo te llamas, started Raquel  Qué bonito día verdad?  Ay que aburrido es este trabajo. Que bueno  que ya salimos a descansar. Ven para acá. The woman smiled idiotically and apparently couldn't think of anything to say. Raquel grabbed her as if she were her sister and turned around so that her back was to the camera, while smiling and talking animatedly.
---Cut, yelled Mr. Walsh. There was something wrong with the lights.


After her success with "her" movie, Raquel decided to look more modern and up to date. She was in the bathroom, trying different ways of shaping her hair. She would cut it one of these days, without telling anyone, and then it would be too late to do anything about it.

Chona and  Mercedes were busy making Burro Parado.   Demetrio had gone  early to the store, and the two women would  alternate helping him behind  the counter, one going one day  while the other stayed home   and took care of the household,  then the other would go in turn. Mercedes  loved going to the store on Broadway because she could gossip all day to her heart's content.  Gregarious and beautiful for her forty years, with her black hair in a cloud streaming out behind her, her form---fitting clothes with their appliqué designs over her generous body, her shoes with the straps across the ankle.  While she was attractive to men, her personality was very  feminine in that special way women have of bonding.  She loved children, and she loved talking and was  curious about people. She had  the gift of  making them feel at ease.Whenever a  female
customer came into the store carrying a child, Mercedes would unselfconsciously make a fuss, begging to carry it, and wound up kissing it and giving it a piece of lokum, from the Lebanese  that ran the  corner grocery.  The customer would be charmed, and would buy the quinceañera dress, or the bridesmaid's outfit, or simply a sprig of silk flowers with fake pearls sewn in. Sometimes customers found her so congenial that they came back just to chat. Chona, on the other hand, was all business, and a little abrupt. Now in the kitchen she pounded the dinner steaks with a vengeance.

Raquel appeared in the doorway, looking ashen.

---Mother is dead, she said.

---Niña what are you talking about, what's wrong?

---I just saw her at the foot of the stairs. I know she's dead.

Chona, her hand at her throat, rushed to the stairwell, followed by Mercedes.

---There's  no one here,   she called, and the two frightened women went back into the kitchen. Raquel was sitting at the table sobbing, while Jacinto looked on helplessly.

Richard came home from the studio. Raquel was still pale and nervous.  Chona and Mercedes had resumed their cooking in the kitchen, loudly tenderizing the thin steaks for  milanesa  to assure each other that things were normal and Raquel had just imagined things.

---There's a letter for you, Raquel said, and went upstairs. She was very tired, and responded only perfunctorily to Richard's kiss. Richard tore the envelope open and stared at the rather rudimentary scribbles. It was from Jeremy.
        Dear brother,
I pray to God that this will find you in good health.  Leonors sends her love. Brother, we are only three left, and I  know that our beloved parents are watching over us. Brother, I have sent you some money from the sale of the  house in Porterville, and Leonors, bless her, has told me that she did not want her share, since  her husband provides for her adequately. Brother, I have written this letter to tell you that I have made a momentous decision. I do not feel that my life has any meaning in this Sodom we live in. The trees we loved have been cut down, our beloved Valley is unrecognizable. I feel that my life can only have meaning if I dedicate myself to my fellow Man as I know God will reward me for my efforts. Not in material, but in spiritual wealth. I know you will understand when I tell you as in the Hindu Peace Prayer that I desire "neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death.  I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery."  Therefore, I have decided to join Mr. Mohandas K. Gandhi in India. A dear friend of mine from the  Theosophy society has given me his address in Sevagram. My scarce savings will allow me to make the trip, but I will not have a return ticket. I will be in Los Angeles on the 23d, at Union Station,  where I shall catch the train to New York, and then set sail on a tramp steamer to India. Please meet me, if you can, at Union Station between noon and 4 pm, as I will have a little time so we can say goodbye. Do not judge me, dear brother, as I know that eternal happiness awaits me in serving my fellow man. I hope to see you one last time.

        Your loving brother,


Richard sat and stared at the letter a long time. He felt alone. He was married, he had a son, but he  lived with strangers.  A wave of longing swept over him, for the redwoods, the picnics by the river, the sensible  women with their long dresses that made pleasant starchy sounds.  They had been poor, but it was nothing like the poverty that he saw daily in the streets of the city. They had been rich, in fact, because theirs was the sun and the air and the icy, pure water they could drink from natural springs as it rushed out of the ground. All of it gone. The Kaweah settlers had disappeared into the fabric of middle class Americana. He understood Jeremy. Jeremy with his dark expressive eyes. He almost looked like someone from over there. He had never fit in, just as Max, in his own way, had never fit in. Richard had never fit in, either, and that was why he was living on  Bunker Hill. He yearned to talk to the stars in the night sky of the Sierras, to see his dead father again, even for a moment.  His parents, in spite of their reserve,  had always solved his problems as a child, but there was no one to turn to now. On the contrary, others were waiting silently by, expecting him to solve their problems. But Richard would have to work his out on his own. He got up and went in to dinner. 

Raquel had come back down. She had changed into a comfortable flowered print  dress. She seemed far away, preoccupied and unresponsive. Richard tried to make conversation, telling them about Jeremy, and how Gandhi had been fighting for the independence of India  with  fasts and imprisonment.

---Well,  said Raquel, scarcely listening,  he doesn't seem to have accomplished much.

Richard's voice rose, because he knew little of what was going on in India, and he felt compelled to somehow defend his brother.

---The Indians are a very spiritual people,  he said energetically.  They refuse to eat meat, because they will not hurt another living thing.  He looked down at his plate.

---Not eat meat!  Broke in Chona, aghast.  We have Indians who don't eat meat either,  she said sarcastically,  but not because they don't want to.  If the Revolution ever makes good its promise, maybe people will be able to eat a little meat for a change,  she finished, attacking her milanesa.

Raquel got up abruptly. Richard, thinking she was angry, followed her, but she had only gone to the telephone in the hallway. She asked the operator to connect her to the Hermosillo number, and hung up. The operator would call her later.

---What is wrong?  asked Richard.

Raquel said that she just wanted to call the house. Chona explained that they had been frightened half to death by a ghost, and they had to call to see if everything was alright. You'll see that everything is fine, said Chona soothingly to Raquel.

The phone rang, and everyone rushed from the kitchen into the hallway. Raquel answered, but silently handed the phone to Chona. She did not feel she could bear it if her mother was dead.

Eduwiges had not died, but she had suffered a stroke. The doctor explained that she could speak and move her right hand, but would need care.

---Let me speak to Luís, broke in Chona. Luís! We will go down there tomorrow,  she mimed to Raquel, who nodded her head.  Don't worry, everything will turn out right. There's a train leaving every day for San Diego, and then we can transfer to the bus and be in Hermosillo the next day.  The bus was faster than the train. She yelled as if she could make herself heard better. Hermosillo seemed so far away.


At the  Union Station, when  Jeremy finally arrived, Richard was taken aback by how much he had changed. Jeremy's eyes held a strange light, and he seemed distracted. His nose had become more prominent as his thin cheeks had receded. It seemed as if he wanted to cram a lifetime of his relationship with his brother in their one brief hour. He talked in a rush, he felt the need to explain himself. Richard steered him to the restaurant, where Jeremy ordered a lettuce and cottage cheese salad and a glass of water.

---Hinduism, he said solemnly,  is the science of being able to see God face to face. Truth is not something to be discovered privately, but it can only come through a lifetime of service. At Sevagram they are developing a school and a clinic, as well as training artisans to start cooperatives. I want to be a part of a social experiment, he said, looking off into the distance.

---Isn't he in prison in Delhi?  asked Richard. He had read that Mr. Gandhi had been arrested for sedition.

---He will be back,  replied Jeremy placidly.  His body can be imprisoned, but not his mind. They can't put everyone in India in  prison.

Richard said little. He reflected how by throwing everything away, Jeremy had become happy. His dream of helping others sustained him, and he took joy in every difficulty, which validated his sacrifice.

After the initial greetings, they had little to say to each other any more. It was almost with relief for both that the train with connections to  New York came and they were obliged to part. Richard, because he wanted to get back to the house, and Jeremy, because he was on the brink of a great adventure,  which was the only brave act of his life His blood quickened at the prospect---it was full speed ahead in uncharted waters. The train eventually pulled out of the station and rounding a bend disappeared from sight. Richard decided to walk home.

Eventually María Elena and Nicolasa had to go for the funeral, and  met  a Raquel who seemed another person entirely. The event that brought them together sharpened the differences between them. Raquel had no other clothes but the latest styles, and she seemed ostentatious. Still, they were sisters in the land that had produced them, and they did not judge each other. Knowing the score, Raquel put money into the purses of the other two, without a word.  Laurita had died long before, and the only people left were  Pascuala,  Margarito and their children. It was decided they would continue to live there while the deed would remain in Durán hands. After the legal formalities, they parted to their respective places. They would never see each other again.


Crepúsculo. Bunker Hill. Dogs were barking in the distance, and the neighborhood boys were running through the semi---paved streets like a pack of dogs themselves, wild, bored, in a pitch of high glandular excitement.  La bruja, the asthmatic octogenarian who lived in, Lauro swore, a hole in the ground, disappeared behind a worn door of ancient slats. Lauro was terrified of her, and believed she cast spells. He believed she knew everything about him, spied on him in his sleep, but kept quiet and pretended to ignore him when she saw him. The truth was that the poor old woman had a tumor that would soon finish her off, and had no idea that Lauro existed. He was just another eleven year old in the crowded  LA streets,  where wild boys ran around searching for thrills and sometimes ran into her because they were incapable of looking where they were going.

The neighbor Rosa and her boyfriend were pressed against the wall, around the corner of her house, where there were no windows, imagining that no one saw them, their lips glued to each other. Raul had a hard on and would rub it against Rosa, trying to get her to give in. Rosa would gasp for air, and dive into his lips again, pretending she didn't feel anything. Eventually Raúl would take out a handkerchief, carefully wipe all the lipstick off his face, smooth his moustache and go home to his aged mother. He worked at a shoe store, and barely made enough to support himself and her. He wondered how he was going to give Rosa all the things she deserved. Well, she would just have to move in with them. It wasn't such a bad idea after all, Mother was getting feeble and needed someone to take care of her. Maybe someday they would be able to buy a little lot in Bell Gardens and they could have their own house. In the meantime, it had become their only entertainment, a routine that did not mine his meager salary. He would come over four or five times a week (to make sure she didn't see anyone else) and stick his tongue into her mouth and rub so vigorously that the boys in their mad dash would shout obscenities at them. The other days he would go to Cantina El Progreso and get very drunk on beer and canciones and good fellowship.

Lauro watched for a while, and when Raúl took out his handkerchief, he wandered across an empty lot on his way home. With Raquel and Chona  in Hermosillo, Mercedes would be making dinner. He could almost hear her, yelling to "watch out for the rough boys". Lauro was surprised when those same rough boys descended on him in the now darkness. They surrounded him. Mercedes's admonitions caused him some anxiety, but the presence of the boys made something leap in him. He was flattered by their attention. They were breathing heavily from their run, and spoke to him kindly. They made him get down on his knees while the oldest boy, the leader, unbuttoned his pants.

---Don't worry,  said Juancho,  it's just milk, drink it, it's good for you.

The boys laughed and ran off again. Lauro arrived just as la tía was peering out the door to call him. She  had prepared puerco en salsa verde and  tortas de camarón. A man on the Spanish language radio was talking  excitedly about how the franquistas had bombed Madrid.  Papá came home shortly and gave him a big kiss and lifted him into the air and said what a big boy he had become. Full of dinner, Lauro went to bed and thought  about his secret. The boys had awakened something in him that had lain dormant. He had something to give that others wanted. He cradled this idea until he went to sleep.



"Carmen" was going to be premiered at the Pantages. Raquel's first instinct was to have all of her friends go with her--- the entire cast of La Alondra, Chona, Richard, Jacinto,  Lauro, Mercedes. . . but it was by invitation only. Still, the excitement of appearing at a Hollywood premiere made up for her lack of coterie. Richard was not able to go. His stint at the studios had ended, and unable to find anything else  had gotten a job as a night watchman at the County Hospital and did not want to risk getting fired. Chona, as always, was ready and willing. They went in a taxi.

With the money that she had been saving, Raquel had bought a wool coat with a sable collar, which framed her face and made her appear truly elegant. She wore a champagne---colored satin dress with glass beads sewn in around the neckline and dripping down her body in a cascade. Raquel had seen a Worth dress with that look, and she immediately enlisted the seamstresses at the shop to make something similar. The result was stunning.  There was no money left, but she had made up her mind. If Richard was not going to fulfill her ambitions, she would have to do it alone. Nothing was going to stop her career. Chona had become a companion that never questioned, always approved, and seemed as anxious as she was for her success. They settled in the audience just in time for the lights to dim.

Raquel and Chona sat stony faced through the movie. Chona was grateful  that none of their friends had been there to witness their humiliation. Raquel's scene, in which she had looked so lovely, and for which she had worked so hard, had been cut!  Chona looked at the expression on Raquel' s face and felt uneasy.

---It's that bitch, Dolores, she whispered, trying comfort her, squeezing her arm.  She's jealous because you looked more beautiful that she did. In a fury, Raquel burst into tears.

An older man sitting next to Raquel politely handed her a handkerchief.

---It wasn't that sad, he joked kindly. Actually I would call it more a comic opera than a tragedy. Raquel unburdened herself, describing all her sacrifices, how she had given her all, how she had neglected her husband and her child to make this the best movie ever made, and for what —

Mr. Metcalf, it turned out, was an impresario, and was looking for a new name he could book into the Million Dollar. He saw in Raquel, in spite of her tears,  a poised, self possessed, beautiful young woman. She had presence, he noted. Even though no one at the theater had any idea who she was, many took her to be "someone in the movies" by the stir she had caused as she walked down the aisle to her seat.

---So you're an actress, broke in Charles Metcalf smiling at the black eyes with their curved brows. He looked interested.

---I can act, said Raquel defensively.  But Im really a singer. I have a repertoire of eighty three songs.

---Really! What kind of songs?

---I can sing arias from five operas,  started Raquel, but switched course, realizing  that would not impress Mr. Metcalf.  Bolero, Danzón, Cuplés, Lecuona. . . she ticked of the titles on her fingers La Cumparsita,  Sobre las Olas, Siboney,  La Piragua,  Estrellita. . .

She stopped. Dolores was sweeping  past and graciously reached over  to give her hand.

---I'm sorry your scene was cut, she said.  That's the way this business goes. I hope you can get something else soon.

Raquel came out fighting.

---It's all for the good of the movie, she said, smiling. You looked really beautiful. I think the movie will be a great hit. She turned back to Mr. Metcalf and put her arm through his, as if they were old friends.

---Well!  Said Mr. Metcalf.   Perhaps we could go an have a drink and talk about this.   Chona coughed delicately.

---I'm very tired. Perhaps we can another time. It was true. The excitement and the nervous strain were beginning to tell. 

Mr. Metcalf gave her his card. 

---Call me and I'll arrange for an audition.  They were standing out side on the boulevard. Can I get you a taxi?

On the way home Raquel and Chona could hardly believe their luck.  Forgotten was Mr. Walsh. Forgotten was Dolores del Río. Forgotten was "The Movies".  She would appear on the stage!  That's where the real magic was. Hollywood was too stereotyped, too precious. At the Million Dollar the Mexican audience knew their performers, and those who did not measure up were told in no uncertain terms to go home. A performance before such and audience was more of a dialog, with people shouting encouragement  or unruly criticisms if they felt the performer was wasting their time. If the performers found approval from the audience, they could never hope for a more fiercely loyal following. This was real life. This was a real challenge. Raquel welcomed it.

Raquel decided on "La Borrachita.". Lázaro Suarez  from La Alondra agreed to be her pianist. She had done it many times before, but they rehearsed tirelessly to get it right. The song was nothing by itself --- it hinged on timing and interpretation. From the moment stumbled on the stage, "drunk" she knew she had the attention of Mr. Metcalf, the director and several of their friends sitting in their seats for the audition.

                    Borrachita me voy
                    Para  la Capital . . .

It was funny, but with an underlying sense of gravity. Raquel was indeed drunk, with herself. All she wanted was a chance to show off.  She strutted, she stumbled, she hiccuped, she showed her legs and promised everything with her dark eyes. There was a moment of silence, and several people clapped, among them the stage hands. Raquel knew that in the género chico she was where she belonged.

Mr. Metcalf took her into the office to sign the contract. A three month contract with an option! This at last was a real chance. La  Alondra was all very well, but people ate and drank  through her songs and many didn't bother to listen. At the Million Dollar she would be watched carefully--- people came from as far away as New York and Mexico City  to scout the talent. The audience was serious, and had to be earned. She threw her arms around Mr. Metcalf and kissed him in delight. Mr. Metcalf kissed her back, and held her in a tight grip. Startled, Raquel pushed him away, and he instantly released her.

Mr. Metcalf was a good businessman, and he was considerate of his performers. As a young boy he had been stage struck by a performance of Eva La Galliene, but knew always that he would be too terrified to ever get on the stage himself. Still, he wanted to be around performers, and his life became the musty back stages of countless theaters around the country. He was not out to cheat actors,  nor to get rich, although he now made a comfortable living. He genuinely wanted to nourish new talents and see them blossom. Raquel sensed this, and placed herself in his hands, taking his advice, listening to his criticisms. She subordinated her ego for the good of the show. It made her easy to work with, and developed a sense of trust that she would, no matter what, be a professional. Her performances improved, and her timing became impeccable.

Mr. Metcalf had an idea. They would mount  a major production, Latin Revue. Mr. Metcalf felt it was time to raise the prestige of his productions, and with Raquel he had found the ideal instrument. The first half would be the usual vaudeville, the mariachis, the clowns, the jugglers, the magic act, the performing animals. Then came the real production, as impressive and lavish as anything in the most legitimate theater, but with some of the dances  scaled back to show  Raquel off.   If it went over, they could take it on tour. "Charles Metcalf  Productions presenta  la vedette Raquel Durán." It would be sensational! Straightaway he set about looking for a conductor that could do it, and found a young Cuban composer Miguel Garrido, who had specialized in Latin music at the Conservatorio de Liceo in Barcelona.  Rehearsals would start in two weeks.

They had become lovers in the normal course of things. In a funny way, Eduwiges's death had given Raquel permission to go ahead with her life, to shed the last restrains imposed by profirista ideas. Mr. Metcalf had pulled down her underwear and sat her on his desk the first time, and Raquel held on tightly to him and pushed against him as he penetrated her. Raquel did not feel she was doing anything wrong, because she had long ago made up her mind that she wasn't going back to being a housewife.  Indeed, not having a lover meant, in a sense, not succeeding. She was aware of a certain legend growing around her, manifested by the deference shown by others, a deference which allowed her to become a star offstage as well as on. After that Mr. Metcalf's office was more her home than her own living room.

Chona pretended to be unaware of these developments, but she saw the changes  in Raquel's face from the first day. Raquel had gone home to the house in Bunker Hill and was cross with everyone, for in spite of being sure she had  made the right decision, she could not help but feel she was betraying her  family, and tried to somehow blame them for it. Richard looked at her and said nothing. He was tired of trying to keep up with his mercurial wife, and was happy enough  letting her have her way.  More and more he took over the duties of raising Lauro, who was soon to enter junior high.

Mr. Metcalf taught Raquel  to assert herself. It was fine being a compañera, but she was the star and no one could challenge that and get away with it.

---Don't sell yourself short, he would say. People respect you if they hate you a little.

Raquel blossomed into a figura. She became a woman. Mysterious, a little intimidating, gracious.   Raquel's existence had shifted from being a wife and mother who sang in a night club, who had tried to ingratiate herself with the public, who brought in  much needed money, to someone who lived in the theater and saw only theater people. She started inviting them to the house, where Richard, cordial at first, stood around sullenly in the background as the theater folk joked and performed and made indecent comments which he didn't like. (They secretly gossiped that she was a witch, and that she had a coyote for a medium). Her family ceased to be, and her family became the mariachis, the clowns, the dancers and singers who lighted up the night sky and illuminated the lives of the teamsters, plasterers, hotel and furniture workers  seamstresses and construction workers who were her audience.

Nevertheless, Richard at some point had had enough. He spent an afternoon at a bar near the Million Dollar and when he had worked up sufficient courage walked into a rehearsal, brandishing a gun.

---Where is that son of a bitch?  He cried.  Come on out, you coward . Come on out Charles Metcalf. I'll teach you  to mess with me.

Raquel , furious, got off the stage and started toward him.

---Don't come any nearer,   said Richard, in anguish.  Don't come any nearer, or I'll shoot.

---What's the matter, said Mr. Metcalf, coming out of his office onto  the stage.

Richard aimed at him and fired, but the bullet spent  itself harmlessly in the heavy stage curtains. Then he  dropped the gun and turned on his heel and walked out in the warm glow of a setting sun casting long shadows on the nearby hills. He went home, satisfied,  and lay down on his bed and fell asleep.

Mr. Metcalf refused to press charges, and  turned everything over to his  lawyer to clear Richard of any responsibility, but not before leaking a blurb to the La Crónica (the editor was a friend of his) that took pains to inform the Million Dollar audience that a star had been born, one that men killed each other over, and that she would be making her debut in Latin Revue. The box office had been assured.

Raquel and Richard spoke little after that. Mercedes, upset by the coldness between them, talked to both of them trying to reconcile them, but to no avail. Richard had settled into a new role, of the man who goes to work and takes care of his child, and thereby has rights which he will not give up. Raquel had a new role, too---not even that of a star any more---but something greater--- a femme fatale. People who had read the paper spoke about her spitefully, as a loose woman who neglected her husband and child, an ambitious, driven woman who no one would admit into their home. But they could not stay away from the theater. When Latin Revue opened there was standing room only.

Opening night. That day she slept late, wanting to be as rested as possible, but it was an illusion, for when she got down to the theater el maestro Garrido had changed one of her numbers. Three of the dancers for the ensemble number had been caught in a raid at the Grand Central and were being deported, and in a frantic conference with Mr. Metcalf, they decided to give Raquel, after La Borrachita and El Manicero,  a third  solo,  to close the show, Fumando Espero, by Garzo y Viladomat. There was emergency scenery, long gauze drapes dropped down from the catwalks, exotic lighting, Persian rugs, the chaise longue. Raquel wore a long black hastily sewn sequined dress that barely covered her nipples, and a black and white satin  turban. She came out brandishing a long cigarette holder and sang about the green madness, the devil weed.
            Fumar es un placer, genial, sensual,
            Fumando espero al hombre que yo quiero,
            Tras los cristales de alegres ventanales,
            Y mientras fumo, mi vida no consumo,
            Porque flotando el humo,
            Me suele adormecer. . .

The tango held them hypnotized. Raquel had lowered it an octave from her usual voice, to make it more sensual. She slithered across the stage, a woman in the throes of passion, in a cloud of drugs and forbidden ecstasies, moaning for a man, to the point that every man in the audience, and a few women,  were ready to leap out of their chairs.

            Dame, el humo de tu boca,
            Anda, que asi me vuelves loca,
            Corre, que quiero enloquecer de placer. . .
            Sintiendo ese calor, del humo embriagador,
            Que acaba por prender la llama ardiente del amor.

The applause  rocked the house. Mr. Metcalf had ordered five huge bouquets of flowers to be brought up to the stage. Others too,  had sent flowers.  She had reached out to the audience and curled them around her little finger. She manipulated them like a magician,  now you will listen with bated breath, now you will laugh, now you will scream "more" and stamp your feet. And they did her bidding. Some had come to see a publicity stunt, but instead they saw an artist, a perfectionist in full command of her technique, someone from their own ranks that expressed the best that they had, and they simply handed her their hearts.

Raquel looked out at the smiling faces and saw herself.  She realized that it wasn't money, nor fame, but the raw communication with her own people,  that sustained her and made her face the future unflinchingly. She would never go back.

Latin Revue lasted six months. Week after week Mr. Metcalf and el maestro moved it around, changed it, polished it added, subtracted. Raquel kept up with all of it, ready to work harder, ready to go on, sometimes with just hasty last---minute instructions. They added lines and a plot. They had developed a genuine musical theater. She hardly saw Richard, Lauro and the others. Mr. Metcalf started taking her to dinner at the Beverly Hills and the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador. One night Dolores was there and Raquel walked over to say hello, as an equal. Dolores smiled and invited her to sit at the table, but Raquel demurred. She explained that she was on her way home, because she was appearing in the review and it took all her time and energy.

