ADVENTURE ON RAILS (Aventura sobre Rieles)

Mexico, Chihuahua, train

My worn Guía Roji map of Mexico showing not only the country’ highways and roads – but also its once-extensive rail system. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

(Note: This story is based on my journey on “Aventura sobre rieles” on 21 August 2003. If anyone knows whether this train service is still in operation, please tell us in the comments below. Thank you.)

 

Ay, the hundreds of sepia photographs of the Mexican revolutionaries. Men in white peasant clothes, large sombreros and bandoliers across chests, riding atop massive steam Iron Horses. The revolucionarias in long simple dresses, a small bundle of belongings bound to their backs with their shawls, perhaps a rifle in hand, hanging out the door of a vestibule.

In that era, foreign companies were the owners of the railroad. In 1880, the Porfirio Díaz government granted them favorable concessions to build this grid of tracks. In 1910, the people had enough of 40 years of Díaz rule, 40 years of foreign appropriations of lands, industries and natural resources. The people arose to reclaim their wealth, so that the majority poor might have. And that Revolution, which lasted until 1917 and had costs 1.4 million lives, was carried upon these rails.

Now, in a pocket of northern Chihuahua state, not too far from where Pancho Villa had invaded the US, a new revolution is happening – and it is carrying the rails.

 


 

After checking into a hotel in Nuevo Casas Grandes, I set out to explore the town on foot. Within a block, I encounter tracks paralleling Avenida Constitución. One set is intact. The adobe station, built in 1898, is being renovated. On display is an orange and black Chihuahua-Pacific locomotive. A swiftly running Rarámuri is painted between the CH and the P.

I approach two men sitting on a green bench in front of the station. “Are there still trains running from here?” They motion to another seated in the door of a white boxcar.

That man, don Carlos, and I spend until well after dark talking about this line, which once operated from Ciudad Juárez to here, on to Madera and La Junta. All service – cargo and passenger – ceased in 1996. He’s decided to save at least part of the route, from Nuevo Casas Grandes to as far as Cumbres, 100 kilometers towards Madera. They receive no funds from the federal or municipal governments. When at least ten are traveling, they do special excursions to Mata Ortiz, famous for pottery, and to Cumbres. These runs help to cover maintenance expenses. Also, they run cargo and passenger service for the inhabitants of Ejido Heroínas. No, not all of them used to work for the railroad; some are only now learning the trade.

A young mother and her son walk up to us. A possibility of a train? Indeed, tomorrow, at seven a.m.

They use old, small transport locomotives and open-sided cars with benches. On the side of one of the vagones is painted: Aventura Sobre Rieles. “That’s the name of our company,” don Carlos affirms.

I bid him good night. I feel uncertain about taking this train. An excursion, a tourist train. But he said Mexican families would be riding. Should I go, if for nothing else than the adventure?

I still do not know when I fall into fitful sleep.

 

Mexico, Chihuahua, train

The rail line from Nuevo Casas Grandes to Cumbres and Madera. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

I awaken to my alarm a bit after six a.m. Without thinking, I tie down my pack.

The sky is still pink when I walk to the station. I ask don Mario, the guard, if there is a train this morning. Yes, at seven. I run back to get my Rocinante.

And so we wait. The sun is higher. Church bells ring for mass.

Near their pick-up, Ramiro González, his wife, their grown children and spouses mill. Cookout supplies and coolers mound around them. The four-year-old grandson plays on a yellow vagón. León Barriga Ortiz, who worked over 30 years on this line, his wife and their oldest grandson, thirteen years old, stand near the tracks. Both families want the children to experience a train journey.

Soon, young Ramón, our engineer, arrives in a transport máquina attached to a carriage. We load our belongings. He looks back at us with his clear hazel eyes. Just before eight, we are off in two small cars: a green engine and a blue passenger.

 

Feeling every vibration

through these wooden floors

the open sides

Rattle? Clunk? Clatter?

 

Clamor!

 

Through the old rail yards, bodegas and locomotive sheds empty, decaying. We slow for intersections, waving at those automobiles stopped.

Then we gain speed, rocking and jolting past adobe homes, past their apple orchards and cornfields surviving – somehow – in this eleventh year of drought. A man hoes a campo of beans. We slow over a bridge spanning a cracked-mud arroyo.

 

The Sierra Madre surrounds this

broad plain we

shudder across

Jackrabbits flee into brush

a correcamino hops atop

a fencepost

A cow, an ancient

álamo rot

into the earth

 

Everyone we pass greets us, from pickups or milpas, from porches. Dogs run barking towards our trenecito. Dairy cattle water at a green pond or graze along the tracks, lazily moving away from our approach.

In the front car, the González family chats, pointing at the passing countryside: Buttes towering above us. Trees full of black birds. The bitter smell of crushed herbs swells around us.

Into Mata Ortiz. A quick beak to allow us to buy supplies, as there is nothing ahead – no shops, no restaurants, no vendors. When I come back with my meager purchase, Señora González offers me soda and burrito after burrito – tres de frijol, dos de huevo.

On we go, rattling, swaying. The earth ripples around us. Through Santa Rosa, a dozen or so adobe huts, a school and a small church.

The land becomes rockier. We begin to ascend. To our left, smooth-topped hills meet rugged cerros.

 

Suddenly our solitary rail splits. A tanker rests on that right spur and to the left, boxcars. Here there are a half-dozen or more empty white-washed houses, their windows torn out. Graffiti cover the walls.

This sluice we’ve been traveling along since Mata Ortiz widens to a river, its banks heavy with poplars and willows. We wind now at the base of a cliff.

We stop a ways from a ranch. Ramón calls to someone up there and climbs over the barbed-wire fence. The González family poses for photos. The desert hills are greened and dotted with wild white poppies. We see our maquinista returning. Quickly we reboard as to lose no time.

We rattle further into these mountains. The heat of day grows. That río still rushes and pools to our side.

 

Slicing through a canyon

wending among trees & boulders

through tunnels

Always that sierra landscape

as we emerge, the wind

whipping our hair

 

A squirrel runs to a hidden crevice. A mother and child wade the creek to their small earthen home, a tethered buckboard wagon in the yard. Winding. Adobe houses seep into the soil. Zopilotes feast on a dead calf. Bleached bones scatter a pasture. Three great blue herons fly upstream. Through an unposted former stop, boxcars stripped of wood, down to rusting skeletons.

