Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mocho's Funeral and Small Family Events

Mocho's Funeral 

         We buried Mocho today. Mocho was a thin, sad, one-armed man with ears like open barndoors who hung around the colmado and could often be found lounging against the doors of our marquisina alone or with other tigueres. Mocho-- who was not called Mocho before-- lost most of his left arm after witnessing  some kind of disagreement among some tigueres and when he went home one of the tigueres followed him, entered the house just behind him and whacked his arm badly enough with a machete that the amputation was completed in a hospital. One might translate Mocho into English as Stump or Gimp. He had been reported to be a thief and one of the neighbors reported him to the police as such and he spent three months in Victoria prison before getting out in December. He was even thinner and sadder looking and he told Altagracia once that he was not a bad man but that drugs had destroyed his life and that nobody should mess with them. He always greeted me with a smile and he never asked for money. It was rumored that he had contracted HIV in prison. We saw him the day before yesterday hunkered under the roble tree across the street that is covered with the little white trumpet shaped flowers that are supposed to bring good luck and when we asked how he was he just shook his head. He died yesterday around lunch time at his mother’s house.
         This morning many people hung out on the street waiting for Mocho to be brought out of the house on the next block where he was being encoffined and eventually 6 tigueres carried out the box which was in the shape of an elongated hexagon, was blue and had a little glass window over Mocho’s face with a hinged wooden  flap that could be closed over it. He was loaded into a city ambulance and a large guagua showed up to help carry mourners to the Municipal Cemetery here just outside Villa Mella. There was a cavalcade that included the guagua, about 4 private cars one of which was ours, and Cheque’s moribund pickup truck with at least 15 people riding in the back and that threatened to tip over at every curb or pothole because of a nearly flat right rear tire. The pick-up’s passengers boisterously passed Presidente grandes back and forth with both the drivers and the passengers of the 10 or so motorbikes circling in accompaniment. Every so often an empty beer bottle was hurled from the back of the truck toward the bushes.
         The unruly cavalcade turned off  Avenida Jacobo Macluta down a dirt road that was being prepared for paving toward Las Casabes and the Municipal burying ground. There were many more naked children than usual along the roadside and the colmados were full of dust from the dry clayey gravel being spread on the road bed. There was a small building at  the entrance to the cemetery outside of town and a woman ran out as we passed saying that we had forgotten to pick up the cross and so one of the motorcycles turned back to get it.
         The two lane dirt tracks ran through the grounds and scrubby brush overgrew many of the white stone or wooden crosses that marked the scattered grave sites. In places the crosses were almost in the road and it was hard to tell if the road had encroached on the graves or if those dead were planted that close to the road; perhaps to shorten the walk. Off in the bushes could be seen concrete sidewalks that started and stopped in the middles of nowhere. With tires spinning dust we wended our way up the last steep little hill and parked. Many of the men immediately turned their backs on the scene and pissed.
         From this humble weedy summit the city could be seen in the distance and here and there in the scrub could be seen groups of freshly filled graves, the backfill still mounded up high enough so that I thought at first that the dead were just covered over on top of the ground. Six drunk tigueres carried Mocho’s open coffin down to a group of fresh mounds where his grave was neatly dug about 3 and a half feet deep. When the crowd of about 50 had gathered, the pallbearers guided the open coffin gently down the pile of dirt it was perched on and into the grave where a cemetery worker was waiting to settle it into its final position. A few of the tigueres sobbed last words emotionally and unintelligibly and, after placing a small Dominican flag in Mocho’s hand folded on his chest, they closed the box and shut the little window flap and began to backfill by hand as well as with mattocks and shovels-- I tossed in a clod too-- and the job was finished in a few minutes. The white cross on which was scrawled Benito Angel Mendez was set and we climbed back up the hill. There was a brief commotion when Mocho’s sister began to wail that he had been nothing but a shit in life and that to have any kind of ceremony was an excercise in hypocrisy but many of Mocho’s friends took exception and several offered to fight someone, or even anyone, over the matter and Julio actually drew his pistol but everyone eventually drove quietly out of the cemetery and, after stopping at a colmado in Las Casabes to replenish the supplies of Presidente, returned to the barrio.
         I had felt uncomfortable crashing a burial for someone I hardly knew, but Altagracia explained that, here, it is a case of the more the merrier and that it also was a chance to support the poor of the barrio. As relative newcomers to the neighborhood, and as relative odballs because I am a gringo who walks a cocker spaniel on a leash every morning and we own a car, attending a burial of a local unfortunate in potter’s field was a nice thing to do and showed that we cared about our neighbors and belonged, even if peculiarly. She also said that she has seen a lot of rich people buried with many fewer well wishers in attendence.

Family News

     ¡ALTAGRACIA HAS LEFT THE PENSION! and she managed to get most of her sevarance pay, here called the liquidación, of about 13,000 pesos. Sat. the 18th. Since then we have heard that the other employees-- Marta, Nelly and Julis are desparately seeking their liquidacións because they are now being made to share the  chores Altagracia left and they can’t hack it.
         So far we have spent two days getting Niningo’s probable hernia checked out. We first went to Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital and after a two hour wait were told that Niningo, at 16, was too old for their services because when it was crowded the cut off age was reduced to 13. We then walked up to Mata Hambre Hospital Emergency room and, after a brief exam were referred to Padre Billini in the Zona Colonial. Because we had a referral we were able to cut one of the lines and Niningo was seen by a doctor who turned out to be related on the Alvarez side. The next day we came back for blood and urine testing and tomorrow we we will return once more for the results and, perhaps, a final diagnosis.

         Saturday Rick, my brother here for a short visit, and I toured in the minibus going to Monte Plata where the National Games are being held (in direct competition with the Winter Olimpics) and we watched a quarter of physical basketball.
         Sunday Rick was here, and so with Altagracia out of work, were able to go to Playa Palenque. Chavela could not go because of her work in the Banca. It was Niningo’s first time ever at the beach although he grew up about five miles from it.
        Monday-- While the hospital would have been happy to perform sonograms and more blood and stool testing on Niningo, one of the doctors suggested that he might only be dehydrated and so, over the weekend he drank a lot of water and now feels fine and is pissing clear.

Altagracia took the bus out to visit Kiki in the prison at Elias Piña on Sunday and reported that it is the nicest one that she has ever visited him in and is equipped with new mattresses, cold drinking water, television, an infirmary and has computer courses available. Kiki was very thin but perhaps because of an aching molar that was to be worked on by the prison dentist the next day. The official charges seem to be whacking a Haitian with a machete and stealing and eating one of his roosters and although Kiki says he didn’t do it and Altagracia says she believes him she is not going to bail him out saying that maybe he will learn this time and besides, the lawyer wanted 10,000 pesos which was too much.

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