---Yes, I've seen it in the paper,  said Dolores in English. 

---I'd love it if you could come,  answered Raquel graciously, also in English.

Dolores did go. Raquel's hair dresser swooped into her dressing room and practically dragged her to the peep hole in the curtain. There sat Dolores del Río, in a peach silk dress with little shoulder straps, smiling at something her escort was saying. That night Raquel gave what was probably her best performance.

It was the last night of the Revue. Raquel said goodbye to her public that meant more  to her than her own family. They gave a her a standing ovation that lasted thirty  minutes. Awash with tears, after acknowledging "the great artist sitting in the audience," she  made a speech how she would always carry them in her heart, wherever she went, but she would always come back to this theater, the theater that where she had been born, and the people she loved. That speech alone gave her another 10 minutes of "bravos".

Mr. Metcalf had chartered a bus, while the scenery was to be sent by rail. They were going to play in the Spanish---speaking areas — Phoenix. El Paso, San Antonio and Chicago. Chona, strangely, had refused to go, and Raquel felt a certain rebuke in her attitude. In Chicago, she opened at the Hotel Sherman. There was a reception afterward, where all the Latin businessmen and hangers---on attended the great event. Raquel, arriving late on purpose, made a stellar entrance. Carlos Begnini, a banker from Argentina in town on business, pressed her leg against the table and begged her to come to Buenos Aires with him. Raquel was enjoying herself.


After Raquel left on her tour, Richard found he had more time to pursue things that really interested him. At the hospital he had met a man named Smiley Jackson whose ideas made him think of the Kaweah Colony. They spent many of their breaks together, and a genuine friendship developed. Smiley had that lanky frame and freckled skin of so many of the early settlers that Richard, however  dimly, remembered. They spoke of working conditions, and low salaries, but most of all they spoke of a system that used people as items to be manipulated, not as human beings with needs that had to be satisfied. Raquel had saved a considerable sum to put in Richard's account while she was gone, for the house expenses. Richard spent   his free time going to political meetings.  

With the great depression, Los Angeles has the greatest number of unemployed in California. Richard had come  to  understand  that not only certain kinds of jobs, but certain homes were reserved for Mexicans   while others were reserved  for Anglos.  In Lynwood, for example, houses were "restricted."  Almost all the good jobs were reserved for the gringo. With almost two million Mexicans already in the U.S., the government reduced the granting of visas by 97%. Smiley took him to meetings of  La Federación de Votantes, which worked to try to get residents without papers the right to vote.

Richard also took on the responsibility for his son. He kept up his drawings in the hope of returning to the movie industry, and Lauro sat with him, quietly drawing also. From a early age Lauro showed talent, and could make portraits and figure drawings that were impressive in the accuracy and sweep. They seemed to come out of nowhere. The sensitive boy would sit quietly for hours, drawings things out the window, passers by, almost as quickly as it took for  the person or animal to appear and disappear. He could capture movement.

                    END OF PART TWO


The death of Mella signaled the advent of the old---guard reactionaries coming to power. They had had enough of the rhetoric of "helping" the poor and the peasants. Even though those were the very people who had fought the Revolution, and now demanded the fruits it bore, the ruling class  was clever enough to let social progress stand for a few, and demagoguery for the rest. Calles persecuted the religious countryside in the name of secularism, but  in reality to transfer lands from the Church to the new landowners. The poor remained poor. Persecution of communists and other social forces began in earnest, and many fled for their lives.

In Spain, (where Tina had gone, it was learned later, to help the sick and wounded  in the Civil War), the last gasp of radicalism played itself out. The anarchists firmly believed that violence had to be met with violence,  but they were not able to realize that a ragged bunch of volunteers and peasants were no match for the support  the Wehrmacht gave to Franco and his forces. Dogmatically, they refused Stalin's help in defeating fascism and were reduced to quarreling among themselves, to the point of sabotaging the coalition in Madrid. Cárdenas signed the order for hundreds of Spanish orphans to seek sanctuary in México, where the new government would feed and clothe them and send them to school and turn them into proper Mexican citizens.

When María Elena had become pregnant, she felt a tremendous fear, not because of the pregnancy, but because Arnulfo had disappeared along with so many of the comrades. Even though Lenin was taught in the public schools, Marxism was softened and tolerated as a mere tactic. Anyone who tried to bring about socialism in earnest was persecuted, in jail or sometimes shot. María Elena felt herself very much alone in Mixcoac, where she wound up living. She wrote to Raquel and asked for help, and Nicolasa did what she could to help her in her gestation. She vomited in the mornings, something she hated more than anything in the world, but on the other  hand her skin became flawless, her breasts grew, and she became more beautiful than ever. The naturalness of her features made her look good without makeup.

If it's a boy, I'll name him Marcos, she thought.
Otherwise, life went on as usual. When she was able she would shop at the canal de la Viga, a leftover from the Aztec empire, get cheap goods in Tepito, stand in line for carbón to cook on the cement grill in her kitchen, as she had no gas. A  fireworks factory exploded and killed several people, while scattering ash all over the house.  There was no help for it but to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor. Once she was going through  her things and found the arrowhead from Cholula, and clutched it to her breast, wondering what it would be like, to open her veins with it. The moment passed, and, her eyes hot with tears,  she put it away carefully, aware of its sacred significance.

Things got better after Marcos was born. Now she had company, she had a reason. She loved to play with the little boy who responded to her with smiles of joy and clapping of hands.

---Animals are not afraid of him, she would tell her neighbor, Mrs. Morales. He plays with them as if they were children his own age, she laughed. She felt that Marcos had something of Saint Francis, since animals would gravitate to him without fear.

---All he has to do,  she said proudly,  is put his finger  out and a butterfly will land on it. They seem to know he will not hurt them.

Mrs. Morales had a double sink out doors to wash clothes, and María Elena got into the habit of washing together so they could talk. On weekends, Marcos hung on  her skirt, listening to every word, and learned about the world.

Mrs. Morales was very proud of her Jaimito, and María Elena never contradicted her, feeling sorry for Jaimito, who may have been  the light of his mother's life, but who was intellectually unremarkable. She did not parade Marcos's brilliant observations.  Mrs. Morales uneasily confided in her about how her Jaimito had taken a garter snake and cut off its head so he could squeeze out all its insides, like a sausage.  María Elena said nothing.

Mr. Urquizu knocked around the corner of the sotehuela, coughing delicately. He went into a long story of how his wife had been sick, and finally she died, but they needed to complete the amount  so they could call the hearse to take her away. The two women went into the house to see how much they had in their purses, hoping somehow that it would be more than  they knew it to be. Mrs. Morales had three pesos and María Elena about seven, with some change. "That woman has been lying in their bedroom for two days, with the husband and the children sleeping on the floor in the living room", hissed Mrs, Morales in an undertone. María Elena, shocked, took every cent out, and Mrs. Morales did likewise. María Elena had planned to get tortillas, but she told her friend, Never mind, I have some old dry ones, we"ll make chilaquiles for supper, and gave Mr. Urquizu the entire amount With great dignity Mr Urquizu accepted the money and turned down the vecindad to knock on the next door.

María Elena  had gotten a job downtown in a laundry and dry cleaners, where she had to work the huge steam iron, the size of a table, and turn out perfectly ironed  sheets, dresses, suits. Any button, bead or sequin that was missing, even if the article had come in that way, had to be replaced, and the tension made María Elena desperate, because she got paid by the piece, and having to examine the clothes and repair them delayed her. It was hot, exhausting work, and when she took the streetcar down avenida Revolución to go home she prayed for a seat, or at least a strap to hang by. Sometimes she felt she was going to lie down on the floor of the streetcar, she was so tired. Out of her salary she had to pay Mrs. Morales a few pesos to look after Marcos, who was already five  and looking forward to starting school the following year. At least he would be looked after there. She pulled the cord as the car neared Extremadura, and got off in a tumult of people. She wondered whether she should try to walk to the market, but decided against it. It was already getting dark and she was anxious to get home. 

When she arrived at the  house she noticed that the neighbors were standing around in little knots. María Ordoñez came running up as soon as she saw her.

---It's Marcos, she cried, a dog bit him and he might have rabies. María Elena felt all the blood drain from her face. Where is he? She cried, rushing to Mrs. Morales's house.

Marcos was sitting on the bed, his hand bandaged. A dog had walked quickly down the street, and Marcos, remembering his mother's remark about Saint Francis, held his hand out in greeting. The dog looked neither left nor right, but snapped at him and broke the skin, and kept on walking with his head down, swinging it from side to side. As soon as Marcos saw his mother he began to cry. María Elena held her head, thinking she was going crazy. What happened, she asked, her voice weak with fear, tears streaming down her face. He would die, her baby.

 She held him tightly as she carried him out the door to her house. Someone had called Dr. Sosa, the neighborhood doctor, and he was walking to her door as she arrived. Dr. Sosa looked at the hand and told her gravely that he would have to have anti---rabies shots. Twenty shots in the stomach, one a day for as many days.

---Will that save him doctor, cried María Elena, calmer at the prospect of a cure.

---We will only know after a few days. If we could find the dog we would know for sure.  I'll make out the papers. You have to go downtown to Salubridad.

María Elena thought quickly. She would have to stop going to the laundry for twenty days! Either that or she would have to take Marcos with her.

That street dog gave the world to Marcos. He saw the elegant gardens, with their fountains playing, the street vendors, the movie theaters, the palaces--- and then, grandest of all, the Zócalo, the ancient buildings with their rumbling  pyramids below. Gold was buried  there, and human bones. Something in the tezontle reached out and held him tightly. The rarefied air, the dusky churches, the National palace, held him fast and claimed him as one of their own (Niño Perdido, the Street of the Lost Child, terrified him.) Marcos in his daily trips learned lessons the he would never forget.

The people were there much as they had always been, women with a born grace, making a fuss over the little boy,  hugging him and kissing him as if he were theirs. The men, smiling with perfect white teeth as they worked in construction or sold goods in the markets. Children his age, already working at their mother's side, arranging the garapiñados or the elotes in attractive  piles for sale. The organ grinders, the clang of the streetcars, all became a part of his world, his amniotic fluid in which he lived and breathed. The doctor injected him in the stomach, and María Elena was proud of him because he never cried, never realizing that the huge needle held him in a state of coma, but then it was over it was time for ice cream under the arches of the Hotel Majestic. Then María Elena would take him to the shop, where she had begged the gachupín to let her take him, promising that he would be no trouble, arranging him some blankets on the floor in a corner where she could watch him. Then at two Mrs. Morales would come for him, to take the long ride back down Revolución to keep him at her house until María Elena could come home after dark.

Marcos recovered fully, and hung around his mother's skirts again as she and Mrs Morales did their washing in the sotehuela. In this way he absorbed all the gossip. La Madre Conchita had been sent to las Islas Marías for her part in the Obregón assassination, Cárdenas gave titles to peasants on their land. La niña de las planchas, in a fit of anger and jealousy ironed the vagina of her rival. Marcos understood nothing, but he felt included and it gave him a warm feeling of importance.

---She killed him while he was asleep, said Mrs. Morales, talking about a famous case,  "la tamalera de Atzcapotzalco."

---Well what did he expect, countered María Elena. He was a drunk and he beat her senseless.

---I know, but to boil him all night and make tamales out of him, and sell them,  is's a little too much.

---I guess she was trying to get rid of the evidence. It didn't work, though. Some of the bones were too big and somebody found them.

---She must have been insane, poor woman. It just shows how desperate some people can get with a life of poverty.

---That's nothing. I remember some woman who took her two babies and jumped from one of the luxury hotels on Reforma because she couldn't afford to feed them. It was in the paper, said María Elena, depressed.

---What an irony, remarked Mrs. Morales.

One day, María Elena  saw a woman at the Post Office who she thought looked like Tina, but when she smiled

and waved the woman turned and hurried away. She knew Tina had been in Spain, but now after the fall of Madrid, and the continuation of fascist power in her homeland, María Elena would expect her to be back among her friends in México. Still, this woman had looked a lot older. Her face was drawn and serious, one would think she was suffering some terrible malady.  The words "Mater Dolorosa" ran across María Elena's mind. María Elena was worried, wondering if she was mistaken, or she had seen a ghost, or if that was indeed Tina and she was in some sort danger and in hiding. Was she still persona non grata, she wondered.

Times had changed. Cárdenas had taken in the Spanish refugees. México had even opened up a refugee center in France where Republicans that were able to get out of Spain could go. Thousands  had jammed the French Embassy,  thousands more  had fled over the Pyrennées after the conquest of Cataluña. Everywhere you turned you were faced with people lisping the "Zeta", which María Elena found annoying at first. Overcoming her prejudices against Spaniards in general, reserving her hatred for the falange, she found that she liked the new visitors, strangers, who would eventually wind up as part of the fabric of México.  She found Meli on the street uncertainly asking for directions, and on an impulse took her to the café de chinos, and they became fast friends.  It was through Meli that she learned the details of Frente Popular Español based in México City, where thousands of Republicans, with their fist in the air, vowed to return to a socialist Spain.

Fleeing crop failure and starvation in Kwangtung, the Chinese had arrived to the  Mexican Pacific coast at the turn of the century. Liu Xi had gone to school, naturally, with the Mexican kids, some of whom were bullies and screamed at him every time they saw him, pulling their eyes into a squint.  ---Chino chino japonés, come caca y no me des, laughing riotously at the rhyme.

Liu Xi had endured it all, as his mother had endured washing other's people clothing, going from door to door. His father, a man with a knowledge of medicine, had opened up a stand of herbs and  occasional acupuncture, hot cups and massages, which he performed in the living room  of their cramped basement apartment on Allende. Slowly his fame grew, and the neighborhood passed through his expert hands, relieving, tension, pain, swelling, rheumas. Eventually his mother could stop washing outside the home and when the  miscelánea upstairs  closed, his father  rented it and was able to get a loan from the Chinese Benevolent Society in Tampico, along with his savings, to open it up as a  café. Tucked away behind Paseo de la Reforma, near Bellas Artes, Garibaldi,  El Teatro Iris and El Teatro Arbeu, the place was soon filled to overflowing with the after theater crowd, so that on week ends there was a line outside of people trying to get in. His mother and father long dead, Liu Xi, now Luís Liu,  had married a girl from the neighborhood, making sure they always had the best coffee, the best pastries and the lowest prices. The  menu was Chinese and Mexican antojitos.  As a concessions to Mexican late night snacking customs, he also offered churros and hot chocolate.

It was  at the café de chinos that María Elena saw Diego and Siqueiros and Revueltas sitting with a woman she did not know,  having a heated discussion.   Siqueiros had also just come back from  Spain,  as a Coronel, and he, too had greatly changed. Not only was that soft, dewy child---like look, which he carried into adulthood,  gone, he had hardened in other ways. The experience in Spain had thrown his ideas into sharp relief, and he had experienced firsthand how  ideological struggles, as well as combat, can lead to disaster when  there are elements who split and divide a movement.   He had become bitter at the loss of the Republic.
María Elena walked up to where they were sitting, but after greeting her and asking her to sit down, they scarcely noticed  her. Even so, Diego, ever the gentleman, carried a chair for her so she could sit with them, since the booths were only for four. They introduced  the woman, who turned out to be a friend of Tina's, and went on with their argument that seemed on verge of turning violent.

---I know what I'm talking about, David was saying, I was there! (This was a slap at Diego). Yes, at first the FAI and the POUM seemed attractive and revolutionary.   But the anarchists weren't able to rally enough people. They were too wild, to undisciplined, to disorganized. They had  to be neutralized. The Party became stronger, not weaker when they  kicked the POUM out.

---Of course tactics are important,  admitted Diego,  but you can't deny your own personality. You can't just follow orders like a robot. Don't forget the Basques wanted their own independence.
---Independence!  Exhaled Siqueiros furiously.  You're talking pure caca.  How can you talk about independence when you're in the middle of a civil war where everything depends on being united?  Those sons of bitches — referring to the POUM — made  it possible, by creating a diversionary tactic in Cataluña. for the franquistas to concentrate on Madrid.

Diego was visibly upset. He knew what Siqueiros was saying yet something in him resisted knuckling down to someone else's discipline. He himself  worked on his scaffold for eighteen straight hours at a time, forgetting even about food, but this was different.

Sensing blood, el coronelazo continued,

---The POUM became an open enemy of the Republic. Who else was the enemy?  Franco! That tells you everything. They  fought tooth and nail against the creation of a people's army, saying that the working class was going to come under the heel of the Communists.

---I agree the people have to be mobilized.  Diego countered.  I just feel there should be some internal democracy, that's all. It was Caballero, not the FAI that refused to arm the population.

---Well, you may be right about that, conceded Siqueiros. That was the problem. Caballero wanted to hold on to the Front at all costs.  And  that doesn't justify the POUM calling the Popular Front  the burgués party, and saying that they will bury them.

Siqueiros poured himself some coffee from the pot and took a bite out of his enchiladas suizas.

--- You talk about democracy. What democracy was the POUM trying to bring in? The FAI talks democracy but will shoot anyone who disagrees with them. And then they murdered  Roldán Cortada in cold blood! Of the UGT! What kind of democracy is that?  Start to think, Diego,  he pleaded.

María Elena felt that David's passion was motivated by his love and respect for Diego, but that respect was hanging in the balance.

---No digas pendejadas David,  broke in Revueltas.  The FAI and the POUM were against Franco and had the huevos to fight the falange with their fists if necessary. Not to mention the fucking Church.  Revueltas had brought a bottle of tequila in a paper bag, some of which he had poured into a water glass. He took periodic sips.

---That's another thing,  broke in Siqueiros, his voice rising. What makes you think you gain adherents  if you attack their most heartfelt traditions? You think they're going to support you then?

---We don't want superstitious and reactionary people on our side, said Revueltas,  taking another sip and dominating  the conversation, as Diego sank into a kind of depression.  Are you talking about unity at all costs? All you do is substitute one master for another. What good does it do to defeat Franco when then you come under the heel of Stalin? The Soviets  sent arms, money, personnel. You don't really think they did it out of the good of their hearts?

Siqueiros rose to his feet.

---You can't mean that it would have been better for the USSR to sit on their hands?  They acted heroically,  given their difficulties at home.  He stared at them, as if to say something more, as if he expected them to say something more. Then he turned , his face contorted, and walked out of the café.

---And now we have Trotsky in México, was his parting shot.

María Elena, upset, tried to change the subject by asking María Luisa if she knew anything about Tina. She told her story about the post office, but María Luisa said she knew nothing.

During the First World War, the Germans had approached  Mexican Patriotic organizations to support their side and in exchange give back the lands stolen by the US in case they won the war.  Now the civil defense committees organized patriotic demonstrations down Reforma in a decided rejection of Nazism. The Communists, backed by Mexico's support of the allies and the USSR, were back in full force. The University was alive with student agitation, and  Siqueiros and Diego and Frida were frequent speakers, there and at Bellas Artes. The golden shirted  phalangists had demonstrations also, but were soundly beaten  by workers and taxi drivers in melées in the Zócalo that left no doubt where the popular will was. The ideologies of the Second World War were being played out on the streets of México as well. Women entered politics and ran for office. Lombardo Toledano organized massive anti---fascist conventions. The peasants in the countryside seized the times and organized hunger caravans  to the capital.  Bus workers and telephone workers struck, only to be denied their benefits. The government hurried to appear to be on the workers' side and appointed union leaders that would give lip service to communist demands without hurting national and international corporate interests. It was the era of great fortunes inexplicably accumulated by politicians.

Groups of desperate peasants began to gather in the "friendship bracero program" to fill jobs left unattended by US workers who had joined the war. Marcos at eighteen, unable to find any work, talked it over with his mother and decided to go to California. After all, he had an aunt there, and although she was  on tour, he could stay with relatives he had never met.

It was not easy.  At the Ciudadela there were interminable lines, hours of waiting, IDs, fingerprints, medical exams, bribes, every day there was a new one.  They were made to take their clothes off, and were sprayed with DDT. Tearful partings as the braceros kissed their wives and children from the train, as if they too,  were going off to war.

Finally, their assignment came to meet at the Buena Vista Station and they were on their way under armed guards. One hundred thousand left that first year. The number eventually reached 4 million,  80,000 of which worked on the railroads.

The bracero program, he came to realize,  was designed to benefit  the US capitalist and the Mexican bureaucrat, on the backs of the workers, who were paid 30 cents a day. Ten per cent of their salary was held back for social security. They never got it. When they were no longer needed, they were sent back.

It rained most of the way. The moon had a halo around it on clear nights, a sign of cold weather. On the way they picked up other inductees, desperate peasants  ready to work in foreign fields. They slept on the wooden
seats of the train, shivering under their jorongos. At the border things did not go smoothly. Some of the men were not registered and tried to cross illegally. They were detained, although Marcos heard they had crossed anyway undercover of darkness.

The Bracero program was not welcomed by the US left. It made unionization  difficult by keeping wages at below minimum. Marcos was not allowed to get off in Los Angeles, but went  along with a  shipment of 1,500 compatriots assigned to pick fruits and vegetables  in Stockton. Slowly it dawned on him that he was no longer a person, but a pawn with no rights or freedom of movement. He was not allowed to work in industry. This was designed to keep the lower farm wages out of competition. He experienced racism for the first time in his life. He learned that in Los Angeles, newspapers began anti---Mexican agitation leading to the  round up of 600 youths in a series of "pachuco raids".


Arturo de Córdova. An ordinary man would get married,  have children, go to work to support them. Arturo was not  this sort. Arturo was too neurotic, too demonized. He would talk the girl to death, he would be an alcoholic looking  for a crutch, or an obsessive, paranoid husband. Things were never easy with Arturo.  Baroque films noirs that had more to do with crazy people in dungeons and convents that with Freudian couches. You just knew Arturo's closet was full of Goya demons from hell. 

Then there was Dolores. Dolores was so  prim.. She was "en el templo,"  hands clasped in anguish.  In this way she was like a dozen others, Libertad, Rosita, Marga.  There was something different about her, though, something undefinable. You knew there was something. She was an iceberg.  Where did all that passion come from, then? Lolita also had her secrets. 

María was at a movie downtown. Mércoles de Ceniza. Lauro bought his ticket that cost a quarter and went into the noisy darkness. María was being raped by a priest.

Later María started  screaming at some nuns. "Quite esas manos de allí." she snapped, slapping  their hands so they would let go of the car. "No me hable siquiera de ayudar a esas ratas," she told the notary that was riding with her in her limousine.

The movie painted the Church as a real evil. But at other times,  the nation  must reconcile its differences for the good of the country.  Lauro  ate his garapiñados, fascinated.

"Huele a quemado," María was saying. They were on a train coming from Veracruz. Hung from the telephone poles were the Cristeros, kilometer after kilometer. 

"Mira," said a fat lady to her long suffering husband. "Viste como estaban colgados?" The fat lady kept a running commentary on the movie, describing everything she saw and giving her opinions. Children ran up and down the aisle playing tag.

At Buenavista, María took Dr. Lamadrid's book at the checkpoint, knowing from his attitude he had something to hide. "Venga por él a mi casa," she said smoothly, as she used her salvoconducto to get through the check point. "She has connections with the government." said the fat lady. "Se lo va a coger." yelled out a pelado in the darkness, and his friends laughed. Lauro was annoyed, he was trying to concentrate.

Dr. Lamadrid came for the book, and the pelado was right. María made a play for him.  But it was not to be. A lesbian---like relationship with Andrea Palma, Arturo kissing his escapulario and saying "Yo soy sacerdote, Victoria." so he could give the last rites to the unfortunate prostitute dying in Victoria's bedroom, and the movie was over.

---Ayúdame, dios mío.

The taqueras were out in force. Lauro smelled the smells---  queso, chorizo,  chicharrón. His mouth watered. The chorizo might not be cooked enough. "Una de hongos y una de chicharrón." He made his way along the boulevard back to the house.


It was Christmas time. In the way peculiar to Southern California  during the season, if it was chilly in the morning, the sun was bright and it would be hot by noon. People were running around full of  Peace on earth, good will to men and  jingling bells. Tinkle tinkle as if they were expecting snow any minute. Lauro walked along Hollywood Boulevard, looking at the poster paint Santa Clauses and reindeer in the windows.

A man in his early thirties was sitting on a chair, on the sidewalk, poster painting the window for the holidays. Lauro didn't realize that he was staring, but stood, mesmerized, looking at  the veins on the other's  biceps as he reached out to put brush to glass. Lauro stood rooted.