Miles upon miles of this landscape. Boulders and trees, mountains and thin pastos. Birds and butterflies and anthills. Over a river, through a tunnel. That same landscape.

We pause a few moments at a rancho. Ramón’s uncle greets us. His silver pup follows down. As we depart, tío Poncho reads the message delivered to him.

Another trio of garzas cenizas. Two fly off. The other remains, statuesque in the shallow water of that now-weaker stream. Over bridges. Slowing once and again for colts and horses, calves to clear the tracks.

We stop to move another vagón out of our way. A short break to drop off a package of medicine. On that siding, more Aventure sobre Rieles cars. Past houses of adobe, cabins of logs, into Bella Vista.

Further into the sierra we climb, we twist. An almost dry arroyo flows at our side.

 

The wind-eroded crags

of Las Gallinas

tower into the clouding sky

Wheels upon rails

squeal with

each curve

Pine scent teems

in this

late morning

 

A sheer drop-off, then the last long climb to Cumbres. Don León points out our vía on the other side of the dried river. Deafening clatter, through a tunnel, climbing, winding. Through the sparse forest on these mountainsides we see our tracks further below. Another tunnel. An adobe station melts. Into one tunnel and then a second over 900 meters long.

 

The total blackness

our headlight

sporadically flashing

A toot of horn

the smell of

damp stone

 

Then we back out, to the Cumbres patio.

 

We walk up the torn vía to the old tunnel, over one kilometer long. Don León says he has newspaper clippings of what had happened one fateful day in 1914, during the Mexican Revolution.

The guerrilleros assaulted a carguero and it derailed inside here. It began  to burn and fill the tunnel with smoke when …

A passenger train came from behind. Its engineer noticed the smoke billowing out and tried to halt …

But hit the other train and caught fire also.

Over 50 persons died.

Yes, some people still leave offerings.

We enter the black passage, the other mouth small and far away. Our flashlights prance off the still-smoke-charred walls, off the heat-blistered rails. Midways, near the ladder to the upper level, is an altar. Paintings of Niño Jesús, an infant’s boots. Multitudes of broken glass of ofrenda candles, faded flowers. Cigarettes, Vick’s Vapor Rub, a calendar from January – February 1995.

 

And once we somberly return to our trenecito, Ramón creates a portable roundtable. Don León pulls out his leather work gloves to add his expertise of years on the railroad. The other men soon join in the turning of our cars.

The women watch. Daughters-in-law pick a bouquet of wildflowers for abuelita González.

Before we leave, Ramón tears off limbs of a manzanilla bush. Don León gathers té de milagro (good for the kidneys, he tells me) for a friend. El señor of the other family offers me a pony beer, “Now you don’t have to write.”

I sip that cervecita, watching our descent. Midways, I begin scrawling these words.

 

Through tunnels, over

orange bridges

descending, bending

The aroma of pine

the clatter of these rails

sun bright off stone walls

A lizard crawls up

moss-edged crags

speckled with amanita

 

The sky becomes more overcast as we descend. Along that arroyo, shaded by cedars and álamos, where horses graze and cows laze. Over a bridge, into Bella Vista. Wild ducks bathe in the new-born brook bedded with rocks and plants. A blue heron soars.

At last we stop along the stream’s edge, at Ejido Heroínas. Beneath these poplars, blankets are spread, the grill is fired, lawn chairs set up.

 

And nothing to do but

feel the breeze

climb the boulders

watch the fish & dragonflies

share food

share stories

 

Ramón leaves a way up to the Aventura taller. After a while he returns with another máquinita, this one magenta, and a compañero. The González family invites them to eat.

Soon we all carry the grill, chairs and coolers up to that trenecito, stowing everything in its place. A white camioneta pulls up, and a woman with two suitcases boards. At four p.m. we depart, the new locomotive in the lead.

Down by the creek, two muchachos search among the stones. In the pastures between there and these rails, horses and burros run. We pause to allow calves to cross. The passing clouds cool this afternoon.

 

We halt. The engineer has heard something fall – perhaps a piece from the fleche of the magenta máquina. Don León and his grandson, Ramón and another walk the track until it is found. The green locomotive will now take us home.

A quick stop to pick up a shipment of chicken from tío Poncho.

Through a tunnel, the mouth we entered reflecting off the rear window of the wagon in front. A shorter tunnel and over a trestle bridge, along the bluffs. Past a side-less boxcar turned into a pigpen.

 

A pair of startled garzas

cenizas flies away

an eagle atop a tree

The earth scattered with

rocks & stark bones

a pond’s shores raku

The zopilotes have

for now

abandoned the calf

 

Through the canyon, along the broadening stream. From stone house to tree laundry dries on a line. Two boys wave at us clattering by. Into a tighter gorge, eroding cliffs rasping the bright blue sky, the sun sinking lower. We are cast into shadow. Slowing for more cows, more horses to leave the vía.

Through Rocío, populated by cast-off railroad vagones and buildings, by a half-dozen and so cattle carcasses.

Those smooth hills roll pale beige, tan, sage towards the brush-dappled mountains of rough jades and rust. To the west, the clouds are thick and grey.

Three vaqueros salute us. Their hound attentively watches us, ears and tail erect.

The land here is dryer, the plants a worn green. Trees become sparser and smaller. Those clouds shield the sun. Nopales, heavy with fruit, are common now.

 

Santa Rosa.  dog chases the trenecito. Shuddering, jerking. The sun breaks free from the clouds – burning hot, bright. Cardenche cactus now frequent.

We pause to siphon gasoline from one to the main engine. Ramón says we are still over an hour from Nuevo Casas Grandes. The González family cracks open their watermelon and shares it with all around. We leave behind seeds that perhaps will take root in this desert.

 

Back in the country of doves, black birds and roadrunners. Mata Ortiz. Penned sheep and goats, free-roaming burros, pottery workshops. Two boys with bicycles in hand greet us.

Across the broad plain flanked by browned hills. Tumbleweed catch in barbed wire. The clouds still try to corral the sun. The green fragrance of irrigated fields and of herb crushed on rail. On the shores of an irrigation ditch, a mother watches her sun practice his letters.

