Part I: “Miguel’s Betancos” (864 words)
Oh, man! They’ve started it again, my bonded campesino family here, los Betancos, at the end of the road in Teotecacinte, Nicaragua. Good Lord! It’s 2008! They should know me better, by now. I’ve travelled here, hat in hand, for 15 perfect years! They’re dear and ancient souls, who shine, up front, from the heart, on their sculpted faces, and, most brilliantly, from deep within their Polynesian-Indios eyes. Their faces in candlelight speak of Easter Island and Samoa. It’s a walk through human history to know them, though in Teote, there’s not too much Castilian beyond an occasional horseface—No one here looks bleached-out by the sun, as in some, more aristocratic colonial cities, where women use umbrellas for shade against a healthy tan. So close to ancient Maya, almost everyone’s a delicious café-con- leche, honeyed with an inner golden glow. I spend a half hour without a hat in the early afternoon sun, just to catch up with the local color.
Don’t tell my family, por favor, I called them “Indians,” in any part, as my family counts every blanco genome in their DNA a beauty, every colorada mark of The People on their faces a curse. Only Diós knows why, given the ugly rape of Nicaragua from 1500 on, by Indo-Europeans, continued by later, more Nordic gringos feos, even as I write, still searching for El Dorado, to steal it from los Indios. They just don’t realize the oro of the campesinos not in the ground, but in the heart. Don’t get me started on that. Mi familia Betanco holds such triumphant, pre-Mayan joy inside, incandescent when I’m here with the locos, it’s hard to keep from gushing ecstatic all day long, from my crib in the corn god’s kitchen.
I’m angry at the lot of them, ángeles though they are.. I just can’t believe it! Again! Ay, Chihuahua , I’m spewing, a venal sin in writing. Tone it down, don Dugla! But, mierda! What’s really pushing my buttons? There must be something I’m denying, refusing to look at in myself. While I feel I live in the heart and mind of Diós in Teote, and I’m grateful for it, I’ve human reason and ego, as well, the gift of Eden, when in front of my laptop. But, really! How dare they?
Loco, sí, they are, every single one. It’s grounding in Teote for me, un loco norteamericano maxísimo, to remember it. Mi padre, don Moncho, took me aside, en la noche, and said it once again, after keeping shut of the subject for at least three years, at my request. It came late last night while eating warm arroz con leche, a satisfying rice, milk, cinnamon and sugar dish to whisper over in the candlelight at evening’s end, when everyone en la casa is sleeping, except for viejitos. I was at Papa’s finca for the night, something I can only do occasionally, because, without electricidád, I don’t write much anymore. I do generate poems by hand with a flashlight-pen, in my writer’s journal, late in the Nicaraguan night, with bats flying through the open rafters. I find this very romantic, conducive to musing, as long as I have a mosquito net over the cama. And then, as well, there are the fleas in the beds. Unavoidable ravenous beasties--pica, pica, pica through the tossing night--despite doña Eva’s constant washing and cleaning and sprinkling down, as they live in the dirt floors and walls, swept and washed and swept again, to no avail. Aerosols don’t stem the biting horde, and who wants to sleep with the smell of Raid! in the bed? Fleas are great survivors, content with dry dust and any passing animale, including me. It’s on my agenda to layer the adobe with painted stucco, at least in my studio, there, en la futura. I’d rather deal with angels any night.
Occasionally, it’s good for a writer to rough it, choosing “machine-denial” and less comfort. No one would choose fleas, but, part of the finca picture, even they’re a blessing. Both force my senses to seek inner springs from the deep well, within, past my often irritating voice and circumstances. Luckily, I was tranquilo, last night, with cicada songs in a dusk of my muse’s nudges and a promising poema. When my father spoke this locura, I immediately pooh-pooh’d my loco friend, of course, with a snort, a sigh, and a giggle, then some more than gentle persuasion, but he just won’t listen to reason, not even from me.
He, at a miraculous 79, was serious, as only a Nicaraguan católico can be, glowing with pride and love and awe at his last new son, now 15 years in his life, don Douglas Betanco de Teote (63), as the villagers here call me, since I now own property in my name, here in Teote. But, right now, I’m more concerned with mi padre’s doubtful sanity.
He honestly believes I’m a giant angel, resplendent in celestial light—I mean, really, gang!--a “norteamericano ángel de Diós.” He peeked like a duenna, when I bathe desnudo in the río that flows through the farm, for signs of some very white wings!