---How ya doin, he smiled slightly, aware of the effect he was causing, and friendly about it.  Lauro fell in love in a moment. To cover it up, he became all business.

---That's a nice drawing, he said sincerely. The man had talent.

---Just trying to feed my family, he answered, buy some presents for the kids. Times are hard.

Lauro would paint windows also. Then he and his friend would be a team, and paint windows together. His fantasy saw them together, everywhere, painting, sharing, living together. Was he a good enough artist? There was only one way to find out. He rushed home and painted some Santa Clauses and reindeer as samples. The next day in a high fever he walked into one of the shops on the Boulevard.

---May I see the manager, please, he asked timidly, but emboldened by his vision.

The manager seemed interested.

---How much,  he asked.

How much indeed? He had no idea. Whom could he ask? Too much and he would be rejected, too little and he would be cheated, wasting his time and money for supplies. He felt resentful that the onus was on him, rather than the manager naming a price to see if he, Lauro, would accept it.

---Ten dollars, he said finally. Apparently this was  low, and the deal was on.

Lauro spent the next day or two happily painting windows. He painted the hardware store, and the beauty shop and the liquor store. A few days later, he spotted his love down the street painting a window. He walked over, his heart beating in his chest.

---Hello, friend,  said the other. He was not  friendly. He emphasized the word "friend" so that it sounded like "traitor". Lauro realized what he had done. He had betrayed him. He had undercut his man so that it was impossible for him to make any money. He had taken the presents away from the children. He had learned his first bitter lesson: everything you get takes away from someone else, just as needy.

Lauro never painted a holiday window again. 


The only thing that saved Lauro was that he eventually got  a scholarship at Chouinnard. Raquel  was happy to pay his rent in a small apartment on Alvarado so he could go to school without having to work, an impossible task. She had come over to see to it that the place was "decent" and to hang some curtains for him.

---They've already put some of my work up in the hallway exhibition at the school, said Lauro shyly. Maybe you can come and see it.

---Oh darling I'm so sorry. Im off to the South again, and I haven't anything ready. I still have to pack. Come here, darling,  and give me a kiss.

She engulfed him in a sea of fur smelling of Channel, and he felt her warmth. Perhaps she was so affectionate to make up for the times she was not around.

---Now if you need anything be sure to call your Dad, promise? Lauro nodded. You can expect your check in the mail around the 5th.

---And go by and see Chona once in a while. She's old and losing her eyesight. It would make her so happy if you went by. Promise? Lauro nodded again.

There seemed to be nothing else to say.

---Ill call a taxi, said Lauro.

Raquel turned and waved. She struck a pose, as if to fix her image in his mind. Then she was gone.


Lauro liked Chouinnard art school, but it was hard to make friends. Everything was  competition, and students who were your friends would turn on you suddenly if you got more recognition that they did. Lauro felt at a loss with all the squiggles and droppings of some of the work that was encouraged. His interest in art sprang from the Renaissance, and it was hard for him to adapt to modernist self---expression. His solid foundation in technique earned him praise among the teachers, but it dragged him down in the area of experimentation, he himself felt constrained by his own dependency of technique at the expense of  ideas. Even at that, he stubbornly refused to take the plunge and abandon himself.  He would see the Mexican and Central American laborers in MacArthur Park and knew that Jackson Pollock would be a joke to them. How to reach them? How to synthesize? The answers eluded him. Total freedom in art seemed a contradiction, because as soon as it was declared, it became obligatory and no longer free. If he painted for himself alone, no one would be interested in his art. If he painted for advertising, he would not be painting for himself. 

The anti---art. The constant search for innovation tired him, and made him wonder if he was really an artist. NEW NEW NEW! The slogans screamed out of the teacher's orifices. Innovate! Do it differently! Express yourself! Futurism!  Cubism! Dadaism! Expressionism! Surrealism! Existentialism!  Pop! Pour some sand on it! Glue some Coca Cola caps on it! Do it upside down! Make money, genius!  NEW NEW NEW! FUN! FUN! FUN!

Lauro felt he would simply like to draw something recognizable, and do it well. He felt his fellow students treated him with a combination of contempt and envy.

Since he was nevertheless  doing what he loved, he went to school with enthusiasm. He would arrive early for his first class, life drawing. He loved the vast  barn---like room  piled with easels. He loved the model, who would without a trace of shyness drop her robe and stand butt naked in front of the world. Sometimes the model would be old, sometimes fat, sometimes a man. For Lauro it made no difference--- there was nothing personal. It was the way the light fell, and the way the lines traveled, that interested him.  Being able to paint was being able to see, nothing more.

His paintings and drawings went up in the hallway, used as a gallery,  with frequency. When graduation time came he was named magna cum laude.  It was a satisfaction, but Richard was the only one who came to the graduation.

Even though they lived in the same city, they had not seen each other in three years. The distance was more than geographic. Lauro was shocked at how old his father looked. Stooped, with white hair, Richard  smiled and gave Lauro a congratulatory  hug. Lauro felt he was making an effort at being carefree, and that he was really in some physical pain that he was too proud to acknowledge. Lauro, in his intuitive way, saw regret, undefinable but ever hanging over Richard like a halo of warm air that suffocated  him.

It was Richard's treat. They would go to Clifton's cafeteria downtown.

Lauro enjoyed being with his father as two adults. There was an undeniable kinship, which made him feel close. There was just as much  unspoken  rancor on both sides, and the relationship remained frozen where it was. Friends and enemies at the same time.  Incomprehension and knowledge that was all too intimate. Lauro ordered the American food with gusto. It looked so pretty. When started eating, however, he became, as he always did, disillusioned at the flat taste of everything.

---Le falta chile, he told his Dad.  Richard smiled and drew some serranos out of a paper bag in his pocket.

---How well  you know me, laughed Lauro, digging into his macaroni. His father reached into his pocket again.

It was his turn to be shy.

---I got you this, he said.

It was an expensive  watch. Lauro was moved. Richard  no longer worked steadily, and this made his reliance on Raquel's willingness to provide  doubly painful. Lauro knew it represented a sacrifice. 

But even Raquel could not keep up forever. She had written from Montevideo that this was to be her farewell tour.

Raquel had bought a house in El Monte.  They had moved out of Bunker Hill, but  were still  living on a  hill with a view of the city. Chona hated that house because she could no longer climb the steps outside easily, and it was blocks away from the bus stop. She had let the house cleaning go, doing only the most  unavoidable work, and spent a lot of the time sunning herself and dozing on the porch, dreaming of the days

when she fanned the stove with an abanico and made her mouth---watering dishes.  She ate little now, and only something that was handy and didn't require much effort. Un taquito.

Richard for his part spent a lot of his time out back in a shed he had fixed up as a workroom, following his real bent--- making furniture. Chona would sometimes get confused and call him "Margarito." Richard would smile indulgently, not knowing who that was. Richard loved the smell and feel of the wood, the glue made from horse's hooves, which had to be heated up on a hot plate he brought in. Carving, sanding and polishing,  he was happy. He got occasional commissions for dining sets, and made enough to get by from month to month.

Lauro got a job in the Imperial Valley working for a small advertising company that wanted to promote agricultural products in the area. Completely unable to understand how the economy worked, he lasted a month. His boss, and the owner of the company, was named Buchanan.

---Those Mexican women  are beautiful when they are young, but they get ugly early, he would say, betraying his lust for the young females even as he rejected  the people as a whole.

Another time Lauro was asked to make a presentation to the clients.

---You have to be careful what you say, Buchanan cautioned, his pudgy fingers gripping Lauro's elbow painfully and steering him toward the meeting. Gillespie is a member of the John Birch Society.

His voice dropped reverently. The fat farmer with pretensions to advertising scratched his basket vigorously. Being a good ole boy gave him the affectation of familiarity. Gillespie, the Bircher,  was waiting, smoking a cigar and looking important.

Lauro gave his presentation, outlining the advantages of simplicity and effectiveness  of the design for the annual report. Gillespie puffed on his cigar and grunted. Bonnie, the secretary with the good legs, brought coffee, and the conversation became more informal.

---The Mall is doing a lot for the downtown area,"   ventured Buchanan, 

---It'll be all right as long as they keep the niggers and the Mexicans out, fumed Gillespie,  puffing on his cigar.

---The Mexicans work very hard in the fields,  countered Bonnie, as if talking to herself. 

---They don't mind, guffawed Gillespie.  They're built close to the ground. They work in that heat and it doesn't bother them, when it would kill a white man.

Lauro said nothing. He had been hinted at often enough that his job was hanging by a thread. Finally he broke his silence.

---I am Mexican, he said, with dignity. And,— he turned to Buchanan — young women get old early because the have to work at jobs that are too hard and pay only enough to stay alive so they can keep working.

The rest ignored him. That  afternoon Buchanan called him into the office and had him sign a paper that "agreed to disagree." He left immediately afterward.

Lauro went back to the  apartment he had ben staying in and packed his backs the next day and headed to the bus station, back home, back to East LA. As he looked out the speeding bus he mused rancorously at the houses that paraded by. White people  trying to keep everything picket---fence clean,  chopping down trees, planting cement,  soaking up water for lawns,  sweeping, sweeping, making everything neat and clean, but really vast and ugly.  Wooden houses, as if the Southwest were the English countryside  Flimsy houses that which needed artificial heating and cooling, that burned to the ground in five minutes,  rather than the adobe the desert provided.  He especially disliked the water guzzling lawns around him, as if they were foggy gardens, in the semi---desert they seemed like abominations, rarefied birds out of the ether, nurtured at a huge cost to save their precious feathered green blades.

In the background, dark Mexicans working in the fields, hungry, silent, working to the bone with their arthritis and their lumbago and their pesticide cancers.


Lauro was painting a large allegorical canvass of good and evil.  Inspired by Bosch, and the Catholic vision of hell, it could as easily have political implications.

---After all, said Lauro to himself the missionaries used pictures to indoctrinate the Indians, I can do no less.

He had smoked a joint and drunk a good amount of wine, and the paint on the canvass smeared and rivulated while his thoughts gripped him in a frenzy. He could hear the neighborhood boys outside yelling because they didn't know how to talk in a normal voice.  The cumbias blared from across the street in a deafening beat. This was the only way to paint, he thought. There are the evils of war — thalo and black and brown and ochre

— rivers of alizarin crimson blood, holocaust bodies of the homeless, and the rich ascending to heaven, coifed and manicured and literally above it all.

By this time, Lauro was drunk.

Here I go more wine, smear. It hurts it hurts and it feels horrible it hurts it hurts but anyway that's life------that's life------ no matter what you do it's wrong.  That's the secret of life, and so what  you do, you  just pick up and go on.  Slash, rub, strike.

I'm going to be an artist no matter what, he muttered. 

Lauro lit a cigarette and gulped down some coffee, which had become cold through his internal tirade

---I have been kicked in the stomach, insulted, thanks to men who didn't want to admit they were attracted to me, he went on to himself. But I don't care. I love the barrio. I love the fat women taking care of their kids, I love the winos, I love the upwardly mobile chicanos who 10 years ago were smoking weed in the back yard who now go around in suits and ties trying to "relate". It doesn't matter if they are in some government program, or are trying to get you to accept Jesus as their personal savior--------- they're still pájaros nalgones (con respeto) --------- they're  still my people. Being Latino is sweet, dog.

He felt that he had been had by the gringos. He had struggled constantly to try to belong, to try to be accepted to try to be successful and he had consistently been eliminated by a hostile society that didn't have a place for him nor for millions of others and with the last vestiges of wanting to belong stripped away from his soul he realized that he didn't need the despised ruling class that had coopted him,  that he had been right all along and that the emotional blackmail that they had used against him to try to keep him in his place, the pressures brought to bear to keep him unemployed and out of the system, to keep him on the defensive and silent, that these pressures were useless against his new found knowledge and he realized with a clarity born of a lifetime of experience of beating his head against the wall that he would win over them. 

Lauro threw back his head and laughed.

---They think they're  better than me, but I know something they don't — we're  all different and we're all the same.



On the plane Raquel reflected on her life. She was not given to introspection, but  as she got older she began to wonder what she was doing. She had given up her marriage and her child, something she felt guilty about, but she rationalized it as being for the best. They wouldn't want her around if she made life miserable for them, and she made sure their material needs were taken care of. She  felt  that she was helpless, that circumstances (was it fate?) took hold and she had no choice but to go along. She recalled that day of her quinceañera, and Doña Ramona. Even then she rebelled against being forced into a conventional marriage. 
---My God, she said out loud.

How long ago was it? Everyone she knew of the Hermosillo time, except Chona and Jacinto, was dead. María Elena had died while Raquel was performing  in New York  and she was unable to get to the funeral. She didn't want to think about that. The only thing she felt was that she belonged to large numbers of people who were made happy by her talent. She had triumphed, and she was at the top of her form. It satisfied something deep within her, something in her marrow, something in the depths of her vagina. She did it because she could not do otherwise. She hadn't chosen her life; it had chosen her. Now the company was starting its South American tour. She looked around the plane, most of which was taken over by members of the cast. They were performing something from each country; tango, ranchera, even the music of the Incas on traditional flutes and fifes.  Raquel had  three numbers, all of them sure fire hits, all of them signature pieces.  Her favorite was "Fumando Espero" with which she hoped to wow the porteños. She was excited at the prospect, and nervous. She knew how snobbish they were, but she also knew that she had the soul to sing it. Gone were the days in which the troupe had performed on cracked, sloped stages which threatened life and limb. No more performing in dusty towns where people had never heard of them and few cared or came. Even though the Latino presence in Hollywood had waned after the War when  their loyalty was no longer needed, each day performers and audiences became richer and more mature on the stages of the barrios from Patagonia to El Paso and Los Angeles. La Compañía Raquel Durán had become a force to be reckoned with. On the long plane ride to Venezuela she looked around at the musicians and dancers traveling with her, at the producer Warren Wexler, long Mr. Metcalf's replacement, at the dancers, sleeping on each others' laps, at the charanga player Roberto with his huge nose and long hair, at the girls interminably fussing with their make up. This was her family. This was where she wanted to be. She had no regrets, because she had no choice. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.

In Caracas — the city of red tile roofs— they performed at the Teatro Municipal. Raquel was struck by the beauty of the Plaza Bolívar as they went in to size up the stage. It was a first class theater and the management had filled her dressing room with flowers. They had supplied a costume woman, Maribel,  who was to manage her changes. She was an older, practical woman who had performed in vaudeville in her
youth. Raquel liked her instantly. They disappeared into the dressing room to go over the complicated costumes that seemed so simple on the stage. Now the stage hands had to go over the curtain cues and lighting. People were plinking  their instruments, which never ceased to annoy her. The actual rehearsal would not be for several hours yet, and it would go into the night with precious little sleep, since the performance was the next day and a final run through was indispensable. If you messed up the run---through, the performance was sure to be a hit. Raquel never asked herself what would happen if the final run---through was faultless. There was something mystical about it. It never was, and it was the opening performance, at least as far as the audience could tell, that always went without a hitch. Her business done for the moment, Raquel went out by herself into the hot sunlight of the Plaza.

She noticed an extremely good looking man at one of the benches, who looked up at her as she went by. His crispy hair and honeyed dark skin framed a full pair of lips, a bemba that seemed to have been drawn by a master artist. He had green eyes and the stocky build of the Venezuelan, although he was taller than most.  Wordlessly, she wandered to the center of the square and looked up at the grand equestrian statue, with its ill---bred pigeons,  reflecting on who Bolívar was and what  he meant. The  statue  seemed no different in many ways than that of Morelos or Villa or Zapata. She felt a twinge as she thought of Ramiro, the villista of the family, who had so rashly given his life. Tears sprung to her eyes. He had died because he refused to back down, because backing down would have been a betrayal, and that he would not do. It mattered not that his death was anonymous, known only to his family.  Millions had died anonymously, but  their blood had nourished the earth from which new generations had sprung.  Millions had died, in Mexico, in Venezuela, everywhere, giving their lives to be free of the colonial nightmare that never seemed to end. Like the Aztec sacrifices, many died so that others could live. She felt at home here. Her eyes wandered to a poster glued to the wall with flour and water. It was a peeling picture of Pedro Vargas, "The tenor of the Américas," who had been at the Municipal a week before. Raquel had made up her mind. There, before the statue of the Liberator, Raquel gave up her citizenship and became a Latin American.

The Cathedral doors were open, and Raquel went inside to collect her thoughts. Eduwiges seemed almost a palpable presence, cursing father Montesinos. What did it all matter any more? She had the performance to think about. The man, Rengifo,  had walked into the Cathedral and now sat down beside her. He pressed his leg against hers agreeably.

The performance was a hit. In a great flurry of activity, the president, Carlos Delgado, and his retinue had seated themselves  in the audience and Raquel was ready for the little Coronel golpista. In an unusual move, she stepped in front of the footlights before the raising of the curtain and waited for everyone to  quiet down. She greeted the president, humbly grateful for the honor of his presence, and hoped their modest efforts would please him and the people of Venezuela.

---Almost one hundred and fifty years ago, she continued, the liberator of América swore in El Juramento del Monte Sacro in Rome that he would never rest until our continent was free from Spanish domination. Yesterday I was at the feet of Bolívar outside— her eyes wandered to Pedro Rengifo sitting in the front row— and I realized that Bolívar is just as much my liberator as yours. We, too, have our heroes who are brothers and sisters to Simón and Manuela. In fact. There is no difference between us, the Mexicans, and you, the Venezuelans. Everything that we share is greater that anything that divides us. I dedicate our performance tonight to our América.

Before the applause could start the curtain swung open to reveal a rowdy joropo llanero, followed by a cumbia venezolana with dancers in full costume swirling in a dazzling display. The audience leapt to its feet and cheered wildly. Before the number was over the mariachis came on and played "La Negra" as a finale. After that, Raquel had the stage all to herself with her signature, Fumando Espero, and  closed the first half.

The next day, Raquel was the toast of Caracas.

The president sent twelve dozen roses to her suite. The newspapers called for interviews. She referred everything to Pedro Rengifo, her new secretary. It was Pedro who arranged a boat tour on the Orinoco, where time disappears.

Raquel was changed forever when she saw the Amazon. The jungle, the wild orchids, the carboniferous flora, the sense of going back to the age of memory. In her mind's eye she could see the fantastic birds, the cacao, the ferns, the vines, the ocelotes, the caimanes lazying on the shore,  the swarming tangle of undergrowth. As she was looking over the boat railing in the twilight at the dark green—almost black— vegetation sweeping past, an old Indian woman on the river boat, who was  selling arepas smiled and came up to her.

---My granddaughter read about you in the paper, she said shyly. I liked what you said about our countries, but you didn't go far enough.

---How's that? Asked Raquel, surprised.

---Your body and the earth are the same. Look— she gestured with her hand — trees, water, animals, all the same. No one is eternal, but all of us together are eternal. That is the true meaning of solidarity.

Raquel light a cigarette and listened to the river breathing. She seemed to see the old Yaqui woman who had appeared to her on the eve of her quinceañera. She stared at the old woman next to her and looked at the fine lines that cris---crossed her face into a kind of map of life. She was as much a part of that as she was of the desert, because it was all one land and it was all one people. The Yaqui grandmother, the Sephardic
grandfather, the matorrales, the cacao plantations, the corn spread throughout this great and awesome Abya Yala, the universal mother, were all a part of this continent equally, and she could move from one other with the ease and assurance that reflected this. It was her land, too, and they were her people, too. By leaving, she had come home.

Smiling, she bought an arepa and ate it. 


Pedro Rengifo became her escort  everywhere, and she fell in love to the point of arranging his visa to accompany her to La Habana, their next stop. When the steamer docked at Regla, student followers of Chibás were demonstrating  against the dismantling of the transportation system and  against the gambling houses.

The Minister of education of president  Prío Socarrás, Aureliano Sánchez,  and Senator Eduardo Chibás, from the Cuban People's party were veering toward a showdown. Chibás had accused the minister of siphoning off the lunch money for the schoolchildren and buying land in Guatemala to build a palatial mansion on. The papers were full of the scandal, and all of Cuba waited with bated breath to see what the outcome would be.

With demonstrations in the streets, at the Teatro Fausto there was talk of calling the show off.

Then Raquel had an idea.

Calling the group together, she put forth her proposal.

---We'll have a free performance for the students. This will help get them off the streets and give them a forum so they can express themselves.

---We shouldn't get involved in local politics, objected Roberto.

---Pooh! said Raquel. Its just a performance with a chat afterwards. They can't do anything about that.

The cast  digested this, unwillingly.

---Of course, she went on, encouragingly, it will be great. Leoncio, she turned to her pianist, do you know Dulce Quimera? She hummed a few bars. Can you get it ready in three days? Well put on a skit of Cecilia Valdéz, the tragic mulatta and then have questions and answers from the audience. Students only. You'll see. It'll cause a sensation!

---Vendo caramelos, she sang, strutting about  to the amusement of the others. That mulatta was a wild and free and voluptuous, she said, self---assured.  The scene at the dance with the Negroes, and the drums.  Some brujería. Then Leonardo's treason, and her revenge as he falls dead at her feet on the steps of the church, and she is take away in chains. Then we can release a bunch of doves during the finale, at least for opening night.

---It's grand opera! she cried, whirling about. It will be stunning!

Aside from the shock of hearing that there would be a free performance, Warren thought there could be nothing else to surprise him, but he was out of his depth. Raquel Durán had taken over not only on the artistic side, but had gotten into his business. He sulked about not knowing what they were talking about half the time, and became a rancourous shadow that people paid attention to out of politeness.

Everything went as planned. The students, curious, began filing in around two in the afternoon. Raquel had prepared a dialog emphasizing the power of the  slave master over the low---caste girl, who unbeknownst to all except himself, was his daughter,  and it was surefire with the students whose sense of injustice was sharply honed. Raquel had hastily hired some local rumba dancers for the slave scene, and when she came out in her white dress, almost transparent in front of the footlights, with her black wig floating out behind her in a curly cloud, she looked more beautiful than ever, and she received an ovation.

Afterwards she sat on the stage with the house lights up, wig off and chatty,  and asked the students to speak.

Their complaints came tumbling out.

---They have been shutting down streetcars so that everyone has to buy a car to finance the American oil companies, shouted one excited young man.  How can we afford a car? The streetcars  worked just fine, but they mounted a campaign saying they were inefficient. Now they put in buses that pollute the air and we have to buy gas and petroleum, repair parts and tires from the Americans.

--- Chibás is supposed to debate  Aureliano   in a couple of weeks, and he is going to denounce the corruption.

---They won't let him, said a girl in a white blouse. He already had to sign papers promising not to mention the government.

---They're calling him all kinds of names, saying that he is a coward. Some coward! He is the only one with the cojones to break the silence. No one else dares to criticize the government, let alone talk about corruption.

A round of spontaneous applause broke out for their hero Chibás.

The evening wore on until Pedro Rengifo signaled to Raquel that they had better cut the meeting short. Such meetings could be considered illegal and the outcome could be regrettable for everyone, and more than anything, for the show.  Raquel thanked the students for coming and asked them to tell their friends and relatives to come to see the performance, but this time "hard cash would be needed to enter."  The students laughed and thanked her, and gave her a round of applause.

The following days Raquel was too busy to think. The rumba dancers  became a permanent part of the show, and their popularity assured a full audience while at least allowing time for the others to rest between numbers. But Raquel could not rest. Caught up in the moment, she honed the play and made subtle changes to suit the current situation.

A man in a tight suit and with a cigar in his mouth knocked on her hotel door. Thinking it might have some official connotation, Raquel was at her most charming. The man, whose name she never learned, invited her to the Hotel Nacional for an interview with a highly placed government minister, also unnamed.

---El ministro  has the greatest admiration for your talents, said the man, and is extending an invitation for dinner with a few friends.  Intrigued, Raquel accept the ride in the waiting limousine.

As they drove along the Malecón, Raquel wished she had brought Pedro Rengifo along. Nervously, she wondered if this had anything to do with the  performance  for the students. She felt reassured when the limousine  turned into the driveway of the splendid hotel.  Crossing the elegant foyer with its regal furniture and plush carpeting, she was herself again.  When the door of the suite on the seventh floor opened, she saw several girls and men in a state of undress strewn about the Louis XV couches, opened bottles of rum and unused lines of powder on the table. All had passed out from their excesses.
She turned in a fury toward the man, who was now smiling at her.

---How dare you bring me here to see your mother's whores! She screamed, turning on her heel and striding out of the room, almost colliding with a waiter who was bringing a tray groaning with lobster, venison and fresh raw oyster dishes covered with silver lids. Do you know who I am? The management will hear about this. Wait into it gets into the papers she fumed  and wheeled to face him.