The sun has escaped, the clouds fall into shadows. Mesquite outlines those sluices and streams. Newly planted orchards. The mountains turn deep grey-purple. A veil of rain falls in the distance. A mutt yaps at our heels, a jackrabbit flees. In the dirt road beside the track, muchachos play soccer. Dust billows with the cooling dusk. A truckload of soldiers wave as we clear the crossroads.

Two kilometers now from Nuevo Casas Grandes. The streets are damp, the air smells of earth. The old locomotive shed, roof caving in. Broken-glass warehouses. Rail yard families sit in doorways. Their dogs bark.

 

We are home at 7:30 p.m. For almost twelve hours we have enjoyed our adventure upon these rails wending through desert and mountains, through this poetic landscape. The grandchildren have gotten to experience a train journey.

But this was much more than a mere excursion for our pleasure. We have gotten to witness the service of this trenecito to the settlements. No road goes there. Only this rail line. Those people, those families would otherwise be abandoned. They would have no way to receive messages or medicines. Tío Poncho could not get his poultry to market. The woman of Ejido Heroínas wouldn’t have been able to arrive to town.

All of these villages – Santa Rosa, Rocío, Bella Vista, Ejido Heroínas – would be ghost towns, like so many others along so many routes suspended by companies in the push for privatization.

The Mexican government long ago abandoned the ideals of the 1910 Revolution. It adopted free trade policies, giving preferences to capitalists and foreigners over small, local producers and campesinos. Once more foreigners can own expanses of land in Mexico and control more than 49 percent interest in a company. The ejido system is being dismantled. State holdings – not only the railroad, but also mines, telephone, electricity and petroleum – have to be privatized according to the terms of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by the US, Canada and Mexico and which went into effect 1 January 1994).

However, in different parts of Mexico – as in this desert pocket in Chihuahua – the Revolution continues to survive within the blood coursing through the descendants of those guerrilleros and guerrilleras. The rail lines are being appropriated – by the people, for the pueblo. Like the rain that fell that day of our journey, these actions of people’s power are refreshing their lives, surviving the economic drought produced by neo-liberal policies. And if the children, the grandchildren can learn the necessity of these trains, perhaps they can continue for many generations more.

¡Qué viva this new Revolution!

 

 

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WITNESSING : Journeys in Central America

The National Geographic map that has accompanied me on many journeys to the region.

 

Recently, journalist Tracy Barnett wrote an article about the current human rights crisis in Central America that is fueling mass migrations to the US border. She spent three months in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador investigating and speaking with the people, to see what is causing this.

 

When I shared her article, I wrote:

(This powerful article by Tracy L. Barnett reminds me of things I could recount — and have recounted — that I learned in my journeys in Central America, which began in the late 80s ….)

One response was:

Please do, Lorraine. This would be a very good time for people to read some of your powerful work on this subject.

 

And so I take up the challenge …

 

= = = = = = =

 

My first trip to Central America was in 1988. For several years, I heard other people’s testimonies of what was occurring in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. For even more years, I had read about the history and politics of the region. And of course, there was what was being reported in the media and said by US politicians.

 

I determined I had to witness it for myself – and to bring those lessons back to my community.

 

For over a decade, I traveled in those countries. When I had the money, I would return to learn more about the pueblos’ experiences, their histories and cultures. I documented what I was taught in poetry and travelogues.

 

= = = = = = =

 

Dozens upon dozens of books have been written about the United States’ involvement in Central America. Many fine investigative works were published in the 1980s and 1990s. (I encourage you to browse through your public library’s stacks for them, and take them home to read. Also, Please share titles in the comments below that you recommend.)

 

In a nutshell, US involvement in the region began with Manifest Destiny, a doctrine proclaimed by President John Tyler in 1845. It declared to European powers that the US had the right to dictate the fates of Western Hemispheric countries in order to preserve US economic and political interests.

 

Since the mid-19th century, the United States has intervened over 100 times in Latin America’s affairs, installing governments that would protect its interests – especially economic and those of US corporations in the region. These interventions continue to this millennium, with such actions as those of the ouster of the democratically elected Honduran president in 2009. There are many other factors (such as the US market for drugs) that add to the region’s instability.

 

= = = = = = = =

 

This is not meant to be a political piece. It is intended to share the lessons Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans taught me. I have penned dozens upon dozens of works – but today, I shall share only a few with you.

 

I now invite you to join me on a journey through the history and lives of the people of Central America. We begin with two visits to Honduras, then continue to Guatemala and El Salvador.

 

Safe Journeys!

 


 

MANIFEST DESTINY

 

Our manifest destiny is to overspread

                the continent allotted by Providence for

                the free development of our yearly multiplying

                millions.

                        —John L. O’Sullivan, The United States

Magazine and Democratic Review,

                                July 1845

 

                        America will be found fighting where

                she has always been morally—at the head

                of the column of Progress and Democracy.

                        —William Walker, New Orleans Crescent,

                                1849

 

Beyond the arch & its wrought iron gate left ajar

beyond that cross & weathervane atop

beyond the undulating white plastered wall

 

Through the waist-high weeds strewn with listing headstones & crypts

their stones blackened with age, marble plaques still bright

among rusting crosses reaching towards the clouded sky

 

I follow a well-beaten path, then the

flagstone walk crowded with weeds

I stop before a three-foot-high iron fence

its peeling white paint spotted with rusty blood

 

To the back hangs a skeleton

of a long-decayed wreath

Faded white & yellow plastic tassels

flutter in the approaching rain

 

The original stone slab bed of the grave lies heavily on the earth

the name deeply chiseled, date lightly scratched

A newer bronze plaque catches a moment of weak sun

 

William Walker

Fusilado

12 septiembre 1860

 

In a gust of wind, my sky blue poncho wraps around

my wiry body

My mind sinks into the weight of my late afternoon

losing       loosing itself to your time       to your

 

Dreams of conquering this narrow waist of the Americas

Golden dreams of Sonora

for Arizona

spinning into a Mexican dust devil

routing you back to California

 

Verdant Nicaraguan dreams

for Commodore Vanderbilt

shuttling 49ers across

Plush Nicaraguan dreams

for the US

desiring a canal

Luscious Nicaraguan dreams

for you, Walker

president-imposed of an English-

speaking slave state

These dreams wind into a green hurricane

unleashed by moneyed powers

blowing you North to New Orleans

 

Oh, but you still dream of your

Five or None banner

fluttering in those tropical breezes

 

On your Manifest Destiny dreams you sail

from Mobile to here, Trujillo

 

& the heavy silence before the storm settles

before me       before you

 

                        After many days of battling jungle & the British,

                you hand your pistol & your sword to Captain Salmon

                on these pestilent banks of the Río Negro.

                        But as the Icarus flies back to Truxillo, your fate

                melts into the waiting arms of the Hondurans.

 

                        Flanked by priests, through jeering masses, you

                face your firing squad.

                        You fall from the volley of the first squad.

                        Your dead body jumps on the stony ground, pounded

                by the second squad’s shots.

                        The officer walks up to your body lying still, facing

                the morning. He puts his pistol to your head & blasts

                your face skyward.

 

Skyward whips the dirt around my feet

Thunder blasts the heavy silence before this storm

 

I stare at the bronze plaque

wondering who placed it, who placed the wreath

Admiring Contras who had trained so near here?

The US Air Force, honoring its dead shot down in 1985?

The CIA or Ollie North, sipping rum

in the bar of their posh Christopher Columbus resort?

 

My brown eyes look coldly at your slab

more steely than your grey eyes ever could

I think of Manifest Destiny as the phlegm rises

to my mouth

& I fire a long stream upon your name

 

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

The complete manuscript of my works about the United and Standard Fruit Companies. photo © Lorraine Caputo

In 1993, I embarked on a walking journey through the banana plantations, from Guatemala to Honduras.(This adventure is documented in my story “The Jungle Trail.” What I witnessed provoked me to spend nearly a decade learning about the history of the US-based Banana Companies in the region, and interviewing people there.

 

ANOTHER MAN WHO REMEMBERS

As the old school bus stops at the central park, I look at my watch. I’ve got an hour to catch the Chiquita train. But where’s the station?

The driver suggests I ask the ice cream vendor. He pulls the bill of his ball cap up. “Pues, at the traffic light, take a right. About ten blocks, then. Just past the bridge.”

I hop back on the bus. “Oh, I’ll be going right by there,” responds the driver. I know we are getting close: up on that water tower is the familiar blue seal.

I’m off and I’m hustling, bowed under the weight of my knapsack. “Where are you going?” people call out. “To catch a train.” “But it didn’t come today.”

It didn’t come today? Will it run tomorrow, as scheduled? There’s no-one at the station. Well, there isn’t a station, really. Just a platform.

 

I return to the gate I’d passed, across from the gridded and blockaded streets of the Company town. A sign says COBALISA. I hesitantly enter.

“Excuse me, señor,” I say to the man at the office. “The train didn’t come today?”

“It appears not. Go up to the dispatch and ask.”

I walk to the building he points out. It is the color of banana flesh turning I the air. There’s no answer and no-one around. I return.

“Well?” the man says.

I shrug.

“Look, take a load off. I’ll give a call over.”

I put my pack in the shade and sit on the curb.

 

“Umph. No answer. I tell you, the Company isn’t like it used to be. No, señora. He tips his chair against the wall. “ – Chiquita – because it is so small now. Used to have tens of thousands of workers. Even on a Sunday like this, this place would be crawling with people. Now there’s lucky to be 8,000 total.” He motions to a building near us. The wood is rotting away. “See that, the shape it’s in? And empty. It’s not being used. No. The Company isn’t what it used to be.”

He introduces himself: Juan García. (1) His father worked for the Company, too. Bored? Yeh, a bit.

“The problem is …” A silver pick-up stops. It shines bright in this early afternoon sun. Juan checks the man’s papers, then waves him through. Once it drives off, and no-one else is around, he begins again. “The problem is that the paternalistic US management pulled out and put Honduras in charge.” Paternalistic? I raise a brow. “But they are inefficient and corrupt. So, there’s less work. But now the Company is going through a restructuring, bringing in management even from Costa Rica. Those ticos are surprised the Company here still has an operating railroad. They say it should be gotten back into shape – why spend money on trucks? But the others had let it go….”

Juan sees some men enter the gate and near us on their bicycles. He waves to me to be still. He walks up to them. I hear him ask if they know anything about today’s train. They shake their heads.

He wags his head, taking his seat again. Once the bicyclists have locked up and walked into the compound, Juan directs his attention to me. “Before there was certainty in the Company. I could say with complete faith, Yes, there will be a train today at exactly this time,” he says, stabbing the air with a finger. Then he looks away. “But not any longer. They’re not taking care of any of it.”

A moment of silence falls between us. Then Juan turns to me, “Gee, good material for your book. Great impression this has made about the Tela Railroad Company.” That is, the book I’m writing about train journeys. This would be an interesting addition.

He falls into the topic of his family and childhood. Many more people come and go. He asks them all about the train. We finally piece the information together: It did leave from El Progreso, but it only got as far as one of the campos: Las Flores. It had mechanical problems. Juan says to me in a low voice, “This never would have happened in the past. They would have sent another locomotive in. The trains just aren’t what they used to be.” He slaps his knees. “Well, tomorrow there definitely should be a train. They have to take the workers to the hospital.”

 

I wait until we are alone again. “Don Juan – you said your father had also worked for the Company. How was it then?”

“It was tough, for sure.” He shakes his head at a memory. “It was in his time that the big strike happened.”

The big strike? I widen my eyes. “What year was that, don Juan?”

He sighs. “1954. The police – the military opened fire on the crowd with machine guns.” He closes his eyes for a moment. “My father was there. I was with him.”

I breathe deep, exhale slowly. “Were any killed?”

“Many.” He glances away. Silence. A slow movement of head back and forth. “I don’t know how many. But there was so much blood, it flowed.”

Juan gazes at me, “I was young” – he was only five years old – “but I remember.”

I look down at my hands.

“The unions don’t want us to remember. They’re in the pocket of the Company. And the Company doesn’t want us workers to celebrate May First.”

Of course not.

 

Juan continues, “I have no faith in unions.” He watches a man approaching on bicycle. “I prefer to work hard. And if I have any problems, I go to management itself.”

That man arrives. I look at the clock in the office: 3 p.m. “Well, it’s the end of my shift.”