---It was a mistake, stammered the man. They gave me the wrong date. Please let me make a new rendez---vous. My boss will kill me.

Go rendez---vous yourself, shouted Raquel  as she headed for the elevator. Her anger had made her throw caution to the winds.

Back at her hotel in El Vedado, Pedro scolded her rashness.

---The very idea, she said indignantly, I was going to complain to the management.

---It's a good thing you didn't, countered Pedro Rengifo. Don't you know that Meyer Lansky practically owns the Nacional?

Raquel remained silent. She had heard of the Mafia, and the scandals with Maureen O'Hara and Ava Gardner. Once again, she was grateful that her ambition to become a Hollywood star had not been realized.

After that Raquel was more determined than ever to continue with Cecilia Valdéz, which had been heavily criticized by some papers.  She had been made to feel used, and she brought new emphasis to the production of the girl whose future,  selling fish on the dock, if she was lucky, had been predetermined at birth. The ease with which the slave owners used the women as they pleased enraged her, and did not seem much different from the Mafia presence in Cuba. As she made the production edgier, the parallels became more and more obvious.

The idea of doing Latin American heroines had caught on gradually among the cast members . They would do all the great females of Latin America as musical numbers, Cecilia Valdéz, Aurora Batista, María la O, Gertrudis Bocanegra, La Cucaracha, Sor Juana. Manuela Sáenz, on horseback, putting down armed rebellions at the point of a gun.

"If our peasants still have to beg for bread, how can we call ourselves free?"  sang Raquel, improvising a tune. Oh, the untold stories they could tell! The stories of this new Latin American nation and its female heroines. To say nothing of an opportunity to come out in gorgeous costumes and receive dozens of curtain calls.

---But you can't turn Sor Juana into a sexpot, objected Cirilo, the drummer. She's a nun.

---¿Qué no? Laughed Raquel delightedly. Sor Juana liked to have a good time as much as anybody. She gathered her skirts above her knees and flounced about, improvising a lilting Zarzuela piece.

                Hombres necios, (tan tan)
                Que acusaís (tan tan)

Leoncio pounced on the keys and improvised along with her.

                A la mujer sin razón
                Sin ver que sois la(tan tan)
                Ocasión de (tan tan)
                De lo mismo que culpaís!

The effect was a charming  chotis, and it earned her applause from the cast, which she acknowledged with mock flourishes and satirical hand signals to Rogelio that it was he who had brought  this hit to the world. In fact, the Sor Juana skit, with its chase kiss with the Condesa, eventually became one of her most enduring performances.

One evening a man approached her after the show and asked to speak to her. He wondered if she would be interested in seeing a Santería service. Raquel immediately concurred. This time she insisted in taking Pedro Rengifo with her.

They went to what seemed like a small country house in Guanabacoa. One end of the room had been set up as an altar. The proceedings became more and more heated as the spirits took over the faithful. Raquel watched in fascination at what seemed to be a very old culture. She could imagine these rites going on at the time of Zoroaster, which in turn came out of Cro---Magnon shamanism.

The Santero was a thin man about 40 years old, the color of bitter chocolate.  Apparently he had been "told" by  Agayú to send for Raquel after the release of the doves. He smiled, showing perfect white teeth, and asked her if she would like to have a Santo made for her. Taken aback, Raquel stammered that she would.

The babalawo sat cross---legged on the floor, threw the shells (caracoles), and murmured in Yoruba, Oba kosó kisi ekó akama sía okuni. Half landed on the left and half on the right. He read their content in a monotone.

---You will have to collect beads of different colors. You will have to wear exclusively  white for a year, you will then be called Iyawo, or novice. Your Santo will be Changó (Santa Bárbara), the guardian of impulsive natures, where only the red and white beads will be kept. The ceiba will be your sacred tree. You must be very careful of your son. You have a lot of light. You will spend a month on spiritual practice for the Santo to enter your spirit. Your name and birthday will be registered. Then you will have to tend to the Santo, by keeping its altar clean, and to make sacrifices to it, and he will take care of you. If not he will curse and you will die.

Raquel was on the verge of saying "yes" when she thought of the possibility of destroying her career if she neglected the Santo. How could she take care of it away from its birthplace? Nevertheless, she promised to start the collection of colored beads.

Apparently the Orichas were favorable, as Raquel went from triumph to triumph in her performances. She might have carried on indefinitely, since the Buenos Aires engagement hadn't been finalized yet, except for one nefarious act that changed everything.

Chibás committed suicide. 

The debate with Aureliano had been a trap. When Chibás arrived at the tv station, armed guards would not let him in, and closed the doors in his face. Aureliano then announced that Chibás was a coward who had been too scared to appear, and had run like a girl. The official press had been merciless toward him.  Ridicule, cartoons, hints he was queer, they threw the book at him. He was accused of attacking sacred institutions and threatened with expulsion from the Congress. Cornered, without proof of some of his declarations, did he break as they wanted him to? He was very popular and it would have been counterproductive to assassinate him directly— was the harassment geared deliberately so that he would take his own life? Or did he feel, in desperation,  that his sacrifice would galvanize the population into overthrowing the corrupt government?

On his last radio broadcast, he cried with passion, "The people of Cuba are on the march.  People of Cuba, awake. This is my last rallying cry."  He lifted the gun to his temple and shot himself. 

Raquel had become a task master, often losing her temper. After the Chibás episode, a pall seemed to hang over the company. Rosaura, one of the dancers fell in rehearsal. Several others missed their cues repeatedly.

---What the hell is going on? raged Raquel. Why are we standing around gossiping when we have work to do? Do you want this company to become second rate?

---Eleguá is trying to stop the Santo from happening, whispered one of the dancers to Raquel. Sometimes they are enemies.

---There's people watching us, said Rosaura. There were  men in suits and hats across the street this morning, and yesterday they were at the Casa del Pollo when we were eating. I recognized them.

---Are you sure they don't just want an autograph? extemporized Raquel.

---These men don't want autographs, said Rosaura. They mean business. I'm scared.

Then the articles in the paper started appearing.

"Who are these people— wrote La Prensa Libre— who come to our country pretending to bring our own culture to us? Are we so lame that we cannot put  on our own productions?  Don't be fooled by all their talk of brotherhood. What they want is to get rich and  leave Cuba that much poorer. Then they go on their way without a thought of the damage they have caused."

There were other articles in a similar vein. The gossip was caused by a popular rumbera, mistress of a government minister,  who felt that her opportunities had been limited by Raquel's success. This played into the hands of the government who was fed up with the company's close identification with the opposition. The men that Rosaura had seen appeared at the hotel and asked Raquel and Pedro Rengifo and Warren and a few others to accompany them. They were taken to an immigration holding facility in Tiscornia and questioned for several hours. Some of the dancers did not have union cards, and were not authorized to perform, as such, the company had broken the law. They were told in no uncertain terms to leave the country.

---But  that is ridiculous, said Warren. Surely they can get their cards approved. I want to speak to someone from the American Embassy.

---We don't have to give you any further  reason, answered the immigration officer politely. You can call the embassy if you like, but our laws are clear.

Warren called the embassy, but was unable to reach anybody. The connection was not working properly.

---At least give us time to pack our things, cried Raquel in tears. We have to arrange passage, everything.

Your passage is ready. All we need to know is your destination.

Three days later, most of the company left for Buenos Aires. In La Habana two weeks later the rumbera opened at the Fausto, and Raquel never made the Santo. Eleguá had beaten Changó.




---Get up, hija, it's market day.

Soledad was already awake. Fair day was always a thrill, a break from the routine. Her mother saw it otherwise. Fair day was a day of work, a day of chance. A day when they might come home with money or just rotting vegetables which they would have to eat themselves. Everybody, after all, had the same products to sell. And everybody would be there.

Zenaida went out into the garden and started picking the flores de calabaza, the verdolagas, the quelites and some corn that had matured until she had two heavy baskets full.  She paused as she looked at the few scrawny chickens in her yard. Should she take one? It would mean one less chicken and the money would soon be gone. Still, Efrén, her favorite, needed shoes. Maybe she could scrape enough  money together to buy from the vendor that came around once a week, or even at one of the stores in Tacámbaro, where there was so much to choose from she would get dizzy.

There was plenty to be done even before they started the two hour walk to Tacámbaro. Soledad automatically got the buckets and went to get water at the spring.

"Faustina,  come and help me get the water".  Faustina did not  want to go, she hated how the unstable water slopped and inevitably spilled. She hated to get up, although the sun was sending its first rays across the Cerro Gordo. Light was even touching the magueyales. It was getting very late. There would be no sales if they didn't hurry.

They politely greeted the neighbors as they passed, some of them going in the same direction for the water. Faustina saw her friend María Candelaria and ran off to join her as they walked.

---Tonta y despreocupada, hissed Soledad bitterly. She had to do everything herself, Faustina only pretended to help so she would not get a whipping. The boys, of course, did not have to do housework, they were the men of the family, although they were the youngest. Nevertheless they were needed to chop wood and to help in the planting when the uncles came by, since the family was fatherless.

Soledad thought longingly of her father. He had gone to El Norte to make money, and if she only knew, to get away from them. Don Crescencio was a  gambler and  liked the low life. He had gambled in every cantina in Sinaloa, Sonora, Baja California and some U.S. cities. He had made enough to eat, pay some sort of rent, buy his beer, and pay for one of the women who spent their time trying to relieve men of their money.  He had tried  to send money back once, and Soledad, who as the oldest had gone to school, wrote
back saying they had never received anything. That address was long out of date. He never sent money again. Desperate after a long dry period, he had marked the deck, and as a true gambler, gambled his life. He was discovered and shot and killed for his pains. The family never knew what happened. They just had to shift for themselves as best they could.

Don Crescencio had been a loving father when he had been in Las Tunas.  He  had been energetic in buying and selling whatever came his way. He had started a small business out of his troje, and the family had lived with merchandise piled up to the ceiling. Their bedding had to be put away every morning and taken out every night. All their belongings had to be packed in boxes and trunks so they could be put away neatly lest the neighbors see them strewn about and engage in the worst possible activity--- to gossip about them.

Public censure and ridicule were the glue that held their society together, and if someone left forever, or was banished, it was because "someone had talked about them".  Las Tunas was one big gossip factory, or so it seemed to the family, conscious of their lower standing because they did not  have a father and husband to protect them after he had left. The person gossiped about would be ostracized, whispered about, smiled at to their face, and generally made to feel second class.  While he was there, Don Crescencio and his  family did not  become the subject of gossip. His was una familia digna. There was a small whorehouse on the outer limits of the village, where the women knew all the men in town intimately, but never saw their wives face to face. Gossip was not about them. They were beyond gossip. They were never mentioned at all.

When times were good, as they inevitably were, Don Crescencio would go to Pátzcuaro, the big city, and buy clothes for his children. Nothing but the best for his little Soledad, real silk dresses and patent leather shoes. Then the family would line up in the small rural  church and be one of the leading families in Las Tunas. Soledad felt the joy of knowing that other girls her age envied her new clothes. She pretended to be modest about them, but inwardly she was getting hers back for all the slights that were sent her way at other times.

It had been a long time since she had heard of Don Crescencio, and when she reflected on it, she worried. In the meantime, it was time to wash, sweep the dirt floors, leave everything neatly (the rooms were nearly empty now), so the neighbors would have nothing to criticize, and set off for Tacámbaro.

Zenaida decided to take one chicken. At least it would bring in enough for a pair of the cheapest shoes. Efrén just had to tie a string around what he was wearing so they wouldn't flop and he wouldn't have to step on the sole bent backwards. She tied the feet of the protesting bird with a rope and carried it, upside own, while she arranged a basket on her back in a rebozo that held it steady while she tied it over her breasts.  Zenaida saw  once more,  how the chicken's eyes had gotten big and round, blinking like a creature out of control, but at the same time strangely calm.   Was it furious or terrified?  In any case it knew its fate. Soledad carried  the basket  and Faustina was given to carry a jar full of tejocotes that Zenaida had sneaked from a tree that was always considered by the neighbors to be theirs, but that Don Crescencio assured everyone
was on his property. By making them with cloves  in almíbar, Zenaida knew they would be attractive enough to sell.


Zenaida was in a good mood. They had made enough for another week, and even had a little left over. In addition to Efrén's shoes, she had tried to buy a rebozo for Soledad but Faustina set up such a fuss that she ended the argument by buying one for herself. She figured in her unsentimental  way that one rebozo was cheaper than two, and she would wait to get the girls something another time.

They had been up since 5 am, but the day was not over yet. The boys were sent out to collect firewood to save on their precious sack of coal that was more than halfway used up. When the wood had been lighted,  Zenaida fanned the red and blue  flames with a straw fan until the ocote  glowed and fell on itself, dropping white ash as it went.  Zenaida ground some tomatoes in the molcajete  and threw them into the cazuela over the fire. She put a cup of fried rice in with water and let it simmer. While Soledad and Faustina  made the tortillas, Zenaida cleaned and cut the nopales  and set them to boil. Some tomato, onion and chiles in the molcajete again, and the troje started to fill with appetizing smells. With some eggs mixed in, they would have a great dinner.

A discreet knocking at the door grabbed her attention. For a moment she was surprised, until she saw Don Heliodoro's face in its worn hat peering apologetically around the doorjamb.

Don Heliodoro lived alone, his sons had gone "p'al norte" and his daughters had married and moved away. He had been a brave and pugnacious young man who had stolen his wife and kept another in Acámbaro, and killed a man in a fight in a cantina, "La Esperanza," in Uruapan. He had worked from sun to sun, plowed fields,  broke in wild horses and hid out in el Espinazo del Diablo in tierra caliente when the police were looking for him.

Nothing was left of that man. Shrunken, wiry, with nut brown face framed by a  snow white beard, he was so wrinkled by the sun he  seemed about to shatter, He looked twenty years older than his 52 years.  He wandered around Las Tunas looking for odd jobs, his strength gone. The neighbors, out of pity, would give him small tasks and, almost as poor as he, pay him with food rather than precious money. The smell of cooking had caught his attention and he had decided to look in.

---What a coincidence, Zenaida could scarcely keep the sarcasm out of her voice.  Its nice to see you Don Heli. Come and eat a taco with us. 

Don Heli demurred.
---Come on, said Zenaida jovially, hiding her annoyance,  don't make me beg, and Don Heli graciously acquiesced.

They ate with their hands, in silence, tearing off pieces of tortilla and using them  as a scoop to shovel the food into their mouths. Their mutual hunger made conversation unnecessary. The candles flickered and threw shadows on the walls and the children felt comforted, at home, and safe.  Lázaro, the  dog, kept his nose and ears in expectation for any crumbs that might fall on the petates covering the dirt floor.

Finally, Don Heli wiped his mouth with his sleeve and Zenaida got up to put a small amount of coffee in the boiling water she had placed on the fire minutes before.

As if to repay her kindness, he began to talk of the old days.

---Yes I knew Don Crescencio well, he said. The finest man that was ever born. Strong as an oak. Good looking, too. He looked like Pepe Guízar. I remember one time we had gone hunting with a campesino from Paracho. Things were tough then. We had little to eat. The man, his name was Teopantitla, knew where there was a buried treasure. Some brigands had robbed the house of the viceroy, Juan de Acuña, and had escaped  to bury the treasure, but the viceroy's guards caught up with them and put them in irons. They refused to talk and the Viceroy himself went to them and cursed them, after which they were garroted. The treasure was never found. Teopantitla's grandfather knew where it had been buried and had told him about it--- under a yácata near the water. We dug all day and it was getting dark when we saw a blue light among the pine trees. Then we knew that was the sign. Teopantitla dug on the spot and his spade struck something hard. It was the treasure. Then Teopantitla leaned over the chest he saw all the gold and jewels of the Viceroy. But it was not to be. As he took a deep breath, the curse of the Viceroy entered his lungs, and he slid into oblivion. He never got up again. He lasted about four hours, foaming at the mouth, and vomiting. We had to bury him out in the Sierra. "

---Did you get the gold?" asked Zenaida, pragmatically.

---Qué va! We didn't go near that cursed money. The same thing would have happened to us. We got a deer, though.

Unwilling to be outdone, Faustina chimed in.

---Doña Hermelinda said that she was chased by a  nahual. It was in the form of a black sow. When she tried to walk back from Tacámbaro the sow kept crossing her path over and over. When she tried to go this way,

it crossed her, and when she tried to go that way, it crossed her again. People say that it was because her husband was putting the horns on her.

---Hush child, said Zenaida sharply. Son habladurías.

Efrén had his story, too.

---Fabián told me that Don Zeferino used to take a bath outdoors at eleven o'clock at night. His wife would pour the hot water into a portable tub. After he  died, when they had the wake in the troje, everyone could hear the water being poured outside at eleven, even though the man was dead inside the house.

---Uhhh,  shivered Faustina.

Zenaida was not to be outdone, either.

---Dona  Trini had a visit from her friend in Morelia. Doña Trini was in the kitchen troje, and her friend passed the bedroom troje, and the door was open, and she saw an old woman sitting there. When her friend went over to Doña Trini she said to her, "I didn't know your mother was still alive."  Doña Trini looked at her.  "My mother died 3 years ago," she said.  They went to look but there was no one there.

---Sometimes when I'm in the kitchen troje I hear sobbing in the bedroom troje,  added Zenaida.

---I used to know a family in Paracho, continued Don Heli. Their son was killed during the revolution. He had enrolled with the revolutionaries of my General Joaquín Amaro when he was planning to take Uruápan. The son was supposed to take a note to Coronel Fernández Guerra, but he had to pass through a lot of federales to get to Fernández. He never made it. He had to leave at night so they wouldn't see him and they shot him at 3:30 in the morning as he was trying to get through the lines. The thing was, every year on that exact night and at the exact time, all the candles in the house of the family would light by themselves while the people were asleep.

---Its because in our country the houses are made of adobe, mused Zenaida, breaking a bolillo into little pieces and absently scattering the crumbs on the table. The adobe is made from the earth, and all the people who have been buried are still all around us. We are in their bosom.

The children shivered  deliciously.

---Speaking of light, went on Don Heli, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  Do you children know how the sun and the moon were formed? They shook their heads in unison.

---Before the world existed, began Don Heli, warming to his favorite story, the gods had a meeting in Teotihuacán, to find out how they could bring light to world. They lived in perpetual darkness, and had grown tired of it. The only way they could bring light to the world was by a sacrifice. One of them would have to throw himself into the fire. One warrior, who was arrogant and loved to brag, immediately took the task upon himself.  The other gods wanted a second volunteer to make sure that nothing would prevent their task, since it was very difficult and dangerous.  Among them was Nanahuátzin, an ugly and shy god with bad skin and pus---filled boils  and rickets, even as the other was muscular and beautiful. His bid was accepted.

---They made prayers and offerings for four days. Tecuciztécatl offered gold and feathers and copal. Nanahuátzin, could only offer sugar cane tied into bundles and maguey needles drenched in his own blood and pus. Finally everything was ready. The fire had been raging for four days. First it was Tecuciztécatl's turn. He tried throwing himself into the fire four times, but each time he backed off out of fear. Then it was Nanahuátzin's turn, who without hesitation closed his eyes and threw himself into the fire, where he sizzled and smoked and burned. Upon seeing this, Tecuciztécatl was ashamed, and finally threw himself in, too. 

---Then the gods sat down at Teotihacán to wait. After many hours they saw the rosy fingers of the dawn shred the darkness. They were amazed at the magnificent sight, and wondered who was responsible for such beauty. They stared in disbelief when they saw Nanahuatzin, the skinny sickly god, who now was dressed in such splendor they were blinded if they tried to look at him.

Almost as an after thought, Tecuciztécal appeared on the horizon. The  gods did not believe there should be two such suns, and they threw a totchtli at the second one, whereupon his light dimmed, and he became the moon.

---So you see, children, went on Don Heli. You don't have to be smart and strong to be worth something. It's what you have in your heart that counts.

The children were silent. Zenaida got up, yawning ostentatiously and gathering her crumbs. She had to tell Don Heli that there was too much work to do tomorrow, and they had to get to sleep. Don Heli reluctantly got up, loathe to leave the warm troje for his cold and thankless shack. After ceremonious good byes and effusive thank yous with protestations of denials of merit, Don Heli finally made his way along the  path.

"Soledad, make sure the fire is out," said Zenaida, as always. She hesitated at the door. They had to cross a pitch black twenty feet to get to the bedroom troje. The children pressed close to her, grasping each other's
hands. Soledad blew out the candles in the kitchen. Zenaida courageously stepped out with the children and locked the kitchen. Then they made a run for the dark troje, opening the door and yelling to chase whatever might be lurking there. With trembling hands, Zenaida lighted a candle as they prepared for bed.


Soledad had gone with her friend Alma to the ramshackle movie house in Tacámbaro. The scratchy movie, El peñón de las ánimas, had seemed magical to her.  Alma had gone to the bathroom, but Soledad lost track of her in the crowd. The movie was over and no sign of her. She had no choice then but to  walk home alone, in the dark.

As she walked she passed several families walking home  in the darkness, and she greeted them politely. A seller with a homemade oven had fried plantains and camotes for sale, and the smell wafted to her nostrils. As she walked she had an uneasy feeling that someone was following her. A man she did not know was indeed following, and Soledad noted desperately that she had moved away from the town and there seemed to be no one else about.

---Good evening, said the man.

Soledad did not answer, but walked faster.

The man caught up with her and forced her to the side of the road. Soledad struggled but to no avail. Rather  than frightened, she was filled with disgust and loathing. The man was fat and smelled of pulque, and he breathed with a wheeze that she was to hear in her imagination for many years afterwards.  It did not last long, but when Soledad got up again she felt unclean as his sperm ran down her leg.

---Where have you been? Asked Zenaida sharply when Soledad finally appeared in the doorway. Where's Alma?

---She went home. Her boyfriend came by for her.

---Well, said Zenaida. Go to bed. We have to get up early tomorrow.

Soledad felt hot with unshed tears. She could not say anything, because she did not know who the man was. Besides, she would be the object of gossip by the neighbors--- gossip that would destroy any chance for a real marriage to some serious, hardworking man who could provide for her.

It was not long before she realized that she had missed her period. Then  there was no help for it but to tell Zenaida and throw herself on her mercy. Zenaida had a sister in Paracho who would take her in as long as Soledad could work to earn her keep. It was decided that as soon as she started to show she would leave on the pretext that she had a job and was bringing money to the family. She was fifteen.

Her little girl was born severely retarded. Soledad  had to go to work as a maid, and her aunt made it clear she did not want her around indefinitely. Soledad left as soon as she could and rented a maid's quarters in an apartment building, and her life was made up of cleaning and scrubbing. She wondered if there was anything else. Her little girl made almost no noise. It was months before the neighbors even knew of her existence. She would look in throughout the day to feed her. Every night she would come home hoping to find her dead, but the little heart beat stubbornly on. She had to feed the fretful child and clean her mess, washing everything by hand on top of the day's work of housecleaning. It was finishing her off  too. On one of her days off she bundled her up so that no one would see — little Gudelia looked like a frog — and went to the fair. She had almost forgotten her grief when she noticed a man looking hard at her. At first she was afraid of another episode of violence, but he approached and lifted the blanket on the baby. It wasn't  a baby any more —  Gudelia was four years old, but she was tiny. He asked her how she would like to make some money. Frightened, she tried to walk faster, trying to get rid of him, but the man insisted. He offered her 1000 pesos for the baby. She stopped in her tracks. 1000 pesos! More than the money, she thought of coming home to her room after the backbreaking work and finding it without the awful smell, with nothing to do but to eat something and lie down on the cot, going to bed early if she wanted, sleeping as long as she wanted to, at least on an off day.
And that was how Gudelia joined the sideshow.


Marcos had finally left Stockton and hitchhiked to Los Angeles. Working in the sun had  toughened him and bronzed his body even further. He had let his hair grow long. He made his way to his aunt's house in El Monte. Chona received him and immediately set about preparing something to eat. Raquel was in Buenos Aires. Richard had gone out. Chona reminded him that he had a cousin "who was a successful artist" whom he had never met. She said little, only reminiscing about the old days in Hermosillo. When she thought about María Elena, her eyes misted over and she fell silent. Marcos had the feeling that she did not quite know who he was.

Marcos with the money he had saved rented one---room apartment off Whittier Blvd. At the newsstand on Ford Street  he saw the headlines "Garitos y Casa de Juego Destruidas en La Habana".

It hadn't seemed possible, Marcos reflected.  In the mountains, the barbudos surely thought  they were going to be wiped out, yet at each step, led by Fidel, Raúl, Vilma, Camilo,  they  gained confidence and strength, until they were drunk with the certainty that after all the longing and dreaming and dying, after the long night of dictatorship, this was really happening. El Che lay siege to Santa Clara, and they could see La Habana in their shiny mind's eye. The tyrant butcher showed his true colors by  cowardly fleeing the island, but not before trying to scuttle ship by getting his cohorts to stage a counterrevolution. The Cubanos, overflowing with the joy of victory in sight, staged a strike which collapsed the intended sabotage. The Revolution had been transformed  from an idea to palpable thing. It was all around them, in the air, in the smiles, in the flooding relief of suddenly waking from the nightmare. The Revolution was clean water, was health, was education, was jobs. No more watching your children starve to death. No more humiliation, no more "putting you in your place". Viva Fidel! They cried in anguish, in rapture, in vindication. Viva Fidel!


Fruits and vegetables contributed more than a billion dollars to cash farm  income, picked by Mexican labor,  and alone was responsible for the wealth created in the area. Realizing the potential, the Farm Labor Union had called a strike against the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation in Kern County over grower recognition of the Union. Strike breakers set to work, openly escorted by government officials into the fields. Shots were fired through the window at a Union meeting. This simply made strikers more determined. Picket lines were maintained for nine months around 20 miles of DiGiorgio property.

The  landowners were apoplectic.
---Commonists,  they hissed. That Shavez is a Commonist.

That's all they needed to know.

---We'll take care of them,  they reassured each other.  Those Mexicans are too stupid to do anything themselves. We'll have them all arrested, and if any escape, we'll organize a posse on them and deport them sons of bitches.

Marcos understood the US South, although he had never been there. In fact, the South had come to the San Joaquin Valley, and had installed itself as the new  feudalism. The landowner's wives acted as if nothing had happened and  continued prepare for daughter Tiffany's cotillion,  to get their hair done and shop  on the Northside, getting smoked salmon from Norway and potato salad when the Mayor or a Sacramento politician or other absentee landlord came through, while they instructed the Mexican cook and cleaning lady and gardener on their duties. The men would take care of things, and continue to supply them with an unending stream of money, as always, while the husband  kept one of the women that hung around the illicit gambling casino. 

Marcos had learned a thing or two. First of all, the unknown Mexicans were no different from his own family. Many had been born in the Valley, the Mexican Valley, and had never learned English, so he could converse with them with the same ease as with his own relatives. They invited him for some nopales or chilaquiles or quelites, the poorest but most delicious food.

The families stuck together, they had no choice. They worked together in the fields, slept together and had their babies together. When the strike broke out, they went out together. It was as if a fever had swept the population, ---they all caught it at once. Conservative mothers who fretted if their daughters were out late, fathers who feared to stand up to the dangerous Anglo, as a means of protecting their families, youngsters who didn't understand what a strike was, all joined in without the slightest hesitation, convinced of the justice of their acts, convinced that their ancestors, Juárez and Zapata and Cuauhtémoc--- would have disowned them if they had done anything less. 

The grape strike had generated powerful community meetings. One old man got up to speak, and the youth immediately assumed with a groan that  he was going to urge them to be reasonable. Quite the opposite. He was a tough old bird.

---My father fought with Pancho Villa,  he said, full of pride,  and no pinchi gabacho is going to beat our strike.  His words fired the meeting with electricity.

The women brought the rice and beans and tortillas, without forgetting the fresh chiles serranos, the men argued and applauded, the women argued and gave their blessing. All volunteered.

Marcos learned, as many others did, what a union contract was, but it was more than that. It was pride, it was solidarity, it was revenge for all the slights and insults and humiliations that had made their lives unbearable. Domitila, quietly volunteering to wake the strikers before dawn so they could come down to the hall and gather picket signs was there. When they were in high school she had been raped by an Anglo who though Mexicans were hot stuff. From that day she had changed. Her schoolgirl giggles stopped and she became a solemn and efficient organizer. Gabino,  volunteering every time an issue came up, was there. He  had been beaten by the police, handcuffed and jailed incommunicado so that his relatives couldn't find him and they had to lose several day's work without pay to track him down.  Fifteen year old José, who had felt sick when his classmates drove by in their cars while he walked along the road to his shack, his feet his only means of transportation, while they jeered at him, was there.  Even Doña Luz was there, although she had to be carried in. Doña Luz had been cut off welfare because she had foolishly confided in that nice social worker in her elegant clothes whom she thought  to be her friend that the boy she had raised to near adulthood was not really her son. His mother Francisca, Luz's best friend, had died in childbirth and had entrusted the baby to her. When the nice social worker found her out  she was cut off, she had a stroke and was partly paralyzed. Her son Dagoberto, who wasn't her son,  had to drop out of school at fifteen and go to work in the fields, picking almonds and tomatoes, asparagus, beets--- anything  to keep the house going. Father Gillard was there, tending his flock, as poor as they. Marcos looked around and saw his relatives, smelled the food, heard the sounds, and smiled.

 The cobwebs were spinning away under the scrutiny. There was hope, there was change, however slow. The Valley was like the 14th Century,  nothing moved. People were born and died in the same spot. At first they were young and full of energy, misplaced energy in the case of the young Whites, who went carousing at night in their convertibles. Eventually they realized that all the real money in the Valley was controlled by San Francisco and New York, and that the only jobs for them were menial. Through stretches of unemployment, they lived in trailers and shacks, and had babies with barefoot rash---skinned women with wild hair and cold blue eyes. After a while their muscles became stringy, their skin weathered, they shrunk. They became old men, embittered. Only the sons of the Bible Belt rich  developed pot bellies and drove Cadillacs ostentatiously through the grape fields, their fat little hands grasping the wheels as if their very identity depended on their cars.

But now, the storm had broken.


The farmers eventually signed a contract with the  workers. After this success, Marcos returned to his apartment on Whittier and started seeing others who had also participated in the strike. There was a huge demonstration planned against the war in Viet Nam. There were to be speakers, food and dancers.

At  Laguna Park there was dancing after the march. Marcos was enjoying the Jarabe Tapatío when somebody shouted something unintelligible. He turned and saw an amazing sight. A phalanx of helmeted police were moving steadily toward them. There were so many, that there was no room between them the whole length of the park. People started turning to look, some of them got up in alarm, snatching up their babies.

Then it started. Some Chicanos threw themselves at the police and fought tooth and nail with them, unarmed as they were, hitting with their clenched fists. The tear gas started to erupt everywhere, turning the clean green park into a smoky bluish haze---filled twilight.

People started screaming and rushing away from the police, toward the fence. Toward the fence! There was no exit. They would be crushed to death! Some cholo, too lazy to walk around, had many months before broken a part of the fence loose from its moorings, and the people now in a frenzy dived under it while others held part of it up. There was a tremendous roar, no one could tell where it came from. A torrential rain of bottles, as if Indian arrows of old, went sailing through the air at the police, hitting their targets. The roar continued, it was as if the earth shook.  There was a sound of gunshots. A new generation was going through its trial by fire, even as had Servulio Varela and Leonardo Cota, as had Ricardo Flores Magón, as had the zootsuiters. Police attacks on the natives was nothing new.

Things seemed calmer on Whittier Avenue. Marcos saw fat Eddy with a dazed look on his face.  "A boy tried to throw a tear gas canister back at the police," Gonzalez said sorrowfully, "but it was too late. It busted in his face y lo mató."

The roaring had stopped. Instead there was there was a bewildered, hazy silence. There was no transportation home. There was nothing for it but to walk.

The city remained muted. The police were nowhere to be seen. People seemed to stay in their houses. Only a few winos, who had no idea that anything had happened, were hanging around their usual place, outside their liquor stores hoping for a few quarters. As Marcos walked past the Cemetery things began to appear normal again. Businesses were open and things started to move.

He ran into María Cayetano. She seemed in a terrible hurry. "Did you hear," she shouted "they killed Rubén Salazar?" She ran down the street and got into a waiting car and sped away.

Marcos let the news sink in. He vaguely knew who Rubén Salazar was. He wrote for the Times. That  people  had died was what brought him up short.

Marcos was invited to a reunion of Chicanos  by Ralph, a Brown Beret. They had rented a small house on Whittier, although who was paying for it was a mystery. There were about twelve young men, three girls, their girlfriends, and some Mexicans from the Westside. They had come to parlay. Gonzalo, who had connections with anti war groups on the Westside, laid out the program.

---Farm workers have to be naturalized and registered to vote, he said. We have already registered 2,000. Are the Brown Berets willing to join the struggle in a voter registration drive? We can use your help.

Chuy Huero stood up. He had had a few beers before the meeting and was in great form.

---We'll help in the registration, he said. But if you think you are going to use us to beef up your organization, you are mistaken. You betray us and I'll kill you. We'll cooperate as far as we think it's the right thing to do.

The Westsiders felt a chill go down their spine. They were not used to such talk. College students all, they had studied theory but now they came face to face with the barrio---something they knew only dimly and considered, in their superior way, somewhat beneath them.

Talk went on and it was decided to take the forms and register people in front of supermarkets and other buildings where people  gathered. Bored, the Brown Berets agreed and waited for them to leave.

A gypsy who was called "Sleepy"  because he was on medication, lay down on the couch. Marcos brought a blanket over for him. This simple gesture inspired the Berets to invite him to stay and join them. These kids are naïve, he thought, but they have a good heart. They have what the educated ones lack. Once they get educated, there will be no stopping them.

After the débacle of the Moratorium, Marcos moved in with his uncle Ricardo in the house in El Monte. Chona had died, and Raquel had come up for the funeral from the DF, all furs and perfume and tears. She looked well, and did not show her years. Raquel knew she didn't have many performances left, and her apparent  self---assurance masked a panic that no one could have guessed at. She breezed in, inquired about Lauro, kissed Richard and Marcos, and announced that she would be rehearsing for the next month. She had come back to stay.

Richard had been studying political economy, trying to understand Max and the Colony and trying to break through the mists of his own ignorance. Marcos' interest in the same subject  drew them closer, and they spent long hours in reading and discussion while Raquel went over her repertoire at home and went to

rehearsals. Together the two men  found that in one way or another, no matter what the circumstance, capital  defended  wage slavery.   Decreasing worker's wages meant increasing profits.

---Thank God for the Unions, Marcos said.

---Reforms can be useful, replied Richard, but not if they keep the existing institutions going.

---That's what the Panthers say, countered Marcos.

---Some Panther leaders  favor a focus on community service coupled with self-defense while others, claim to be  "badder". It's the old struggle between  a "reformist" and "revolutionary". The ultra lefties go  on to lead  splinter groups, because they can't wait for conditions to be right. They confusedly think a tactic is the only strategy.  That's the other side of the coin. They may have the right idea, but can't put it into practice, because the conditions aren't right. How can they raise and army? Where is it going to come from, from such a minority within a  minority?

---But conflict is absolute, Marcos ventured after a minute.

---Well, everything is contradictory. I suppose out of these conflicts something good will come, eventually. A whole generation is being educated, if nothing else.

---It's true that many are sincere, and they do good work, sometimes. Some are brave to the point of recklessness. The problem is they can't think dialectically. Lots of things happen all at once, and you have to deal with them all at once. For instance, a lot of the crazy lefties   attack the Communists for working within the system, while at the same time they act like 250 million people don't count. They only want to be the vanguard. They think they can seize power day after tomorrow.

---And, they won't work with the unions, because they say they are corrupt, agreed Marcos, instead of siding with the workers and fighting the corruption. After all, the unions are still instruments of capitalism.

---Exactly, said Richard. You have to ask, who benefits? The crazy left makes a lot of noise, but after all the shouting, they'll get cushy jobs within the system, mark my words. The hard part is being a revolutionary all your life, fighting all your life, because the bourgeoisie will hate you and keep you in poverty.

---Well, sighed Marcos, I guess that's where you really belong- if you are poor all your life, like the people,
then you can legitimately claim to be one of them.

---Capitalists think that money is the most important thing. It's not. Human solidarity is infinitely more important. There is nothing more beautiful than people helping each other go through life.

Marcos felt a surge of warmth toward his uncle.

---I wish people could understand that. It's so hard to cut through the racism and the deliberate shaping of their imagined superiority. You know, he said forcefully, thinking of the Whites, they are taught from the cradle to compete and that they are better than any one else. It's just unquestioned, and deep in their subconscious.

---Well, that's why capitalism is so successful. It needs to divide people, or it will perish. Division means
inequality. Rich and poor. Otherwise you have equality, which is social. 

---I actually heard a girl say that Allende is like Hitler, because he refuses to call out the army against the
Pinochetistas. To them, it's all black and white. They are against him because he is bourgeois, as if they were the big working class, those little Catholic school students twits, and he were the enemy. It‘s neat way of taking the focus away from the real enemy, international capital and its Chilean psycophants.  If he was not the right one for the job, why is he so relentlessly attacked by the Empire?

---The pot calling the kettle black, laughed Richard. Who elected them, anyway?

—It just shows how simplistic they are, he added after a minute.  The problem is that they confuse a lot of people, and wind up taking positions identical with the right wing, who call Allende a dictator.  Of course, Richard added, Allende isn't perfect, either. You have to keep a mass of people around you who  are two jumps ahead of the right wing. The fascists have  not been neutralized, the bourgeoisie hoards  basic foodstuffs, the US pours  counterfeit money into Chile to destabilize the currency, too many of the generals remain  his enemies. It's just too much. The crazy left are the last people to be able to handle such a conlict, but boy, do they love to criticize.

---Maybe some day, muttered Marcos through his teeth.

---One thing that has happened, went on Richard, is that the fearless Panthers started talking about capitalism and socialism openly, words that had been forbidden up to now. Do you know that when I was in High School you were almost suspended if you even uttered the word "Communism"? It was under a MacCarthyite proscription, a taboo, a shibboleth. Now people can talk about it, that is the beginning of the struggle. It will happen. Richard spoke brightly, ever the optimist.

—Another thing people don't understand, is that it doesn't happen once, like in the movies. It is a struggle that goes on and one and has new stages all the time.Theory may be gray, but the tree of life is always green.  The Roman Empire took four hundred  years to fall. All we have for our lifetime is struggle, we will never see the end. The journey is what makes it all  worthwhile.

Marcos felt comforted. His uncle was all right.


Marcos had signed any number of petitions, and unknown to him his picture had been taken by the police at various meetings.  The day came when there was a knock on the door. Marcos answered. There were two men outside, neatly dressed in suits and ties. They were the FBI. Marcos knew not to let them in, and they stood in the door and asked politely if he would answer a few questions.

---Sure, said Marcos.

---What do you know about Angela Davis?

Marcos looked with amazement at the man. He was sweating, although it was cool day. Was it possible he was afraid? Marcos felt a sudden surge of power.

---Nothing but what I read in the papers.

---Do you have any friends in the Weather Underground?

The questioning went on in the same vein, until the two men had run out of questions. They thanked Marcos
politely and left.

It was a few days later, when he was walking on Valley Boulevard that an unmarked car pulled over and two other men got out and accosted him. They asked him to come with them, and took him downtown to the INS. Marcos had overstayed his visa and was to be deported. He was not allowed a phone call.


"En cuanto permanezca el mundo no acabará la fama y la gloria de México---Tenochtitlán."
Cantares mexicanos.


 The valley of the Anáhuac had been populated by people who lived there before the birth of Christ. They were not prone to welcome a ragged group of foreigners who spoke  a  language no one could understand, although a few tolteca women they had intermarried with acted as translators. The Aztecs were forced to move on, until they arrived at Chapultépec where they lighted the sacred fire in 1299.

They were accepted uneasily by the colhuas, until they saw an eagle on a small island in the middle of the lake, tearing a serpent apart and eating it.

When the eagle saw the Aztecs, it bowed its head reverentially. From the distance they stared at the eagle, with its nest of precious feathers, feathers of blue bird, feathers of red bird, all precious feathers and claws and bones of birds.

It was the sign they had been waiting for. The eagle soared as the spirit soared. It was the soul. The serpent was the ground, the material body, the wisdom of the flesh. It was here they would build their great civilization
Marcos arrived  at the station in Buenavista on  a beautiful clear crisp day, one of those days in winter when the sun is shining at its absolute sparkling with clouds and blue skies. He looked at the faces, and recognized their Azteca, Tolteca and Otomí faces. He saw what they had seen, the thunderclouds, breathed the rarified air, smelled the burning carbon and the elotes and the buche sizzling on the street corner comales. He took a bus to the Colonia Mixcoac, where even though he had not told them in advance of his arrival, la tía Nicolasa would surely ask him to stay at her house.        

 Actually, la Tía Nicolasa was flabbergasted to see him.   The boys, his cousins,  had grown up as well, and were big strapping rather rough young men.  Cucú had turned into a  quiet young woman whom everyone thought  was prettier than she really was because she had grey eyes. La tía immediately set another plate and threw the ground tomatoes on the toasted fideos starting to smoke in the cazuela. Marcos felt uncomfortable at the strained politeness, after all he didn't really belong here. La tía had married a Union official, who had since died and left her a pension gleaned from cutting deals with management.

Marcos coughed.

---Where are you working, he asked Justo.

---I'm a salesman in plastic products, he answered, still trying to remain friendly.

---Would you like to go to the bullfights? asked Andrés. I can get tickets for tomorrow.

---That will be great Marcos answered. The bullfights had resonance of the Spanish in México, La Covadonga,  Cagancho, and Manolete . Marcos wasn't really interested.

After the membrillo, Marcos made his excuses and went out into the street, promising to come back the next afternoon, Sunday.  He walked to Insurgentes, trying to maneuver the earthquake shattered sidewalks.

After the death of Xólotl, Nopaltzin founded ruling houses of his own. His sons became emperors. The chichimecas spoke pame or mazahua, while the toltecas spoke nahuatl, which was destined to become the lingua franca of Mesoamérica. Acculturation with the civilized  toltecas  became inevitable. The aztecas burned their records and began anew, borrón y cuenta nueva, as children of Huizilopochtli, the god of war, and his mother, Coatlicue, who dressed in snakes, corn husks and humans skulls. They were the inheritors of the fifth sun that had been born at Teotihuacán, the city of the gods.

A macehual, out of work,  was selling pepitas and garapiñados. Marcos bought some and walked along Avenida Juárez toward the Templo Mayor. The steps of the Templo had run with blood under Ahuízotl, and the Plaza had been the scene of bloody wars against the gachupines, the French gabachos and pro---Franco  falangistas and now, the burguesía.  The Zócalo was a vast empty space now, the zompantli had disappeared  into the colonial buildings,  with storm clouds gathering over the drumbeats.  The heavens opened and ejaculated their water over the Anáhuac,  fertilizing the seeds and encouraging, as they always had,  the nopales and the milpas and the flores de calabaza in every back yard in the hills.

The rain lasted a half hour, but the afternoon heat was gone and the Cathedral sparkled and glistened in the new sun.  Marcos knew he had to find a Casa de Huéspedes. Staying with La tía was out of the question.

Moctecuzoma was worshipped as a god. He had 80 wives and 150 children, but he pined for the lithe and muscular warriors of his entourage. When the Spaniards came he fell in love with their white skins and hairy chests and welcomed them into his palace and into his bedroom. When the people found out the stoned him to death in a frenzy, calling him the Spaniards' bitch. He died of a broken heart, and the Fall was over before it had even started. He was the first in a long line of empire puppies. 


Félida had never been up the Latin American tower, the tallest building, even though she worked at a shoe store nearby. One day on a week day she made up her mind, called in sick  and bought a ticket. The ride up the elevator made her soar, and she was excited as she stepped onto the observation tower.

She had the place to herself. She looked out through the glass at the streets and buildings she knew so well —   the Zócalo, the Cathedral, the volcanos in the distance covered by a haze that had not been there years past. On her wanderings around the tower she discovered an open doorway with a circular staircase.  Intrigued, she went up and found herself in the open. There was a man standing on one of the corners, gazing at the scene below.

She was glad that his hair was long, in a wild mane. A rebel, she though, and smiled. He smiled back. There was no need for much conversation. They wandered over to the steel structure that crowned the tower — higher than where they were — that went all the way up into the sky. There was a wire gate that closed it off from the public, but amazingly, the lock was open`. On impulse they went up into the scaffolding, which undulated  markedly in the wind.

They were on stairs in the open air , forty four floors above the city, hanging on to the steel girders, swaying over the ancient city. This moment would never come again. Marcos felt a sudden surge of exhilaration that was matched by Félidas black eyes and flushed face.  He closed in and she received him in an embrace that explored their bodies mutually. Precariously hovering like two hummingbirds in midair they copulated until the blood drained from their faces and they stood back, exhausted. Embarrassed, they went down to the restaurant and ordered coffee.

After that Marcos and Félida went everywhere together. They were equally critical of what after Tlaltelolco they called the sold---out government, the handmaiden of imperialism, and their union gave them stature among their friends. One of them was Cebollín, a student at the Poli from Puebla that Marcos was grooming to join their discussion group.


Marcos walked down Bucareli, past the clock, along the steep  earthquake streets, cracked by the settling of Tenochtitlán into its resting place of gold and bird feathers, flowers and song ...

The newspaper bundles along Iturbide were being thrown out on the  street, the voceadores ready to pick them up and fan out through the city shouting the latest. "Corrupción en el gobierno", they would scream, and some unfortunate low---level bureaucrat would be axed by the really corrupt. Finally he saw the Café La Habana on the corner of Morelos.

He went into the European style café.  There were windows all along one side.  An old bar with an espresso machine that read 1906 Milano sat on the polished mahogany. Old men were sitting by the windows, by the light, reading newspapers.  Children in rags walked around offering to polish your shoes. Marcos sat down near the door, expecting Cebollín to show  up. He ordered a café con leche and a pan dulce. He brought out his Delicados and started to smoke. An old woman walked around from table to table, asking for money. When she came to Marcos's table he gave her 10 pesos, about a dollar.

---Esto no me sirve pa nada, she said with contempt,  and put it back down on the table.

Finally, Cebollín walked in the door. 

Marcos was glad to see him. It was not easy to talk to people, there was a lot of paranoia. The Servicio Secreto might be listening.  Some people made themselves important by keeping hermetically silent about their activities, which were most often  null. 

---I don't want people telling me what to do. There are spies everywhere, people are tortured. People are alienated. Marx said that capitalism creates alienation, and socialism gets  rid of it, but I don't see it.  Cebollín stirred several spoonfuls of sugar into his coffee agitatedly. Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. This was very important to him. 

---Are you talking about Mexico or the U.S.?  asked Marcos. He had not been following Cebolín's  ramblings. 

---The Soviet Union! sputtered Cebollín, softly, so as to not attract attention The  granaderos were still everywhere and in plain clothes three years after the Tlatelolcazo. 

Cebollín went on, intensely.

---The state declares war to the death against all art styles and movements other than the official ones,  declaring them to be reactionary and hostile to class and race. What happens when a totalitarian regime disguises itself as revolutionary? You can fool a lot of people that way.

---But how are you going to keep the reactionaries from taking over if you don't use  an iron fist? asked Marcos, his mild tone contradicting his harsh words. You're talking about freedom in an abstract way. Freedom is oppression when there is no justice.  Would you let Díaz Ordaz free  if we had socialism today? Don't you consider him a criminal and an enemy of the people?

Cebollín gulped his coffee, His thick glasses made his eyes look larger, plus they fogged up from the steam. He sensed he was at a disadvantage.

---Yes, but where does it stop? The Soviet bureaucrats consider anyone who disagrees with them an enemy. Artists can't paint, poets are put in jail. Uspenskaya — there are human rights. .

María Uspenskaya was a futurist poet who had fallen into disfavor with the Ministry of Culture.

---You've been reading El Universal,  countered Marcos impatiently.  He had read the article by Magda Micheltorrena, a conservative, criticizing the USSR's treatment of the aristocratic poet. I don't see why you waste time paying attention to the media. You know how they lie. Uspenskaya is an elitist bourgeoise who focuses exclusively on formal esthetic problems incomprehensible to the masses.

---Look at all those people on the street, Marcos went on, looking out the window.  You don't even have to go anywhere, they're right here. Look at that man in rags, he pointed to a beggar passing by. Where are his human rights? Who expresses his culture?  People don't give a damn about Uspenskaya. Don't you think the soviets have better things to do than read that romantic claptrap? 