“Thank you, señor García.” I hoist my pack onto my back and walk off to catch a bus for El Progreso. I’ll catch the morning train from there tomorrow.

 

(1) Name changed to protect the identity of this worker.

 

© Lorraine Caputo

 


 

My first journeys to Guatemala were when the Civil War was still raging there. Some nights, I would listen to the rocket fire in the hills surrounded the villages. I spent several spells in San Juan Cotzal, Nebaj and  Chajul, the three main villages of the Ixil Triangle, deep in the Cuchumatanes Mountains of Guatemala. This was one of the hardest-hit areas of the country during its 35-year Civil War. The atrocities committed by the US-backed governments and their paramilitary groups were astounded. I spent many evenings in shuttered rooms, away from earshot of others, listening to the testimonies of those who lived through – and survived – those horrors.

 

SILENT COURAGE

San Juan Cotzal

The Saturday market streets are full of the

bargaining for housewares & chickens

in the sh-shs & clicks of Ixil

 

I wind past the crowded stalls to the church

Stone dust drifts through the nave

from a scaffold in the apse

It glitters in the filtered sunlight

 

On the left wall, Christ slumps upon a large crucifix

Small even-armed wooden crosses surround him,

names engraved of those victims

of the government abuses here

the disappeared, the kidnapped

the tortured, the assassinated

 

I sit on a nearby bench

studying their lives

Seventeen years of documentation

from 1974 to 91

many from 80, 81, 82

 

The clang of hammer upon rock

reverberates through this sanctuary

 

I mentally count the crosses, row upon row

like a halo around the Savior

Now & again I look furtively over to those workers

One, two, three hundred

four hundred     & seventy     four

crosses     474 lives       474

victims       martyrs

474 deaths

 

published in :

In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights (London, UK: Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, October 2013)

 


 

During my first trip to El Salvador shortly after the peace accords were signed, I spent time in Morazán Department. I interviewed people in several villages – including Perquín, Segundo Montes and, yes, El Mozote – about their experiences during the civil war.

I was one of the first to reveal that El Mozote was being repopulated. In fact, I arrived on foot to that village just as the returnees were cleaning the ruins, to begin anew.

This is the poem I was compelled to write at that moment, sitting in the scant shade of the silhouette statue.

 

NUNCA MÁS

 

A village deserted for so long

after such a horror:

Battalion Atlacatl, armed & trained in

                torture & so-called low-intensity warfare

                by the US of A, killed 1000people here &

                in neighboring villages in Operación

                Rescate

 

One December night in ’81, the soldiers arrived and stayed.

The people of the village were forbidden to leave their homes.

 

The next morning, the soldiers gathered the people:

the men in one place…

the women in another…

the children in the convent.

First they interrogated / tortured / shot the men…

then they shot the women…

then the children…

The soldiers left their boasts on the walls of the now-empty homes

& laid torch to it all.

 

The campesinos & guerrilleros near saw the columns of smoke arising.

Some had heard the shots & shouts, the screams.

When they arrived all that was left was the bodies of 1000 people

being eaten by buzzards & dogs.

 

 

And now the air is disturbed

only by a slight breeze through the long-needled pines.

A silhouette sculpture of a family

man / woman / children holding hands

stands in the center of the village.

Roofless buildings – some with bullet & shell holes,

all with charred beams.

 

And from these ashes, from the debris of fallen roof tiles

you, the few survivors of that massacre

only six, with your new families]

arise like a Phoenix

to rebuild your homes & your community

still called El Mozote.

 

        published in :

Red River Review (August 2001)

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

Indeed, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world. Spend this December solstice browsing through the list (with links) below, journeying to Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and other destinations between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego.

…. and until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!

 

Storm a-brewing over Quito. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Depths” in Poppy Road Review (18 September 2018)

 

“Leaving Only …”, “Translucense,” “Awaiting El Niño,”  “A Visitor Arrived One Stormy Afternoon” and “Spirit Suite – Une Autre Étude” in The Writers’ Café Magazine (UK) (October 2018)

 

“South of the Río Loa” in the Aurorean (Fall/Winter 2018–2019)

 

“Deeply I” in Manzano Mountain Review (Issue Nº 3)

 

“Fishing for Magic” in The Drabble (13 November 2018)

 

“Spirit Suite – Étude Nº 8” in Night Garden Journal (3 December 2018)

 

“Day of the Dead Rain,” “Quebrada de Humahuaca,” and “Awaiting the Storm,” in Mojave River Review (Fall/Winter 2018-2019)

 

Three Christmas lunes, in River Poets Journal (December 2018)

 

And – something a bit different … my translation of :

“The Unproductive” by Cristián Londoño Proaño on Ecuador Fiction

 

Magellanic Penguins at Caleta Valdés on Península Valdés in Argentina’s Patagonian coast. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

            AndesTransit

Go Wild in Argentina

 


 

If you are in need of an article for your publication or website, a translation – or your dissertation, book or article proofread / edited, please feel free to contact me.

I am also available to participate in literary events.

 

PATIENCE

Traveling deep in the Peruvian mountains. photo Lorraine Caputo

 

About 12:17 p.m. / still Cajabamba, Peru

Well, this combi I am on that was supposed to leave at 11 or 11:30 (Which sir? I had asked the driver—Oh, 11:30, he’d assured me) still has not left. He just told a couple they would have enough time to go have lunch (ahem).  Several other passengers have demanded their money back. 

But the price is right—four soles, instead of the five other companies are charging.  However I can save a bit here and there.  And, well, we should get to Huamachuco within three hours, or about three-thirty.  That’ll give me enough time to really scout around for the cheapest hospedaje.  Ay, the challenge, the joys of long-term traveling when your money’s running out! 

 

I take a break from my scribbling, three lines per space to save paper.  I walk around to the side of the microbus, shoving my notebook into my shoulder bag.  In the shade of the building, I take a drink to cool the heat of this growing day.

The driver’s assistant is stuffing a bag into the already jammed boot of the combi.  After shouldering the hood closed, José joins me on the sidewalk.  The smoke of his just-lit cigarette drifts past his dark, tired features.

“Already a long day, eh?” I say as I take his offered cigarette.

“Yeh.”  His dirty fingers shake the match flame out.  He drops it to the ground.

Our conversation wends to the trip we are about to take.  What Huamachuco is like, where would be a good, cómodo place to stay.  He looks young.  “How old are you?”  I watch his eyes watching the bustle of still-boarding passengers.

“Oh, seventeen.”

I would have guessed him to be younger.  But his hands are scarred and nicked.  Pale blood oozes slowly from a fresh cut.  “How old were you when you began working?”

José takes a drag from his cigarette.  The ash falls at his feet.  “Ten years old.”

I raise my eyebrows.  “Did you get a chance to finish school?”

“No, not even primary school.  I don’t think I will ever get a chance to finish.”

A short, thin man stumbles up to us, under the weight of a heavy bundle.  José stubs his cigarette out with his tire-soled sandal.  Dust billows, coating his gnarled feet.

I had better get back inside, before my seat is taken.  As I climb aboard, I see José’s face peer over the top of the microbus.  He gives me a slight smile and a quick wave of the hand.

 

Hmmm—we’re getting mighty full here.  People are arguing with the ticket seller about which seats are already sold.  The few ones left are given to women.  The only passengers that are standing are men.  I guess chivalry is still alive and well here.

So, how many people can fit into a Peruvian combi?

           

The motor starts up.  I pull my watch out of my pocket.  It is now nearly one p.m.  And still the arguments.  Jam the passengers in, rake the money in.

Just as we are pulling out, a mob comes running, waving for the microbus to wait.  Up the side ladder they climb.  Thick, tough toes, cracked heels flash by my window.  Now we have six—no seven, eight, nine, ten—here comes number eleven atop.

We rock down the road out of this town deep in the highlands.  Eucalyptus forests scent the early afternoon.  Adobe homes of rich beige, gold, lava-red melt into the earth.  They are plastered with mud mixed with straw that glistens in the sunlight.

In the warmth of that star through my window, I nod to sleep.

 

About 1:30 p.m. / who knows where

And I am awakened by the sudden stop of our combi. We are in front of a half-dozen or so houses.  In their yards chickens peck around drying roof tiles.  Round adobe kilns hunch like beehives.  A donkey brays.

Every one is ordered off.  A few, though, stay on board, like that young mother with her infant wrapped in a soft-yellow crocheted blanket.

The driver and his assistant crawl beneath.  The call for this wrench and that socket echoes up through the labyrinth of the chassis.  Stones crunch beneath the weight of the transmission as it hits the ground.

After fifteen minutes I reboard to escape the blazing sun.

Out the streak-glared windows, I see other transports sway down the road.  A large truck stops.  Many of our passengers make a dash for it and leave in a cloud of dust.

From outside I hear others talking with the driver.  Leaning against the side of the microbus, wiping his hands with a tattered rag, he says, “Oh, it’ll be about a half-hour.”

Some one responds, “One and a half hours?”

“No, no,” the driver assures him.  “No more than an hour.”

 

Oh, well, we’ll see how this goes.  The first rule of traveling, whether on a journey or through life, is patience, patience.  You get there when you get there.

 

The young mother comes up and watches me write.  Quiet María says she is sixteen years old.  She sits on the seat across the aisle and pulls up her shirt.  A bright blue cardigan hangs off her shoulders.  María’s eighteen-month-old daughter takes the offered breast.  The child’s frowning face is plastered with wild hair.  She coughs often and loosely.  A high-crowned hat shadows her mother’s already furrowed brow.

A fire slowly chars a distant mountainside.  Its smoke reaches for the low clouds drifting by.  A gust of wind whips up dry eucalyptus leaves, silvering the sky.  A yellow plastic bag sails away.

Now those men underneath are draining the casing.  One soda bottle is already filled with dull oil.  Another bottle, still filled with soft drink, is passed around until it is empty.  It gets handed beneath.  The grey-filmed lubricant swirls into the container.

The driver calls out, “I need a 22 wrench.”

His assistant digs around the tools left below, then madly runs inside the combi and rummages in the toolbox.  “Damn,” José mutters softly.  He leans out the window.  “I can’t find any 22 wrench.

 

2:26 p.m.

A while ago the ticket man swore to everyone all would be set to leave at 3 p.m.—and he took off back to Cajabamba to buy a part.

Down at one house sunk into the earth, people drink chicha. They sit on muddied-in benches under the overhang or on the embankment in front.  A woman brings out a pitcher.  When it is empty, she takes it back inside to refill.  The fermented corn smell hangs in the air.

A man walks up to the front door and calls in, “Give me some of that chicha, María.”

 

(Every woman seems to be named María.)

 

Another truck comes along.  Most of our passengers run for it.  Some are demanding their money back.  The driver passes his greasy fingers through his black hair.  “Please wait.  Patience, have patience.”

We are now only perhaps twenty-five.

A discussion ensues between that man and two others.

One señor smiles, “Didn’t you have any idea it was in bad repair?”

The second ones barks a laugh, “Why, why are you running a vehicle in such bad shape?”

Our driver smiles.  The sun catches on his gold caps.  “Well, my father thought something might be wrong.  But surely it could make it.”

The first laughs, “Thought something was wrong, but still jammed so many people on and left Cajabamba?”  He shakes his head.

The chauffeur shrugs with a broad grin.  “Well, he didn’t know.  It’s just one of those things of God.”  He laughs.

The two passengers turn away, laughing and mumbling, “Just one of those things of God.”

The only people seemingly unabashed by all of this are the young couple.  In the yard of the last house of the settlement, just out of sight, they embrace and kiss.  The quilt wrinkles beneath their passion.  Their radio is turned down low.

On one trip outside with more chicha, I step up to María.  I ask in a low voice where there might be a latrina.  She leads me around the side of her golden-adobe home and points to a wooden shed out beyond. As I climb back up the slope, I see a man and woman lay trapezoid-shaped roof tiles to dry behind the next house.

I walk back up to the combi.  A soft breeze now and again cools the strong sun of these high mountains.  Up on one hillside, families picnic in whatever shade they can find—at the side of a house, under thin trees, or near flowering and fruiting nopales.  Twin braids sway with their movements as they pass food and drink from covered baskets.  Little girls, their faces covered with juice, clutch chunks of orange-colored papaya.