---She's a human being, wheezed Cebollín. She deserves the dignity of.. . .

---You act for the good of all the people, interrupted Marcos, otherwise you have the same old capitalism, the same old individualism, the same crappy poetry, nothing changes, classes are divided into rich and poor.  It's a matter of cashing in  the creative "I" and taking up the political "we," which is many times more powerful.  Don't mourn the avant garde. Whether  they were forcibly annihilated or  simply exhausted in their  creative potential  doesn't matter. We are living in a new stage.

---There! You said yourself that socialism asks you to abandon creativity in favor of politics. Some things cannot be considered political, Cebollín insisted weakly.  He knew the answer to follow. 

---Everything is political. Politics itself is an art, and probably more fulfilling than anything in a book or canvass. Uspenskaya refused to go to work. Her son was a spy for the British. Fancying herself a radical, she wanted to have the same aristocratic lifestyle as she had during the Czar. That was all a long time ago. The problems today are otherwise. Her time has passed. 

Cebollín remained silent, not knowing what to say, but rage beat within him nevertheless.

---The means become the ends, he muttered darkly, as a last resort. 

Marcos laughed.

---The means become the ends only when you can't tell the difference between strategy and tactics. Socialism isn't utopia.  Se hace camino al andar. I grant you some innocent people get hurt. Still, poets write, artists paint, musicians and dancers perform. It all boils down to whether you want to be a social deviant no matter what the system is. There is nothing admirable about that when la patria needs you. Socialism doesn't want conformists, it wants creative thinkers who can find solutions to social problems. But it doesn't want sterile rebellion either.  What counts is the actual process of getting rid of the corruption--- the mass education that comes out of it. And this is something that has to be done again and again with each generation, because as soon as you have solved a contradiction, a new one springs up in its place. It's like Jason, the Argonaut,  sowing dragon's teeth that spring up as soldiers which must be cut down only to have new ones constantly replacing them.

---Is Uspenskaya an enemy?  cried Cebollín, following his own train of thought. Who is to say?

---May be she is, and maybe she isn't. You're right, who's to say? Maybe she is an enemy at one time and not another, not because she has changed, but because the world has changed around her. In any case she is irrelevant.

---Isn't there something grand about someone who fights the system, who refuses to knuckle under? 

---What are you knuckling under to? Free medical care? Are you going to say, no, I don't want free medical care, I want to pay for it? Come on. Most people just live their lives. The Uspenskayas of the world like to be martyrs. Worse, they are used by the capitalists as propaganda. The Soviets guarantee  a  life free of exploitation and insecurity. They have created a humane and planned society that  stimulates creativity and talent.  Uspenskaya's problem is that she is anti---Soviet, and doesn't care about these achievements. The contradiction of these goals is  punished, as is the glorification of war, but who can argue with that?

---Uspenskaya was part of a renaissance that was stifled by the bureaucrats.   

---Uspenskaya was never put in jail, her works were just not published. She still had her ration cards and was able to survive, just not in the aristocratic style she wanted. Her son was sent to Siberia because he was a criminal . Where is the lack of respect, just because the State refuses to fawn on her? If people like that are allowed to run around lose, the Soviet system would soon be overturned, which, of course, is what the capitalists are after. Besides, what makes you think the Sistine Chapel is an exercise in the avant garde? Nothing more totalitarian than Renaissance art, and yet look at how good it is. 

---Cebollín jumped out of his chair, sputtering.

---What happened to criticism and self---criticism, he shouted, heedless of the implication. People like you are going to lead socialism to a new form of fascism.

—Look, Cebollín, said Marcos impatiently. Of course you're going to find people everywhere that will talk bad  about socialism, but that's because they're afraid of it. Not just socialism, but afraid of the working class, of the people. Don't you understand how terrified they are   if they should  find themselves alone in the barrio? When are you or I going to be afraid in the barrio, among our own people? The working class to them is a threat, and when it's insurrectional, they shit a brick.

Cebollín stared, surprised at the vehemence in the other's tone.

—In any case, it's not about copying the USSR. The media always bring that out, as if it were the only model of socialism. There's a socialism for each country, and for each historical period. We have our own roots. We're Indians, after all. And Africans. Eurocentrism has no place in our house. What is always the same—Marcos stared at the younger man as he noticed he was listening  with attention—is dialectics. Nobody invented it—it's an integral part of nature. As long as you follow that, you are a revolutionary by nature.

—But ever since Trotsky came to México as an exile, means that something is going wrong in the USSR, offered cebollín, timidly. Now with Dub ek . . .

—OK, something is going wrong, interjected Marcos. It's a mistake that for the sake of internationalism to think we have to  to set aside our own  business. We're not under anybody's colonizing heel, no matter where it comes from. We also have a fucking contribution to make. All wisdom and enlightenment doesn't just come from Europe.

Cebollín had become  calmer.

—You're  right, he said. What has always bothered me was  the paternalism that is hidden in the Party because they're afraid of looking like nationalists.

—There you are! Marcos was satisfied with the agreement. For example, if you talk about religion to one of those old school USSR-hardened commies, they'll attack right away. Ohhhhhh! —he lisped—religion is not compatible with materialism. They scream to high heaven and they start on the  Inquisition. They dont realize how profoundly religious the people are, and if you are going to be with them, they are the ones to teach you, not the other way around.  

—Well, that's not strictly true—replied Cebollín—he had just discovered atheism. You're not going to give in to . . .

—Your  principles?  Of course not! I'm an atheist, but why shouldn't I  respect some old peasant or worker that believes in God? Who am I to tell him how to live his life? His faith is not even something that has to do with the church. That faith was there much before there was a church.

—For example, Marcos went on, a lot of people don't understand Islam. They think they're a bunch of fanatics. But the truth is that when capitalism developed in the Moslem countries, they had to adapt themselves to a modern way of doing things. The national bourgeoisie turned anti-imperialist, because they were colonized. Which is more important, the religious factor or the economic factor?

—You start telling people what to think or what others think and you fall into totalitarianism.

—That's it. You hit the nail on the head. Leave ‘em alone with their privacy. You're going against the objective interests of the people if you stick your nose in where you are not wanted. . You have to be flexible. The people feed us with their marvelous creativity. That's how cultures become enriched, and thank God for that, he finished whimsically.

A street seller for the lottery came by the table.

—It's the last one, he said, insinuating with a pleading face.

—It's about the people having control of their own affairs, and not being just a spectator. Where there are not only equal opportunities, but equal conditions as well.  Exploitation must end.

—And indigenous rights must be recognized, chimed in Cebollín with his Otomí face.

—That is our internationlism, the integration of our America, all of it, from Río Bravo to the Patagonia, assented Marcos.

—Are you going to the demonstration at the Normal tomorrow? , he asked, to change the subject.

---I'll try to make it, Cebollín fumbled for his change. 

---I'll take care of it, assured Marcos, feeling a little uncomfortable with the intensity of the other's feelings.  Cebollín darted out into the night traffic. 

Along Reforma, Marcos met Roberto Mansur.

---Arriba España, muera Franco,  Roberto said, as usual. He was smoking Delicados, the people's cigarette. Are you going to the Normalista demonstration tomorrow?


Soledad had gotten a job as a maid with an American  family who lived in an  elegant part of Polanco. He was an engineer who worked for a corporation that developed energy in other countries, using US money for loans as a salary which developed into a take of the profits. There was plenty of money--- their apartment took up two floors of the building, but they paid Soledad the minimum.  Soledad on her day off would wander down Reforma and talk to people, and turn an occasional trick. Her life had become more stable, even though she hated  Mrs. Pritchard's tantrums, and she could afford small luxuries, such as eating out at Vip's or Sanborns'. She loved the cleanliness and beauty of Reforma, a world away from the slums of the DF. Young people her age seemed everywhere, many of them students, and she looked on enviously as they studied in Chapultepec on the wide stone benches provided by the city.  It was here that she met Cebollín, who introduced her to Yasmani, in the Colonia San Rafael, a kind of patron---of--- the students. Yasmani  had regular meetings at her house on things of interest —  she invited writers and actors and assorted left wingers. She had started a romantic novel and imagined herself a latter day Madame de Staël.

Cebollín had come by the apartment.  Yasmani  was busy making a cream of spinach soup (with non---fat milk) and one of her  niggardly meals. When Yasmani dieted, everybody dieted.  Soledad, who had stayed  there sometimes  as a guest when out of work, occasionally  had to run out and buy a few tamales de Oaxaca wrapped in banana leaves from the corner stand and eat them secretly  to stem her hunger.  Once at the tamales stand she had met a woman from Argentina, and had tried to get her address, but the woman looked at her suspiciously and did not respond. 

Shai tan, the black  tomcat, had sprayed the curtains and there was a pungent odor throughout the place. Satisfied, he lay in his favorite chair and licked himself importantly. Yasmani served the coffee as they sat down to talk.  Cebollín wanted her to meet a friend of his.  A friend of Félida's. He bragged about how Marcos had been in the grape strike and had been deported by the FBI.

Yasmani was not going to the demonstration. Somebody had  to stay home and take care of things, she said. Los asesinos son capaces de todo.  The demonstration did not start until 5pm, and Soledad had time to kill.  She and Cebollín decided  to go downtown.

At Bellas Artes everything looked as usual. Feeling hunger pains, she got her favorites, pepitas, knowing they would take her hunger away.  Cebollín got an elote. There was not a trace of political activity. For all the world knew, México was at peace, had always been and would always be. They started walking along Avenida Juárez until they got to Avenida Tacuba to go to the Normal.

A woman came running down the street like a madwoman her voice in tears her hair  in disarray begging them to give her some money because her baby was dying of diarrhea. Frustrated and cursing to themselves because of the spent pesos on the snacks, they pooled their change. It was not enough and they were taking too long, and the woman started again with her wild dash down the street ------------ to where? To her child's death, to eternity. Soledad and Cebollín looked after her helplessly, their frustration feeding their anger.

Soledad knocked at Yasmani's door. She had lost a lot of blood and was feeling faint. When Yasmani opened, she was terrified, thinking Soledad  was going to die. Soledad lost control for the first time, and she blubbered that Cebollín was dead.

---What happened? She cried anxiously. Come and lie down. Félida, ---she screamed at her friend in the kitchen--- get some water and some bandages.

After Soledad had been cleaned up, she started to speak, at first hesitantly, then more and more as she unburdened herself.

---We got together at the Casco de Santo Tomás at 4 pm, she said tiredly. There were veterans of Tlatelolco. All the students seemed to be younger than 20. Very serious, very idealistic. They gave me the impression that they were really defenseless, but indignant. There is no doubt that this is a people's movement. The majority of the students are the children of peasants and workers.  You can tell by their raggedy clothing.

The Normal had been jammed when they got there. Young people were milling about. They would become teachers some day. Their elders, sponsoring the demonstration, were very nervous. If Echeverría was so progressive, then let's see if there was a democratic opening, they told each other anxiously. They were beginning to wonder if this had been such a good idea.

The  students supported the professors, who were demanding higher salaries, and they were showing solidarity with the Monterrey students, who had thrown governor Elizondo out, and of course, with the Cuban Revolution. They demanded the withdrawal of US interests in México. People carried signs of Che, Marx, and Mao Tse Tung. Some of their demands were written on the signs;


Pedro was up on the platform.  It was time to get ready.

---Compañeros!  He bellowed,  The charros and the burguesía have broken the labor movement. We have an historical duty to radically change the México of today, and to destroy the system of exploitation.  We reject the opportunists  who try to implant the idea that democracy is possible under capitalism. Our compañeros are rotting in jail while the people demand that we do something. If we do not commit ourselves we cannot call ourselves men.

Or women — thought Soledad silently. Pedro got off the platform and with his comrades led the procession down the Avenida de los Maestros. It was the joy of the hunt.

Marcos caught a glimpse of Cebollín, scurrying among the crowd. He started toward him, hoping he had forgotten their conversation. He did not want to make Cebollín feel as if he was rejected, he was a good camarada, after all. It was so difficult to have unity and discussions at the same time.  If people talk freely all their wrong ideas come out, and then there are hurt feelings. Even so, one could not say that the younger man was wrong. He was just idealistic.

---Some of the students distributed flyers exhorting the demonstrators not to carry address books. They could only notify a friend ahead of time, telling them who and where they were, in case of disappearance. 

Soledad took a sip of water.

---The demonstrators were organized according to each discipline; the medical school, the law school, the school of letters and philosophy. The students were a combination of hippies and those who wore working class clothing.

Like birds beginning a slow migration, the disparate elements formed a spontaneous mass and started moving forward.  Lots of talk and then the march,  and then everyone would go home. The millipede turned down Maestros to Tacuba. Still nothing amiss..

The crowd chanted. 

---Abajo la momiza! Fin a la enajenación! Abajo la sociedad de consumo!

Someone shouted;

---Estaba en Gobernación en el sesenta y ocho!.

Some people laughed nervously. Echeverria would not attack them. He wanted dialogue, he said so.

The march had started. There were around 10,000 demonstrators.

---As we walked along the Avenida de los Maestros toward the Calzada México---Tacuba, Soledad went on, I noticed some "students" bunched together. The Halcones, a gang  from Santa Julia, hired by the police. A group of students inexplicably ran into an alley and came back running as if being pursued, shouting and causing a disturbance. The demonstrators milled about in confusion. The police were in formation in each alley, but separate from the demonstration. Attempting to prevent violence, most demonstrators cried out; "stay together" and started singing the national anthem. The march continued again. Without warning, there was again a scuffle between students and falcons.  At that point everything fell apart. Under the provocation, the demonstrators ran in every direction, and the street became a battleground. We had barely walked three blocks. Some construction workers on the rooftops threw sticks and bricks and pieces of iron for the students to defend themselves with. A wave of students came lurching toward us, and we had to jump a fence to get out of the way.  There were many students jumping, and we were forced back against another wall. I went around the wall to see what was happening. After a while the crowd calmed down and we continued marching.

It was then Soledad saw them on the rooftops.

---They started shooting. Soledad began to cry gently.

At the front of the march, at the corner of México---Tacuba and Normal, the falcons were grouped below a line of snipers who were shooting at the demonstrators. The falcons were throwing stones and were cracking students' heads with night sticks.

The hunters had become the prey.  People started running in every direction. Soledad caught up with Cebollín and screamed at him, "Vente por acá."  Cebollín stared at her, as if he didn't understand the words, while blood gushed from his chest. He slumped in front of Soledad and lay dead at her feet. Soledad dragged him around the end of a building, out of the line of fire. She had to do something, even as she realized how useless it was. She ran back out where other bodies were lying and felt her foot very hot. She turned and ran to a low wall and jumped to the other side.

The  students inside the Normal were screaming "mother fuckers" and tearing up pieces of pavement to make throwing stones. The students bravely attacked spasmodically  and then dispersed.  Ambulances began

to arrive. The students had closed the entrance to the school, but they opened for the ambulances.

---I saw at least ten students wounded or dead, impossible to tell. The faces of the others were twisted with hatred and pain. A girl next to me cried hysterically. Her boy friend had fallen. There was a hard rain of bullets  while we tried to drag the wounded to the infirmary, which happened to be in the same building. The students tried to get the names of the dead and wounded to be able to reach them later, or they might disappear. Someone cried in a fury "Echeverría murderer" and this galvanized the feelings of the crowd. You could hear cries of "strike" and "venceremos". There was a wave of students running toward us, from the back door. We ran to a nearby classroom, without knowing who was after us. That was a terrible refuge — there was only one door. I went out again.

She looked back and peered over the wall for a moment. Outlined against the sky, she saw him. His black hair a wild tangle, his lean body dragging fallen comrades  out of the line of fire --- Marcos looked like a demigod sent from the Aztec mountains, a mestizo Cuauhtémoc, a modern man with ancient, atavistic roots.

The burning turned into a bright, hot pain and she dragged herself as best she could along the street. She had to get to the Colonia San Rafael.

---Dodging lead, I ran toward the wall at the back and jumped. I grabbed  a stick from a sign as a cane and crossed the street. I hid in a vecindad, where the people insisted in bandaging my foot after smearing it with yodex. It didn't however stop the bleeding.

The afternoon theater crowd was out along Tacuba and Serapio Rendón. Soledad looked at them in amazement.  People were nicely dressed, laughing, driving their cars. Honking their horns. They did not know or care about the massacre. They were headed for VIP's of the Boca del Río for raw oysters. She wondered whether they even saw  the crazy  woman with the bloodied foot. She watched fascinated as she left footprints of blood on the sidewalk.  A few blocks away she had been in mortal danger, here with the dinner crowd she was ignored. No one cared, no one there was going to hurt or help her. She started dragging her foot, putting as little weight on it as possible. Only another block to go.

Yasmani had taken  her to the attic where Florencio had his art studio, so no neighbors would see her, and washed and newly bandaged her foot. Those that had remained in the apartment had gathered around to listen to what had happened.

---The students, like Nanahuatzin, have to jump into the fire to become gods. Only time and consciousness of the peasants and workers will tell if Nanahuaztin's day has come at last.

Soledad had stopped speaking,. She closed her eyes, exhausted. She seemed to sink into a stupor. Her tears had dried and her mascara had streaked on her face.The sharp pain was replaced by a deep  maroon pain which throbbed without mercy .  It wasn't serious, the bullet had gone through her foot, shattering small bones, but she could not go to the public hospital because the doctors might report her. It would have to be taken care of by a huesero later.  Now what she needed was sleep.


After Soledad's foot had healed, Yasmani decided to have a party of intellectuals "on the left," as she happily called them. The intellectuals  earned their credentials by attacking capitalism. They could offer few solutions, however, and the question of exploitation  remained abstract. She invited several writers and musicians.  And, of course, she invited Soledad and Marcos.

Marcos  was struck by the shy girl with the long, shiny blue---black hair and the penetrating eyes. Soledad had decided that he  was to be her man. It was not long before Marcos invited her to the small apartment he rented on Atenas.

Marcos felt guilty when he looked at Soledad. He burned when he looked at  her dark skin, her childlike mouth her small delicate hands. In the midst of such carnage, the blood and the stink of corruption, he somehow felt that he should pour all his energies into fighting the injustices which he faced every day around him, but his passions would not let him rest. He was roused nightly from sleep with the images of the carnage, of blood spattering on him, on bodies dropping like heavy overripe fruit. When he looked at Soledad, who had been there, who had shared in the sweat and the shit, he felt the need to purge their disgust at the murders, to transcend every day life and turn it into something sublime that would be the only way to make ordinary life bearable.

Finally he understood his voluptuousness. It was imperative nature reasserting herself. Life had to go on amid all the death. 

He reached out to touch her and she responded by putting her head down shyly, as if embarrassed. He kissed her neck, smelling the perfume of her skin, the natural smell of her, and buried his face in her hair. Their faces met and touched  gently cheek to cheek.

They spoke little, murmuring caresses,  laughing gently. Soledad's breasts swelled. She was aroused. Marcos licked them softly. Soledad's eyes dilated as her respiration increased.

Marcos felt a kind of euphoria, a triumph that was matched by his partner. His body became hotter as the blood flowed through him in a rush.

After he emptied himself in her she grabbed him tightly, drinking him in into those mysterious regions where life begins.

Soledad had a difficult pregnancy. She had periodic crying fits, thinking of her secret shame, and terrified that it would repeat itself. Sometimes she thought  of getting rid of the baby, and then would feel that God would punish her if she did. Hadn't He punished her enough? What had she done to deserve that tiny life that she had left behind? What fault had her little girl committed to be born that way? Soledad could not understand it, and sometimes she felt she was becoming deranged.

The baby, a boy, was born normal. Soledad took to wearing a rebozo to carry him around. She felt nostalgia for Michoacán, and the rural life there, which she had begun to romanticize.  She nursed him in public, spoke to him  in adoration, and the baby looked seriously at her with great intent, as if to etch her face on his developing mind. She would rock him to and fro until he laughed with delight and put his little hands out to caress her face. As he got older she fed him from her own mouth.


Mexico City was a permanent bazaar, with kinship to Medieval Europe and the Middle East. One of the things that Marcos loved about the city was the unending stream of life that passed before his eyes. It was a noble testament to people's inventiveness and their determination to survive in the face of impossible odds.  There were jugglers and fire eaters and there was a dancing bear.

The bear was blind, and its owner was so old that he had trouble walking. The man would shuffle down the Alameda until a crowd gathered, then the ancient bear would rear up to the beat of the drum. To make it more dramatic the man would let out a curdling howl, as if the gentle bear were going to attack. Then he would pass the hat around. They were like an old married  couple, each dependent on the other for life itself. Marcos wondered how the man made enough to feed the both of them, and what would happen to one if the other died.

Marcos went down Reforma, and slipped into Sanborn's for a cup of coffee.  At the next table he noticed a girl and her date.  She had overly made---up eyes, a fleshy mouth and long finger nails on her plump hands.  Her great breasts strained at her dress. The date, a rather skinny young man, ordered nervously for both.  The waiter brought the most expensive thing on the menu, a huge bowl of prawns. Marcos watched, fascinated, as the girl grabbed a shrimp she had asked for, and fastidiously bit into half of it.  Then she refused to eat another bite, to prove how much juice she had.  That poor sap just spent a week's salary, Marcos reflected.  The office worker was indeed near fainting with the money he was spending, but it gave him a strange thrill.  He bought into her game, that she was expensive, refined, high class, and he was the executive that could afford her.  The idea gave him a swagger, and turned him on.  Not until they took the bus back to the Carlos V, disheveled from lovemaking in a cheap hotel, would reality come back as the bus made its way into the hills, its lights cutting into a night black as a wolf's mouth, full of ghosts.  Chichona had to go back to her  cement brick  house with her mother and four  brothers, and the office worker would go back to his mother  who was unlikely to welcome an in---law.


Marcos awoke with a start. Where had that  dream come from? He had been a slave, locked in a dungeon at night. The foreman had caught him resting behind the construction of a wall, and beaten him mercilessly. His whole body ached. Then he saw Justino, his friend. Justino and he had sworn loyalty to each other, and had cut their hands with a knife to mingle their blood. Justino had developed a clandestine business lending money at usurious interests and had been able to buy his freedom. Marcos admired his clean, fresh linen, without a spot on it— it looked new. With a sinking feeling Marcos realized Justino had sold out— he had gone over to the enemy. Justino was able to pay rent and had a  clothing store in the Medina. Justino had become prosperous and left the old slave days behind, while Marcos was still a slave. Marcos decided to escape---to run away to where slavery did not exist, where he could raise a family and where his work was appreciated and rewarded. The slave owners  would never leave them alone and Marcos would have to join his friends to get rid of them forever. They led a great battle, frightening everyone half to death, and won concessions. Slaves would no longer be in chains, nor put to death. Justino asked Marcos if he wanted to work for him, and he would pay him a good salary. Marcos hesitated, thinking about his comrades who still labored in construction and in the fields for subsistence.

Marcos stared into the darkness for a long time. What did it mean? Had he been a slave in another life? There could be no freedom without justice, and no democracy without equality.


One of those days  Marcos walked briskly to the house, eager to continue writing his paper on the fall of the USSR, to be published in Uno Más Uno. He had thought long and hard about the failures of the movement. The crumbling of the Soviet Union had shaken him, as it has so many others. It was too easy to say that they were corrupt, and that the Stalinists were to blame for everything. Just the same it was churlish to insist that the USSR had been perfect and the blame lay elsewhere. He had plenty to think about.

As he walked on the patch of grass that led to his door (they had moved to the crowded periphery, where rents were cheaper), Doña Felipa met him with a big smile. He had the impression that she had been waiting for him. She asked in her overly polite way if he had any epazote in the back yard. She was preparing some quesadillas and her husband liked them with epazote and ground chile de bolita. Marcos obliged. Soledad, of course, wasn't home yet, it was barely three o'clock. Soledad had gotten a job working at the CONASUPO grocery store.  Marcos was dying for some coffee---the bus ride had depleted him with its overcrowding and dust. Besides, he had had to stand all the way. Politely, he offered Doña Felipa a cup, which she accepted with alacrity.

---These women around here, she sighed, putting five spoons of sugar into her cup, they get lonely. I don't, of course. My husband takes care of me. But there are others.  They really have no shame. Do you know that some of them will tumble with the mechanic on the avenue just to pay for the car, and then they will keep the money their husband gives them."

Marcos, shuffling papers,  was scarcely listening. He was looking for an article by the Greek Communist Party that had an article on the Fall. He looked through a stack of Bohemia, thinking he had put it in there. He wondered what Dona Felipa was on about.