 

I’ve got to remember to bring along more food, even if it’s going to be a short trip.  You never know what will happen.  Hadn’t I learned that rule of traveling before? 

Before all of this happened with the combi breaking down, I’d already eaten the last of my cheese.  I have no bread.  The raisins are gone, too.

 

Other passengers have come inside this microbus.  Some stretch out across seats to nap.  The young María is still here, holding her coughing baby.  She wipes sweat from the small, feverish forehead.  Her daughter momentarily awakens, her small wool-stockinged legs kicking mama’s teal-green skirt.  The driver tells José to go inside and put some music on.  Soon a huayno whines, winds through our boredom.

Another truck comes along.  A few more stranded travelers climb up the high stockade sides.  I ask the man next to me how much passage would be.

“Oh, five soles, or perhaps four.”

I shake my head, “I can’t afford to pay twice for passage.  I don’t have the money.”

“Yes,” he responds, “those without have to wait and have patience.”

 

just about 3 p.m., if not just past

One man sits on a roadside-ditch embankment.  One work-thickened hand embraces the primitive woman painted on a gourd.  He dips a short rod into it. The worn cuffs of his turquoise sweater brush his knuckles.  He puts the alkali into his mouth.  The foam of chewed coca leaves green his lips.  His eyes are as bright as that sun, hidden now by clouds.

In the dense shade of one house, our driver sits down, joining a few of the passengers there.  One woman’s many-layered skirts fan out upon the ground.  She pulls up her knee socks.  Two men walk up to them.

“Look,” the driver responds to their demands, “he’s gone to Cajabamba for the part.  He’ll return.”

“Oh, yeh,” one señor says. “He’s in Cajabamba getting his rocks off.”  He grabs his crotch.

The other man begins to tell a tale.  “Once I was on a similar bus.  Patience, patience, we were told.  It took eight days.”  He shakes his head with a broad grin.

The discussion becomes heated amongst forced smiles and laughs.  Our driver holds up an Inca Cola bottle half-full of chicha.  “Here, drink, drink.”

“No,” the first man says firmly, still grinning.  “Look, my fare, my fare.”

The protester takes a swig.  A man lounging next to the driver reaches for his alkali gourd.  He glances over to me as I walk up to this group, pulling out my watch.

“It’s about two minutes to three.”  I lightly smile.  Ah, the adventures of traveling.

“Patience, patience, woman,” the driver tells me.

“And how much patience am I supposed to have?”  Still grinning, I put my watch back into its pocket. “The ticket seller said we were to leave at 11:30 a.m., and we didn’t leave until almost one.”  I shake my head with a quiet laugh.  We get there when we get there.

The driver peers towards the distant road.  Everyone, too, looks that way.  “Oh, I thought I saw something coming,” he says, relaxing against the wall.  More tight laughs and smiles, more mumbles, “Yeh, sure.”

Part of the chicha gang approaches us.  “We’re going up over the hill to a store on the other side for more chicha.  Be sure to stop and pick us up.”

The driver tightens his jaw.  “What, we’re supposed to be responsible for you?  How do we know you were on the bus?”

One of the men bends over him, looking him in the eye with a hard smile.  “Take a good look at us, and remember to blow the horn when you pass.”

The threesome walks up over the crest and beyond.  The lone woman’s full blue skirts and magenta cardigan bounce with each step through the dry grasses.

Across the road, near where the couple still lies, two hairy black pigs have awakened from their nap.  Their young snouts rout dry leaves.

 

About 3:30 p.m.

The ticket seller has finally arrived in a transport van.  A light sprinkle is beginning to fall as repair resumes on the transmission.  The tools lightly rattle as they are passed from one hand to another, or laid back on the ground.  Occasionally a groan of exertion echoes up through the chassis.

That turquoise-sweatered man again is dipping into his lady gourd.  His sharp-chiseled jaw grinds the coca leaves.  His high-crowned hat is pulled up, revealing those wild eyes.  Burning eyes.

The fire continues consuming that mountainside over yonder.

 

4 p.m.

The order is given.  We board, much fewer now in number.  The couple emerges from the shadows of that house, brushing brittle grass from their clothes and quilt.  The coca-chewer wanders down that way to urinate on a prickly pear cactus.  We all hurriedly take out places.  The seat next to me is now empty.  My former mate had left on another combi.  As we pass the last house of this settlement, a chickens scatter at the dust and pebbles our tires throw up.  A burro brays.

We climb the hill, the motor groaning and gears grinding, and stop at the store atop.  The chicha trio is there, standing out front with a woman and drinking.  A serving is poured for the driver and passed through his window.  He downs it.

 

Now the orange-colored plastic pitcher is making its rounds through this interior, from one passenger’s mouth to the next.  I think I’ll pass on this part of the adventure.  It’s amazing that it’s lasted this long.  Whoops, I spoke too soon.  There it goes back out to be refilled.

 

A man calls out to the vendoress, “Bring me a blonde, bring me a blonde.”

The woman shakes her head.  Her single thick black braid swings from side to side.

“What, no blondes,” he says leaning out his window.  One hand pounds the side of the microbus, punctuating his desire.  “I’m so tired of brunettes!”  He laughs.  The reemerging sunlight catches on his gold-trimmed teeth.  His wife swats lightly at his elbow and turns away.

 

We continue on to Huamachuco, the sun setting lower towards the cragged horizon.  Passengers get off and come on.  Young José climbs atop, throwing down heavy bundles.

Each time, that man is off, searching for more chicha, in search of an elusive blonde.  The driver, his assistant, we all call after him to return.  His wife chases him from store to bar.

 

And so it has been with that guy until we finally reached here, San Marcos, just before sunset.  After those last packages for this destination are down-loaded by José, we’ll be able to leave this roadside restaurant where we’ve made a late-dinner rest stop.  Chilled dusk has almost completely fallen.  I’ll have to make this quick, as I’m writing by the light of the street lamp.

He has sunk into a deep-snoring sleep.  His wife looks quite a bit relieved.  Hopefully he won’t wake up at each and every stop and hold us up any further.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will be pleased.  Yep, a señora just smiled as she walked by them.

San Marcos—about half-ways to Huamachuco.  I suppose it won’t be until almost seven by the time we get there.  So much for well-laid plans.  I just hope I can find a place to stay tonight and that it won’t cost too much.  There’ll be quite a few of us looking for a room.