---Take la señora Ortiz", Felipa said coming to the point. There are always women who will try to take another's husband. He is not bad looking, he reminds me of Vicente Fernández. Women love hairy men.  She looked at him. You're not very hairy, are you, Señor Marcos.

Marcos looked at her, annoyed at some women's penchant for the hairy Spaniards against the hairless indigenous people. He was satisfied with his hairlessness. Once he had grown a moustache, but then shaved it off because he got bumps on his upper lip and the corners of his mouth.

---Would you like some more coffee?" He asked brusquely, making it obvious he considered Dona Felipa a metiche.

---Oh dear me, no.  said Dona Felipa in an exaggerated way. Look at the time! I really must be getting on. Say hello to Doña Soledad for me, and thanks for the epazote.

After she had gone, Marcos sat in his chair, staring out the window, the article forgotten for the moment. What was the old lady trying to tell him? Was she hinting at something he should know? Why would she bring that up out of nowhere, or she was just making conversation? He wondered how he would feel if Soledad had put the horns on him. Not for him to make a scene. He would probably just become bitter and hateful. His eye caught the article sitting on an overflowing chair, and he snatched it up even as he put a sheet of paper in the typewriter. He had more important things to think about.


It was the last week of Lent. There were mules everywhere.  Holy week began with Palm Sunday, the beginning of la cuaresma, and visits by the neighbors, prayers to Guadalupe, the burning of the Judas, then
Ash Wednesday.  Jueves de Corpus was the ninth anniversary of the massacre, then followed  Sábado de Gloria, during which all the boys— and some girls— in the neighborhood lay in wait in the rooftops for some unsuspecting neighbors to walk by so they could throw water down on their unfortunate heads.

Soledad came home from work, banging the door shut noisily. She was in a vile mood. She had trouble sleeping, the bus was late and she had gotten to work late, and had made mistakes in the inventory and had to start over again. Lately she had started to feel some unnamed dread eating away at her—  a nightmare that she could never wake from. She was being attacked by the granaderos. They were dressed in civilian clothing, and they had spies everywhere. Some of them were women dressed in black who pretended to be selling tamales on the corner just so they could keep an eye on her, and so they could collect their pay from the corrupt government.  Wasn't she a subversive? Wasn't she living with a subversive? What would stop them if they wanted to move in on her? Nothing! What would happen to her  son Calixto? Who would take care of him if she and Marcos were taken to jail or disappeared?  It terrified her. She felt it was all she could do to maintain a calm exterior. She scowled at Marcos without realizing it, and then wondered why he was so cold. She guessed with a sinking feeling that he was losing interest in her.

He glanced up sharply at her. Her eyes looked like liquid mercury.

---What's the matter?

---Nothing, she replied, her hands shaking. I'm going to fix dinner.

She had cooked some pork the night before, and now she took it out of the refrigerator and began to tear it into bite sizes with her hands. She put some tomatillos, garlic, chiles and onions in the blender and poured the sauce over the meat that was sizzling in the frying pan. She warmed some tortillas on the comal and they sat down to eat. Calixto was sound asleep in his tapanco bed.

She ate silently, but her mind was racing. It was a week of suffering, and humiliation. She walked among shadows and  darkness. In despair, she knew that she had sinned. This was to be her last meal before her arrest. The Saducees and Phariseess were closing in.

She got up to clear off the dishes. She got a wash basin and filled it with water.

---Take off your shoes, she told Marcos. I want to wash your feet.

---Do they really stink so much? Yelped Marcos, surprised.

---I need to atone for my sins.

Uneasily Marcos decided to humor her, and slipped off his loafers.

---Tell me about your sins, my child, he joked, but became even more unsettled when Soledad did not answer. She began an internal dialog, speaking to him with her mind, but  afraid to utter the words.

Realize that I am terrified when I appear superior it is so you cannot see my terror. I'll wash your feet and treat you like a God, then you will love me. I have tried to take revenge upon you for all you have done to me, but I know that many of the slights were not done deliberately. I feel that I am losing control— here tears appeared in her eyes — my world is set and anything that disturbs it is unbearable to me.

---Why are you crying? Asked Marcos, moved. He took her face in his hands and kissed her cheek.

She gave him a long look while mind raced. She couldn't live alone, she needed the little money he brought in. But now he would heel, and do as she said. This might not be such a bad thing, after all. Every time he planned to stay out, every time he didn't want to have sex, every time he crossed her, or argued with her, or started something without her, she would find a way to remind him that he had transgressed, that she had loved him unconditionally, and it was he who had thrown that love on the garbage heap; he had thrown it all away.

---I don't love you anymore, she cried, and started sobbing. Where my love should be there is a burning hatred for you.

She smiled sweetly through her tears.

---I want you to suffer as you have made me suffer.

Marcos was taken aback.

---How have I made you suffer. Give me an example.

---You fucked Doña Felipa, she growled, her voice becoming suddenly rough.

Marcos stood up, furious.

---That is ridiculous. You know its not true.

---Just so that the ship doesn't sink, she said magnanimously, I forgive you.

She had lied to him and used him to bolster up her frail ego. She had made her deal with the devil and now it was time to pay. But maybe there could be a last minute reprieve, maybe she could be snatched from  the jaws of hell, in a petrified scream that would be etched on the walls forever.

---Take it back, he shouted. Proust speaks of a man who was so in love with a woman that he murdered her because it was the only way to be free of her. But all he had to do was marry her and the result would have been the same. Now I know what he meant.

Furious, he slipped on his shoes, spilling water on the floor, and stomped out into the busy streets.

Soledad got on her hands and knees to clean up the mess. He had made her suffer and turned her into a victim, which was her reward.

She put the rags away and went to bed.

Soledad  stared at the wall. There was paint peeling off where the bed had been pushed as she changed the bedding as she did the housework, and she stared, unable to take her eyes off the intricate patterns, that she now realized, contained esoteric messages from the Aztecs. If only she could decipher them! Her mind raced and she could not stop it.

There was a coyote on the wall, and the poet king began to speak to her through his animal.

People who are not loved are eventually left alone. There is nothing wrong with that in itself what is wrong is that people who are not loved are rejected and rejection means that you have not fulfilled your duty as a human being the only way to convince people is through love the only way to get your way is through love the only way to fulfill yourself is through love people who are not loved are constantly frustrated nervous and upset neurotic and in bad shape, being loved is something that you deserve only because you have brought it about, because you have given of yourself people are not loved just because they are alive and breathing they have to do things so that they are loved and that means they have to work at it and its not even easy very few people in the world achieve it, being loved is one of the tasks that we must set for ourselves so that we can die a little bit better as human beings than when we came in very often being loved means having to rid ourselves of our parental upbringing and our assumptions and being spoiled because being loved as an adult has nothing to do with being loved as child a mother may love a child for its own sake and may spoil him but no one will love and adult for his own sake and no one should an adult needs to be loved because he has

worked for it and deserves it because he has done things that will warrant being loved and not for his own sake and not in spite of everything

Soledad started banging her head against the bed headboard.

---I have to stop thinking, she moaned in anguish. I have to stop thinking!


After that Soledad sank into a profound depression. She had been so happy, and it had all turned to ashes. She was unable to see that she herself had caused the crisis, by being suspicious and accusing. Marcos, afraid of her, began avoiding her, finding alibis to stay out late, which made matters worse.  Soledad's life became a dreary one  of taking Calixto to school in the morning (the doors were locked promptly at eight), taking out the garbage when the truck came, letting the boys who brought the butane in so they could hook it up, and cooking and cleaning  the beans or the rice, waiting for the milk to arrive, then boiling it to kill the tuberculosis.

Sometimes she would get the idea that she would make Marco's favorite food, and he would be happy and make love to her. Her whole life became predicated on pleasing him, and then failing, which escalated her depression downward. Sometimes she would dress in rags and go begging on the street, not because she needed to, but because it aptly expressed how she felt. She would put on a wig so no one would recognize her.

Mexicos untouchables, rag pickers and beggars. They are people who have sacrificed human dignity just to be able to survive. When they were children, they did not know how poor they were. They did not know they were a product of la colonia, and now of capital.

She discovered Mrs. Ixchiop by accident. She had been begging near the Mercado de Sonora when the old woman looked at her keenly, diagnosing  something in her face. She asked her to come home with her, because, she said,  Soledad needed a cleansing. Soledad immediately agreed.

Mrs. Ixchiop burned rosemary in the incense bowl, throwing in a pinch of mandrágora  and jediondilla. She made a potion of gayacán, arrayán, the seven virtues and chilillo de  frontera for Soledad to drink. Soledad felt better immediately. Mrs. Ixchiop was to be her salvation.

---Take this hummingbird, said the old lady, showing her a dead bird wrapped in colored threads, and keep it close to you always. It will win back his love. Wear this talisman around your neck, it has an ojo de venado. Light 12 small candles every night for seven days. Make yourself a tea of paciflora and damiana, and drink it for forty days.

---Come and see me any time on Tuesdays and Fridays, she called out to her.

Soledad paid her and left, elated.


It didn't last long, however. Soledad had set herself up an impossible task, to wit, everything was based on winning back Marcos's love. If he loved her he would take care of her, he would be successful, and she would be rich. She would act as his slave, and worship him as a Tlatoani. Her sense of failure guaranteed that  she would simply drive the frightened man further and further from her. Because of his refusal to cooperate with her plans for happiness, they started fighting every day.

The showdown came when it was least expected. They had been watching Zabludowski on television and commenting on how blond he was. Soledad smiled as if she agreed, but said something unrelated.

---I gave you the best I had, she said humbly.

Marcos surprised himself at his violent reaction.

---Oh yes, the pious whore, he shouted, stung by the reports of her infidelities..

---How can you talk that way in front of Calixto  she cried, snatching her child to her bosom. She was determined to make him feel guilty while she was the noble one.

---Don't leave me, she whimpered, if I have to live alone, I will fail. (The dispossessed had to beg to survive.) We've been together too long to separate. Part of my life has been a part of your life. If we separate, its like cutting off my hand. Some part of my life that I treasure. But you have to accept me as I am, she finished defiantly. Don't make me feel like shit. Be more generous than I. That is what binds us together.

She hated his damned sense of ethics. She knew better than anybody that if you worked hard and long and honestly you would never get anywhere. It was alright to spout that popular stuff, but you would never beat the powerful, and so you had to learn to manipulate them for your own benefit.

---You're a coward, she shouted at him on another occasion with bitter contempt. You love the movement more

than your own family.

The doctor had prescribed drugs to calm her down, but they made her unable to walk. She went from bed to bathroom on her hands and knees, hissing to herself.

Marcos also became bitter and argumentative.

---You're always saying I don't love you, he began, but something in her face stopped him.

Her skin had become sallow, as if drawn tight against her bones. There were freckles he had never noticed before, and her eyes glittered in a way that frightened him. She had put lipstick on badly, and it spilled over her mouth.

---I wish I had  the necessary fluency to be able to transmit  my thoughts to you. She began calmly enough.  I wanted to melt into you, to be one with you. I wish I could explain things so that there is no  resentment, nor doubt, no negative thoughts.

Soledad reached into her purse and looked for some cigarettes. It was unusual for her to smoke, but her habits had changed of late. As a friendly gesture, Marcos reached for one of his Delicados and let her light it for him.

---You can attack me all you want, but I was crazy in love with you, you have been the only man that I have been able to function with, as a woman, the man I gave myself to, body and soul,  with whom I have been able to find fulfillment. 

She took a drag and blew the smoke into the air, throwing her head back inexpertly. It gave her an affected air.

---It was never  my intention to cheat on you. Things happened--- I didn't want them to happen, and now I have to pay what I don't owe.

---Soledad, you're not making any sense,  broke in Marcos angrily.  Are you telling me you have been cheating? Who with?

She stared at him, mutely.

---Always you have treated  me as if I were  one of your worst  enemies.   She smiled sadly at last. And you

think I would lower myself to go to bed with Mr. Ortiz. He was never after me.

---So that's it! It was  Mr.  Ortiz. I suspected something That's what Doña Felipa had been talking about.  What about the mechanic? Did you have sex with him to pay for the car repairs?

Soledad started, and put her hand to her face, as if he were going to hit her.

---You have never done anything else but attack me,  she blubbered, her face contorted,  that is very characteristic of you--- that arrogance that puts me down. If I had been interested, I would have married one of my many suitors. Most of them were very rich, I married you because I loved you, even if we had to live in poverty the rest of our lives I didn't care, just so we could have some corner to call our own.

---Why did you marry me if Im so degenerate?  she continued. You had a reason for marrying me —  your own weakness. If I wasn't this way you wouldn't love me. Cumplo con mi deber.

She went to the door, as if to go out, but instead remained in the doorway and stared at the neighbor's children playing outside.

---I was desperate when I saw my home and my family were lost. A lawyer friend of Emilio's  is an expert on legal matters and he said that there were no problem as far as the child was concerned, but I refused! Because I would be driving away your love, and I would be denying Calixto the opportunity to have another view of the world, and of himself, and to hate me in the bargain.

Marcos felt tears spring to his eyes.

---You don't remember the days in which you made me intensely happy.  I give thanks to the life I have known with you, and the child I have had with you,  now that I am going to die.

---You're not going to die, protested Marcos. We can work this out.

---Don't  leave me without money, you are my only resource,  before Faustina would lend me money, but her husband disrespected me--- he wanted me to go to bed with him------ and I had to tell Fausta, and now she doesn't speak to me.

---I thought at last I had found the right person for me, and that together we would find the exact measure of things. How wrong I was.

A great sob escaped her.

---I have asked you for so little, and not even that little could you give me, first because you had been infected with the Marxist measles, and later, because--- I never knew why from one day to the next you began to reject me, pushing me away, making me feel like nothing and denying my rights.

---When have I done that? shouted Marcos. If anyone respects other people's rights, it is I. He was becoming angrier.

---I expect nothing from you. All feeling that I had, you have destroyed, closing the door of your bedroom to me. He who closes the door closes his heart. Your problem is that you fight with every woman who loves you --------- you fought with Félida, —  in her obsession, she had forgotten that  she had  worked tirelessly to break them up — and now you fight with me. For me it is already too late.

---I'm supposed to learn by my life experiences but I don't understand what I'm supposed to learn. I haven't changed and the world hasn't changed and I can't deal with the world any more than I could  40 years ago.  Its all there just the same the same hostility the same inability to adjust it's all there --------- how can I conquer it —  I don't know —  I don't think I can.  A time of sleep, a time of joining that  other existence which continues parallel to our waking existence to which we return constantly, it would be  so wonderful to sleep,  to join our ancestors --------- México is at war with Perú —  to know again the people that we have met in our sleeping existence to return to the things that we have seen and felt there again and again it's a guarantee it's sssomething that's great to feel to know its there whenever we want itxsszdaedrfff dfgf xxxxxxxx . . .


After her stay in the mental hospital Soledad found it unbearable to come home. She felt Marcos was judging her, and she had to hide her shame from all the neighbors, whom she knew to be whispering behind her back. She took medicines constantly but she did not feel herself. She would take long bus rides, to get away from anyone who knew her, and she became more and more withdrawn. She had given it a try, but she was not good enough, and she had to admit defeat. There was nothing more in her life, after all.  The shining and glorious ideals of the new age dawning. There was no new age, there was no dawn, only ashes. Her sense of failure was crushing her, and she hated Marcos for making her believe and then dashing her hopes. She had to be alone.

It was on one of those bus rides that she found a small Dominican monastery at the end of the line near the little town of Acolman. She had been walking along a dirt road for what seemed hours, and it was getting dark. There would be no buses back to the city. The ancient building appealed to her. There was a grove of

pirules growing in front of it that almost made it invisible to passersby, who were scarce in any case. Grateful for the shelter, she sank under one of them and fell asleep. It was the first time she had slept well in weeks.

Father Bovino came out to empty the trash the next morning  and found her. There was something in her face that made the kind soul reach out to her, and Soledad, docile as a hurt  animal, walked beside him into the monastery.  Father Bovino made her sit down in the kitchen at a heavy wooden table built for twenty people, although the monastery had wasted away to twelve. Like the Apostles, joked father Bovino to the others.

He prepared the only thing available, goat cheese and bolillos.

---Why are you here, daughter, asked the father, but Soledad could not answer, because she did not know why. 
Finally she said,

---God has sent me. I feel I belong here.

---No my daughter, you must go back home. Don't you have a family?

---I have no family, answered Soledad, in tears. I am alone in the world. If I can't stay here I will die.

---Calm yourself, said the good father, concerned.

---Please, father, let me stay here. Ill cook and clean for everyone. I don't need money, just a place to sleep and some food once in a while.

Father Bovino realized that they needed just such a person, and though he said he promised nothing, he would take it up with the others when they came out from their prayers.

She was unable to break the silence of her own prison. To break the silence one must come in contact with others, show solidarity, have a common aim. Soledad understood nothing. Her only alternative was to move away, to rise into the stars and move among the galaxies of her mind, disconnected from the rest of humanity. She had eventually found her way to the Dominican convent, where her newly found religious fervor convinced the priests of her sincerity.  There she stayed, in cleaning the convent in exchange for room and board, until she became such a fixture that no one saw her and the younger priests who were assigned to the parish had no idea how she had come to be there.


Lauro looked out the window of his art gallery on Whittier Boulevard. There was a carnicería, a panadería, a place where they sold menudo and tamales. Not a gringo in sight. He wondered how they could think it was their country. Borders were a figment of some anal---retentive imagination.  Latin America was just outside the door, indeed, inside, since Lauro specialized in Latino art. You can't stop Latin hearts from beating across those borders any more than you can stop bird migrations. More Mexicans than any place in the world, outside the DF, he thought proudly.

His gallery had turned into a coffee shop and activist gathering. Some grape growers had signed agreements with the Farm Worker's Union, and the grape boycott was over. But that was only the beginning. Now Chávez had turned his attention to the lettuce growers. A  delegation of Farah's pants strikers had breezed into town from El Paso to spread the word of the AFL---CIO boycott. They had plastered the place with "Don't buy Farah Pants" stickers. All were women, all Mexican. They turned the gallery into their headquarters, and Lauro started a large painting of a sweatshop. Horsy tall women with long blonde hair started coming by from the Westside,  supporting the strike, and in solidarity with their latina sisters, and Lauro found himself in the midst of activity he had had little experience with.  He felt a surge of power and validation as people listened to what he had to say and admired his work.

There were pickets against lettuce outside Von's, Ralph's and Safeway. Some Latino businessmen saw this as an opportunity to accelerate their penetration  into the lucrative barrio, and started making plans for Mexican and Central American supermarkets to open, if they could ever break down the protectionist policies of the US.

Lauro was in the midst of it all. He attended picket lines with zeal, because there were lots of unemployed men there. He would buy several dozen tamales and hand them out, steaming, to the hungry strikers. Some of the men guessed at his nature and smiled and made gently joking  remarks. They smiled and offered him cigarettes, obviously trying to start up a conversation. They murmured to each other about him, telling each other that they had already "gone there" and now it as the others' turn. Lauro could only catch snatches of what they were saying.

---Mira la huera, said one amid soft laughter.

---No esta fea la cabrona.

---He likes rice through a straw.

---¿Le hablo?

Someone whistled and told Lauro he was going to come over.

---¿Quieres el chiquito? Te llevo hasta serenata, he said boldly, while the others burst into loud laughter.

Lauro, drinking it all in, felt flattered. He had begun to think of himself as a receptacle. Men sensed he was in estrus, sniffed at him, followed him, made gestures.


With immigration, there was created a new class of Mexican entrepreneurs, professionals, semi---professionals, technicians and actors.  The Spanish  language proliferated  so  that  Los Angeles has become a  Spanish---speaking city once again. Professionals  fleeing  poverty  and  political  terrorism in their  countries built up Spanish---language theaters,  television  stations  and  a daily newspaper, plus countless  neighborhood  papers.  There were artists, poets,  scholars,  photographers,  writers and film makers.  Public  institutions,  firmly  in  the hands of the ruling  class, steadfastly denied recognition  of  the  reality; that the presence  of  the  founding Mexicans of Los Angeles has never disappeared  in spite of  all  the  attempts of the U.S. government  to  uproot  it,  and,  stronger and more numerous than ever, has become an  inalienable force in the political, economic social and cultural life of Southern California.

Among them, Lauro thought with delight, were Mexican boys. How many times had he seen a tattooed cholo on the bus  get up and give a seat to an older person. Violence in the barrio, in spite of the Hollywood sleaze proliferated by people who had never been there, was practically non existent. By nature and by tradition by a thousand year old culture, Mexicans were polite and respectful of each other.

In a society where teen age girls are characterized as sluts having babies, where addicts are called scum and prisoners animals, where Mexicans are kept in the background as occasional decoration, or reviled as the fifth column of an inferior race, where one's poverty, caused by the greed of others becomes a crime, where police and army are portrayed as invincible and immune, where immigrants are barely allowed to enter school for the same reason it was illegal to teach slaves to read, and  are instead  kept in the most abject ignorance of the world by being exposed to the steady stream  of consumerist  "fun" that passes for education, where one is subjected by the propagandist media to an unceasing and dehumanizing barrage of luxury for someone else, where powerless men are told to fetch and carry, Blacks and Mexicans and broad segments of the working poor, who are told that they must have low self esteem,  have nevertheless  tenaciously hung on to their humanity and their generosity. Being human had become an act of defiance.

Lauro decided to start up a neighborhood project in which teenagers would paint murals. He encouraged them to use the traditional gang graffiti as a challenge marking their territory. Anglos, of course, were upset because they refused to acknowledge that these lands belonged  to Mexicans, something every young Chicano knew instinctively.

Once again there were indignant articles in the Los Angeles Times about the "hoodlum menace." Lauro decided to have a teach---in on the significance of street art, and the power of the word.

Lauro was pleased at the attendance. The gallery was full of people, locals and people from the Westside. Apparently these questions had a certain transcendence. You could feel the excitement in the air that slashed through stereotyped thinking and freed the vise that education had tightened around their minds.

Having found his voice, Lauro called the meeting to order.

---The barrio belongs to the people who live in it, he began, while murmurs of approval resonated through the room. While we have no power in the courts, and no economic power (both were taken away in 1848,) we Chicanos affirm our proprietary rights over our neighborhoods by signing walls we consider to be part of the Anglo occupation. Proof of this is that walls that are considered friendly to our people  are left alone, The Royball Clinic, walls with Chicano murals, one---stop immigration offices, have never been tagged. 

---No one would cross out a Virgen de Guadalupe, shouted Blackberry from the back of the room, while people laughed at the absurd thought.

 ---That's right, agreed Lauro, smiling. Graffiti are a kind of visual guerrilla warfare, which Anglos understand very well by reacting with hatred and loathing and even violence. The ideas that graffiti represent are a challenge to Anglo political and economic supremacy, a distant warning to get out of the barrio, that Anglo hegemony will not last forever. The barrio exists now as a feeder to the Anglo economy, creating jobs and incomes for themselves. Graffiti warns that jobs and incomes belong to the people in the neighborhood, and when the spark of the  future is lit, the graffiti "problem" will disappear of its own accord.

Carlos of the Brown Berets stood up.

---We control our walls, he agreed, but there is another wall that must be controlled by us. The giant wall that has been raised on the border---he paused another murmur went up--- it's a war of the US against immigrants. Those that die every year trying to cross are more than those who try to cross the Berlin wall, and look at the fuss they make about that.

General applause followed and the meeting broke up into workshops. María Gaytán organized a volunteer delegation to go to the border and set up crosses with the names of the dead. She was in contact with the tijuaneros who were working on the same issues.


Odono's meat market, Club Las Margaritas, the drug store on Euclid, some poor soul standing on the corner in the cold night waiting for the bus, a kid on his bicycle, La Quebradita,  the herbalist on Indiana, El 7 Mares, the mariachis at the  Club Hernández, the New Cavalry Cemetery where Chona was buried,   Barrio Nuevo, White Fence, Hoyo Mara,  a sign in Spanglish,  boleto de la lotería here.

Lauro pulled the gate over the shop door and locked it. No one had come around since early afternoon. It was 11 pm and he would not stay open any longer.

Josefina had been hanging around, unwilling to go home by herself. She was between lovers and wanted company, however Platonic.

---Come on over for a drink, he suggested. I have some black market Havana Club. They did not have far to go, since Lauro lived in the back of the gallery, but they had to go outside and around to get into the house itself.

They ordered a pizza.

---Might as well make a night of it, joked Lauro in turn, while Josie ogled him, giggling.

They sat on his couch, ate pizza and watched TV. After an hour they were both drunk and feeling sorry for themselves.

---I have not reached wisdom, complained Lauro, tears welling in his eyes.  I have not been able to deal with adversity.  I am no better spiritually and am no more disciplined than I ever was. People look at me with contempt. 

 ---Don't be silly. People love you and admire you. Look at all you've done for La Causa.

---Some people, maybe, he conceded. But it's not enough. I would like to make a difference, but people in the city council, for instance, just ignore me. When I had my show at the Latino Museum, they used me. Everything was great because people came, but as far as paying attention to the message, there was complete silence. People ignore what they don't want to face.

---They're scared of you, that's all.

---They close the doors and leave you with no choice but violence. If there was democracy none of this would be necessary.

He leaned over to pour Josefa the last of the rum.

---What is the meaning of it all?  What am I supposed to learn, what am I supposed to know? I am plagued by doubts.

---Join the club, said Chepina, bored.

---The ideology of the bourgesoisie is very simple, he went on bitterly.  Look out for number one. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Have no leisure time, no time to restore your spirit, no time to watch the sunrise, no time to sleep late . . . . just work like a slave, keep out of trouble and let them fuck with you for the rest of your life.

---Chepina looked at her cigarette thoughtfully.

---There is no point to any of it, she said reflectively.  People  grope blindly through life and no one has any knowledge of anything. Happiness is there for a second, then it's a life of drudgery.  No one knows what he wants or gets satisfaction out of what he wants.

Lauro was pursuing his own train of thought.

--- We refuse to accept that our bodies are in decline and we try to continue the activities of our youth.

---Speak for yourself, John,  said Pepa.  As far as I'm concerned, I'm in perfect shape.

---I think what is missing is love for others,  Lauro went on, ignoring her.  Reaching into one another's heart, understanding him  or her as being one with oneself,. That is revolutionary. Happiness is loving your enemy--- and stopping  him from harming others out of love, not hate. Disarming him, so to speak.

---Not many people can do that, said Chepina, yawning.

---You're all right, Lauro said fondly.

---Well it's time to go to bed, before I pass out. 

---Which side of the bed do you sleep on? Asked Lauro, turning out the light.


 The owner of the Million Dollar theater had an inspiration. Sales had been falling off, television had ruined going to the theater, the economic crisis didn't help. He would open with a homage to Raquel Durán! He had met her at a party in Beverly Hills and had been struck at how well she looked, after so many years. There were plenty of people who still remembered her, and all that remained was for her to say yes. The phone rang at her home in El Monte and she answered herself.

 Raquel had been battling depression. She knew her tours were over, and she had very little to do but watch television, which she hated, play with her dog and talk to a few friends who had remained loyal through the years.  Richard had moved back to Boyle Heights and she scarcely saw him. The call came like a gift from the gods.

 When Raquel walked down Broadway she was surprised at how many Mexicans and Central Americans were ambulating along the streets. It was like being in Mexico or South America, even down to the Arab and Jewish shop owners.  No one spoke English. The streets were so crowded she could hardly walk along. No one recognized her.

 The Million Dollar had changed. It was no longer the elegant, velvety shrine of the musical theater. The audience was now used to cheaper seats, and they ate during the performance. Raquel was determined to bring back its old glamour, however, and she trained like a champion, rehearsing until late at night, getting it right. There was no longer any revue, she was to sing three songs in between other acts. It didn't matter. She was determined to leave her mark in this, her farewell performance.

 Opening night. Raquel peeped through the curtain to size up the audience as it came in. There were a lot of grey heads. She watched with dismay as a man with a cane was assisted shakily to his seat. She wondered if she had made a terrible mistake. The though fell swiftly away as more people came. The place was packed! They still remembered. Her nerves seemed to be at the breaking point.

 Richard was in the audience, of course, sitting there in a dignified suit, with his white hair.  In spite of all their differences, he couldn't help but feel proud of wife, and knew that he still loved her. His heart beat rapidly, wishing her the greatest success on this important night. Lauro sat by his side, and they exchanged small talk to cover their nerves.

 It had come down to this. 

A sudden hush fell over the crowd. She stood there, naked in her sequined dress, barely hiding her age. No one breathed.  A long silence followed. It seemed as if she had forgotten she was there, forgotten the words, forgotten why. They sat there, hypnotized by the pool of light in which the diva seemed to meld and fluctuate. Then, to an ovation,  she hit the first notes of her signature, Fumando Espero.
                The magic was still there. She showed them what they were inside, what they felt. In her were incarnate all the suffering, the humiliations, the longings and yes, the sweet delights of their lives. She continued with a potpourri of her most popular songs.

This was all that was left, a body that ages, and culo, nothing more. No illusions,  only memories of having searched a will---o'---the---wisp and never having found it, of having found it and not known it .

In spite of it all, Raquel Durán was back. She started improvising, as she did when in top form, and the audience followed along like willing minions.

There followed other acts, but they didn't matter. They simply served as a distraction until she came back on.

The last song was to be a another tango. She strode swiftly  through the curtains announcing in a throaty  voice, arms outstretched;

---¡Ay tango! ¡Me haces daño, y sin embargo te quiero! 

She broke into the song by Filiberto;    

        Desde que se fue
              triste vivo yo,
              caminito amigo,
              yo también me voy.

              Desde que se fue
              nunca más volvió.
              Seguiré sus pasos...
              Caminito . . ..

Her face suddenly became contorted, and no sound came out of her throat. The music stopped, and the audience hung as if suspended, unable to breathe. Overcome by the words, and for the first time in her life, she was not able to sing. It came to her this was indeed her final performance, all her friends had died, and soon she was to follow them. As she stood there, helpless, naked, her soul bare, an applause started somewhere and began gathering strength throughout the hall.

She had accomplished much in her life, but somehow there were always limitations. Even if she made a qualitative leap she just found that she had a new wall in front of her,  a new restraint. It was almost with relief that she walked out of the theater, through the stage door, for the last time.


Raquel sat down at the park and watched the children at play. One little girl seemed to boss the others around, and Raquel smiled. How young! How smooth their skin! How full of life!

Her mood turned sour. They had so much to learn. So much that would break down that enthusiasm. Beat them down, make them lose their illusions, their ambitions. Make them old. She wondered how many would still be alive ten years from now. They made a bid for life itself---to pour out what was inside them, show it to the world, and triumph--- have it appreciated, and become supreme. But the world wouldn't care, their efforts would be futile, their gestures puny and pitiful. Thus their descent into hell would begin. Raquel was living proof, she was no longer able to walk more than a few steps---she who had danced and twirled and raced and laughed even as these children. She could not lift anything more than a few pounds. Sometimes she didn't want to get out of bed, but she did on her swollen ankles, out of stubbornness "They won't get me," she would say aloud knowing they would. Soon she would be unable to go to the bathroom properly, or wipe herself. Her arms hurt too much. She had trouble breathing sometimes, and she would wake up, frightened. Her hearing had diminished long ago, and hanging around her head, her constant companion, day in and day out like an old friend that would one day mercifully depart, was a thin invisible cloud of pain, just behind her eyes, around her ears, caressing her neck, daring her to move.

She stared at the children, the birds, the grass wondering what she was looking for. It was as if she wanted to burn the images into her mind and take them with her.

Lauro came by the house, and she was glad to see him.

His heart  ached when he saw her. The makeup was useless, instead of hiding her anguish, it revealed it all the more. He fixed dinner for her, and they sat at the kitchen table, lingering over coffee.

Raquel stared at her son for a while. It was time for the reckoning.

---I'm sorry for the neglect, she said. I'm afraid I did you harm, but I didn't mean to.

---It's alright, Lauro said quickly, embarrassed. He didn't want to talk about it.

He could see that she needed someone to take care of her. He arranged for Chepina to run the gallery and he moved in with his mother.

Unfamiliar feelings invaded her soul; she became uneasy for no apparent  reason  more or less all the time. She was afraid of disease, of being  weak, of getting robbed in the neighborhood, of  conflict with other people. She even fantasized a divorce or getting arrested or harassed by the police. Sometimes she thought there would be a war, a nuclear war, things that the leaders could do that were beyond her control. There were pesticides in the food, the air was bad.  There was so much discrimination for whatever reason being a man or a woman or the wrong color the wrong sex. There was  the pain of being disabled.

Life is too difficult, she decided. There are too many obstacles. Life may have been  difficult for primitive man, who had to get up before dawn and look for food; men and women would be engaged in back breaking work,  older people who  would have to be left to die. We think that that is all in the past,  but today nothing has really changed, she reflected.  People may live more comfortably, but they are under greater stress and anxiety and life is even  more difficult.

It was Lauro's turn to take care of his parent. He wondered who would take care of him when his time came. Raquel had looked for life on the stage; Lauro in his painting. They were not so different, after all. Lauro was pleased that he actually liked his mother. There would always be divine misfits like them who would never be vanquished, and every generation would safeguard the path of progress and the paths of freedom. After all the resentment, they settled down like an old couple who had come to terms.

---I made good caca today,  she would tell Lauro, when he was listening.  She would have a good day that day.

---Remember Buenos Aires? She began another time at dinner, forgetting he had never been there.  Was it the café Tortoni, where the piano bar broke into Fumando Espero as soon as we walked in! Everyone, the cook, the owner, the cashier and all the waiters lined up in a row when we left, to bid us goodbye!  They all bowed! They knew quality when they saw it.  They must have —  we were royalty in those days --- this with a toss of the head. They were absolutely charmed, charming, and in Caracas! Who ever heard of the owner of the hotel personally bringing me breakfast every morning! It was a bit of a nuisance, because I has to look my best before letting him in, but I gave him an eyeful in my black chiffon peignoir! I have nev--- . . ."

She looked frightened. The bread she had been eating stuck in her mouth and started oozing out again, instead of going down her throat.

---Mother! Are you alright!

---Of course, why do you ask? The calm had returned to her face, She went on as if nothing has happened. When she tried to get up she fell to the floor. Her whole left side had been paralyzed.


She dreamed that she had died. She tried moving her leg in the bed, and it moved.

---Thank God, not yet. she thought dimly. I'm not ready yet.

She spent long months in bed thinking about her life. She had come into the century in revolution, and was leaving it in revolution. Outside  student riots were gaining momentum all over the world. Cities in the U.S. were ablaze.

She was very tired. It felt wonderful to lie down and stretch her wasted body out among the pillows and comforters. She slept fitfully. Her breathing became labored. A thought had come to her, unbidden, over and over again, and she pushed it away.

She listened to her own snoring as she slept, half conscious, half in some other world where she slipped away more and more often. A dart of panic made her stomach hurt, and she could no longer push the horrible, final inexorable thought away. One of these breaths would be her last, and life would go on as if she had never existed.   It was real, it was true, it was really happening, to her, not to someone else. Raquel, who had always been strong and assertive, who had borne the most outrageous hardships, who had never been sick a day in her life;  was dying. This, at last, was more than she could bear. She was going to be defeated, finally and forever.

---I won't die, she said, stubbornly, I won't.

But she could not figure out a way to stop it.

Lauro came in and asked tenderly if she wanted something to eat.

---No, she answered, I just had some coffee with the old lady on the island. Her coyote was going to meet her there to taker her to the underworld.

Gradually she started thinking that maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe it was a new opportunity. Maybe she would make herself microscopic and live among the universal slime, among the crawly things, only to rise again someday. What was it? Why this mystery? How was it possible that she could leave this sweet life, which even now she was clinging to with an iron hand,  leave the dawn, leave the desert, leave her warm kitchen where she had cooked over the years when she wasn't performing? She couldn't, she wouldn't.

She thought of her Yaqui grandmother, of the grand moments of the Revolution as they had to flee, terrified to an unknown world where things were safe.  Her  grandmother visited to tell her; "life never dies."  She reflected on it. Everything lives and dies, everything degenerates and decays, yet life goes on forever, through nuclear blasts and through eternity. Maybe, she realized, just maybe, the meaning of it all is to keep life alive. We are conduits for something greater than ourselves. How simple. There really is a point to it. No one's life is that important, but all life is sacred. We need to be here so that It can continue, unbroken.  Death, the great redeemer,  is saved for last.

---Look Raquel said Eduwiges, look! It's Halley's comet!

She heard singing, far away.

Kialem vata hiwemai
             chukula hubwa teune teunevu

Eduwiges  said, Come, Raquel, there's nothing to wory about. Obediently, Raquel said, Yes, Mommy, and followed her.


Her nose was stopped up again. She had been breathing through her mouth and it was so dry she couldn't move her tongue. She reached with her good hand to the night table for the glass of water, and she felt a stab of pain in her chest. She cried out as the water fell from her hand.
A languor fell over her. She knew it was time, and perversely started enjoying herself. She knew that any moment, any heartbeat, any breath would be the last one. She started concentrating on her heartbeats and on her breathing, seeing which one it would be. Thump. Not that one . Thump. It was a kind of luxury. She knew the ending to this story, but she relished the time it took to get there. She felt comfortable, without a trace of pain. It would be so easy. After years of fear, what a relief to just sink into the lovely nothingness. To go from being biology to being physics--- from a living person to slime. Thump. Still there. Lauro came in and turned on the light to peer at her. Raquel half---opened her eyes, resentful at the intrusion. She felt rather than saw him and closed her eyes again, back to her world. This was hers and only hers. She did not want others interfering. No more bills to pay. No more worries about what would become of her. She forgave Richard, she couldn't remember  for what. He too would walk into the night. She wondered  how her brain would take it when the thumping stopped. It would continue thinking for a while. How strange to see with the mind, when her life's companion had ceased beating. Things would slow and grind to a halt, as the lights of an office building might go out floor by floor, in twos and threes until the entire building remained in darkness.

Before Raquel had been born she had lived in a dream. Then she had started  to build consciousness and had become aware of her surroundings. This gave her  a tremendous amount of energy;  to go from a passive state to an  active state. It was as if some marvelous battery had been charged,  a flame that would burn steadily for decades. It was hope that had moved her, and hope that is rewarded is one direction will make a certain kind of person, hope that is rejected in another direction will make someone else. That high energy had made her  rebellious,  but the passions that had moved her when she was young were no longer relevant.

Yet she had added her bit to the world's  reserves. Somehow, she knew, the world was different because she had been born. Nature doesn't  judge --------- it takes all and collates everything through its sieve. The thought was comforting. It was as though her presence and absence were essential ingredients for humanity to move forward, even if no one had known of her existence. She had been there. She had added to the richness, to the multiformity, and the dirt that others walked on would be richer because she was in it. They would all join her, she was in one phase and they in another.

---At least, she said with some contempt, I never needed a claque.



It was 3 am; somewhere in the depths of the city, a rooster was crowing. Someone or other had been listening to that sound for five hundred  years. A morning without cock crow, even in the city of 20 million, was as unthinkable as a morning without daylight.

Marcos lay awake, staring at the faint glow that covered the city rooftops outside the window. He realized once again  that, as the twentieth century drew to a close, times had changed with accelerated speed and that the old formulas were no longer relevant.

The old guard  had had  only one answer--------- the solution was revolution. When dogmatism ran rampant, they had been so afraid to being labeled "revisionist"  that  that was in itself what held them back as the world changed around them and they steadfastly hung on to the old thinking, seeing the damage that glasnost  had done.  Dozens of revolutionary groups had become martyrs only to pave the way for the most blood--- curdling reaction.

It had been a mistake to follow the USSR so uncritically. Neither a small group of "illuminated ones" owners of the "truth," nor powerful forces from the outside, as happened in the countries of the East, where heads of states got together and decided for the people.  It had to be the people in their plurality, with their own internal and contradictory characteristics, which determined the course. The opposite of plurality was totalitarianism. To rule by ruling, or to rule by obeying. Cebollín had had an inkling of this, but had been unable to express himself, lost in the minutiae of personalities. 

The left  had isolated themselves and ceded  the center of gravity to the reactionaries. They had not had the support of the people, not enough. Out of the vast confluence of differing opinions,  contradictory ones, a  steadfastly middle class had emerged, however progressive, that had little following among  large numbers of people. They had always been "those leftists," easily dismissed, easily murdered. They had wanted to change the world and the world had changed them instead. The vanguard.  They had been so proud of had become bankrupt. They had spent a lifetime blaming capitalism without seeing their own collusion with it. When the midwife is no good, she blames the mother's culo.

He had been thinking for days about this problem. A dream had woken him up, as he stared sleeplessly at the day breaking through the window.  Bolívar, San Martín, Sucre, O'Higgins, Artigas, Martí, Juárez, Luperón were holding a conference to talk about his failures. He had been charged in some sort of tribunal. If only he only knew what the charges were, he would be able to work his way out of the dilemma.

The answer had hit him hard and now made him unable to sleep as his mind raced. The people of the Américas had a history that would not be denied. He and his friends had not listened enough. The people  had fought and died for independence, for abolition of slavery, for the dignity of the indigenous people, for nationhood. They, the people,  knew it. Their mothers and fathers, their aunts and uncles, their grandparents all had lived it and had stories to tell. The vanguard had not paid attention, except in an abstract way. Instead they had looked to movements across the seas for guidance.  Others had created a socialism against capitalism, but not that different from capitalism. Bad advice.

Here the Américas  had, however unconsciously, looked down on their own culture. They had avoided the slums and the unemployed. The vanguard  had been unable to trust the people  with the important task of their own emancipation, even as the vanguard itself had no idea of how to run  a government. They had ignored Latin American thinkers, and even Fidel and El Che, the saint of La Higuera, used  in their flags, were set aside in favor of  Lenin and Mao. Native thinkers, who had been silenced, shunted aside and ignored,  needed to be studied to cull the best from them to incorporate into  revolutionary culture. They were irreplaceable  weapons in the revolution.

Consciousness is a no man's land. What is not occupied  by the experience and culture of the people themselves is taken over by the enemy.  

Otherwise,  the solution was, mindless, revolution that simply reproduced  the failed and elitist practices of the past . . .


The next day, Marcos ran into Meli on Atenas. She spoke of his mother and  how much their friendship had meant to her, her eyes moistening.  Their meeting gave Marcos an idea. Meli owned a three story building behind the Cathedral, which she rented out. The ground floor  however, had had water damage when the area still flooded (the municipal government had rerouted the drains) and she had boarded it up  against the day when she could fix it up. The day never seemed to come.

---Let me fix it up for you, Marcos begged. I want to open up a bookstore. People need to know what we have been through. Everything is illuminated by our past. To deny the past is to plunge the world in darkness.  There's a whole generation of young people that don't know anything about  Tlaltelolco or Jueves de Corpus. Ill fix it up if you'll give me six months rent free. Its not doing you any good as it is anyway.

As he was rummaging through his things he came across his mother's obsidian. It seemed warm to the touch. He decided to call the bookstore Itztlimitl, and placed it in a niche near the door.

His friends donated used books. More friends came in to build shelves and help in plastering and  painting the walls and ceiling. Before long Marcos had so many books that the shelves were insufficient, and he began to pile books on the floor. He had the complete  Mexico a través de los siglos,  cooking books, children's books, encyclopedias. True to his new vision, he started collecting works by Bolívar, Mariátegui, Mella, John Cooke, Arregui, Vivian Trías and Roque Dalton, Martí, poems by Neruda and Mistral, and many others. Yasmani came with plays by Sergio Magaña and Emilio Carballido. She introduced young people as promising writers. Remembering his days at the Café La Habana, he set up a coffee shop on one end.  People would not be pressured  to buy anything. Word got around and people  started coming by and using the shop as a meeting place.

Marcos knew that opening up discussion groups was dangerous—  the democratic regime was only democratic when it suited them— and he also knew that a lot of people would show  up and talk a lot of nonsense and waste everyone's time, but it was important to do it, and the alternative was unacceptable.  People had to have a place to spout off, to trash---talk. The key was real democracy, which always involved compromise. The ruling class was anything but democratic, but the left was also undemocratic, afraid of trusting the people and letting control slip from its hands.  Democracy had to become a reality in the communities. It was not enough to have elections and political parties. The bourgeoisie had them simply to keep themselves in power. What was lacking was social equality. What was lacking was tearing down  the prohibitions.

Yet even this was not enough. Those gifts could be taken away  with the next election. The only way to assure real democracy was to put control of elections in the hands of the people. The people were to decide where their  money was to be spent. Politicians could not be allowed to act without their express permission.

This was the only truly radical solution.

It was time to stop manufacturing throwaway people.  They had to be  integrated  into the unified social struggle to build a negotiating force capable of getting the job done. The same passion that had moved the struggle had to be applied to the electoral process, bringing in millions of people in the process.

Out of the mélange, the real enemy would emerge. The enemy were the sacred parasites, the corrupt champions of free enterprise, the usurious transnationals. The enemy that fomented xenophobia and racism, that privatized everything and sold the land, water and air to the highest bidder, that kept your nose to the grindstone with no leisure time —  that tried to convince everyone that national economies, politics, ideologies and culture were a thing of the past. Solidarity with the poor would create a new type of social alliance that would  transform itself. This would create a new energy that would surpass the supposed superiority and technological development of the ruling class in power.

Social movements in América had to come out of the fiber of América.

The first salvo was a  battle of ideas, no less indispensable than the other kind, to break the politics of silence.  It was to rid everyone the idea that there was something wrong with criticism, as if  there were no distinction between the person and the  argument, as though to criticize an argument would be injurious to  the person. The lack of criticism was to avoid commitment, a failure to engage the world, a failure to test convictions. It closed off possibilities for growth.

Marcos was fed up with the sophist stereotypes, the knee- jerk reactions, the consumerist media manipulation that was accepted  as gospel by people who had gone to school to learn, not to analyze, but to sloganeer and "find the right word" that would offend nobody, as if that would make everything alright, as if everything that went wrong in the world was some one else's responsibility, never seeing the errors, never seeing  the solutions, never setting an example; fed up with their obsession in hoarding things as if that determined their social relations, unable to relate organically to other members of their own species, for God's sake, a junk society turning everything into money and plastic, fake food, fake milk, fake love, proclaiming fake freedoms and fake patriotism, that poverty was a choice in this  best of all possible worlds, ultimately annihilating reality, and justifying an arbitrary headlong plunge into the abyss, garroting freedom without justice for the many in the name of a few.

It made him physically sick and ashamed.

The incompetent had created a silence which they fancied as politeness, a silence that was a tomb where  they hoped to cage dissent, a silence which concealed, a silence which would keep the winds in perpetual darkness, that would smother any spark of dignity.

El que calla otorga. It was time to tear open  the shroud.

Defying the silence  was  dangerous. Telling the truth was banishing the darkness, setting loose the wind, a wind that would feed on itself and gather the storm, breaking all control and taking on an unstoppable life of its own. He longed for it.

Some of Marcos's friends started to come around the bookstore, at first only talking casually. Then the muttering became louder. In a few short weeks they had started discussions, wondering out loud why they could not run the country themselves. They decide to start  holding meetings in the bookstore after hours.

The discussions were lively, sometimes almost violent. They worked on problems to try to find common ground. It meant tearing down sacred cows. The left  too,  had its silences.

When you say things people don't like, Marcos mused,  their lips sphincter and they  look away, as if they have seen something obscene.  Tie your hands. Muzzle your brain. Make the people  not the people and render them powerless. An army of silent drones, never complaining. Never make others feel uncomfortable, always censor reality. Have a nice day. People  hold these truths to be self-evident; that they do not hold others  equal. The system of hierarchies is so primally ingrained by the conspiracy of silence that it simply goes  unnoticed. Part of the thunder. The awful silence melting into the thunder, the roar of the grave.

Yet scarcely audible in the emptiness, other murmurs start to become visible. People have ceased to believe the hype. Their colors swirl in unexpected places. People  do start to speak out. How rude. When they do they find their cellular identity, matching awakened words to action, and they  feel powerful, surprised at what a weak bully the system really is. They go into forbidden corners, so carefully hidden so as not to exist, but really existing all the more. They pull out the demons that have propped up the regime and this  insurrection of consciousness  makes the  regime come shattering down. They have gone too far, and going too far is the right thing to do. Farther than anyone had gone before.  They  have torn the ending into a beginning, until  the broken silence has become a roar.
If we speak the truth they'll kill us, if we don't speak the truth we'll die in silence. We all have to give voice to the irresistible and unstoppable emotions which rent the air in their demand to feel whole, to feel human, to have some peace, finally.

— The revolution, he said aloud to no one in particular, is the purest form of poetry.   



                                © Forrest Antonio Bernal Hopping 2008