Dang, my light is just about gone.

Oh, well, patience, patience.  We get there when we get there.

 

 

published in:

Lowestoft Chronicle (issue 6, June 2011)

 

republished in:

Far Flung and Foreign  (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012)

 

JOURNEYS INTO THE LAND OF THE DEAD

Día de los Difuntos funerary procession. Quito, Ecuador. photo © Lorraine Caputo

This, the last Sunday of October, is Visit a Cemetery Day and thus marks the beginning of a special time in many cultures of the world. It is that season of year when the veils between the Worlds of the Living and of the Dead thin, allowing visits to either side. In European indigenous traditions, this special time is called Samhain, Allentide, Hop-tu-Naa, and in more modern times, Hallowe’en … in Latin America, it is known as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos.

Over the next few days, I invite you to embark on poetic and photographic journeys through Latin America’s to witness its tradition in welcoming their Loved Ones coming through the veils.

To set the tone, let’s listen to the Oscar award-winning song, “Remember Me,” from the movie Coco (if you haven’t seen this movie about Mexico’s Day of the Dead yet, I encourage you to do so!).

Safe Journeys!

 

The last Sunday of October

Honoring the Dead in Latin America: Cemeteries & Historical Sites

 

29 October

13 Spooky South American Haunts

With Hallowe’en just around the corner, it’s time to go explore some of the creepy and the scary destinations in South America.

 

30 October

WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead – Part I

Discussions about the historical foundations for these Holy Days of late October and early November.

 

31 October

WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead – Part II

Poetic journeys for the days leading up to Hallowe’en and the Day of the Dead, and another poem about Samhain, all honoring the dead.

 

1 November

WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead – Part III

Poetic and prosaic journeys into the Day of the Dead, as celebrated in Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and Bolivia.

 

2 November

A Toast to the Dead : COLADA MORADA

Ecuadorians raise a glass of colada morada to honor the spirits of their departed family and friends.

EL JAROCHO

I have spent many hours studying the hatched lines to see where the rail roads go. © Lorraine Caputo

 

Morning

Last night I had wanted to take this overnight train from Mexico City to Veracruz.

I’d spent the late afternoon talking with friends over coffee down in the Zona Rosa.

Time escaped us.

I looked at my watch in horror. It was after seven.

The husband hailed a cab, stuffing the fare in my hand. A hurried farewell.

 

& so we rushed through the traffic of the City, bypassing traffic jams, darting down alleys & side streets.

A brief stop at the hotel to grab my stowed bag.

We zoomed the last six blocks to the station.

When I arrived, there were no more tickets available. They are sold only in the morning.

I walked back to the hotel. Tomorrow I would have to wake up early.

 

& here I am at the station at daybreak, falling in to get a number that will give me a place in line to buy my ticket.

At eight the numbers are given.

At nine-thirty, the man begins calling off our numbers, forming us into a long queue.

 

As I near the window, I remember a dream I had last night.

A man & I were on our way to catch the train. We heard the call for boarding. We walked faster. Our packs shifted upon our backs with each quickened step.

We got to within 300 to 500 feet. It was pulling out – ahead of schedule.  A short train of two cars & a locomotive. We couldn’t believe it. & we knew no way it would stop to let us on.

By ten-thirty, I have my ticket for El Jarocho.

I have to return to the station by 8 p.m. to begin boarding. We will leave at 9:45 p.m. – sharp.

 

Mexico, train Mexico City, Cordoba, Veracruz, Jorocho

El Jarocho was the nickname of the Mexico City-Córdoba-Veracruz train. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

The Boarding

This is a mixed train – everything from second class to the top-of-the-line private cabins. There are dining and bar services. Our locomotive will pull 20 cars in all.

& it is guaranteed to arrive just about on time in Veracruz – a bit after seven tomorrow morning.

But I’m going only as far as Córdoba.

 

Eight-ten. I already am on board in second class. My knapsack is strapped in overhead.

The seats are cushioned benches facing each other. There’s very little legroom here. Behind the seats there seems to be much more space.

 

This train is crawling with police ready to pounce on the vendors.

One man shows us beautifully woven shawls from Oaxaca & Chiapas. When he sees them coming, he tosses his items on the seat next to me.

Every time they pass through, the vendors stash their wares behind seats, and stand by innocently.

But as soon as the police leave, the selling begins again.

 

My seatmates in this first car: Across from me are nine-year-old Eréndira and her grandmother. They are going all the way to Veracruz. Abuelita is originally from Guadalajara. Oh, & the El Tapatío is much a better train than this one.

For some reason I am reminded of the García Márquez story.

To my right, on the aisle, sits Andrés. He’s a pharmacist from Córdoba. He had put dozens of cellophane-wrapped boxes overhead. He buys his stock in Mexico City. Much cheaper, he says.

 

The Journey

~11:35 p.m.

I’ve been talking with Andrés for a while about my journeys. About the life here in Mexico, there in the States, down in Central America. How rich Mexicans are in comparison to their southern brothers and sisters. The hardships & the wars there.

& now I am not sleepy at all …

Earlier, Grandmother had told Eréndira to go stand in the space behind the seats on the other side of the aisle. Now there’s more room for our legs. She has her feet on our seat. Andrés & I have ours on hers.

I feel very quiet right now, holding thoughts of places I’ve been, scenes I’ve witnessed, stories I’ve heard.

Perhaps I will try to sleep for a while. Though I don’t know how possible it will be.

I just want to hold my silence. To hold my thoughts in silence.

 

~12:30 a.m.

We have arrived at some small town – in Tlaxcala state, I believe.

In the glare of the station lights, I see dozens of police on the platform.

Two enter. They see how many we are, crammed in seats, behind seats, in the aisle. They leave & move on down the line of cars.

I glance over to young Eréndira. Her sad face lies on arms resting on the back of a bench. Her eyelids flutter.

 

I fall back into a deep sleep.

& drift in & out of intense blackness. I feel like I’m suffocating. Heavy exhaust soots the air.

 

~4 a.m.

About midways down this car, a woman begins having a seizure. For twenty minutes or so, she screams and thrashes about.

Andrés tells me her condition is quite common here in Mexico. Two of his brothers used to have seizures as bad as the woman’s. But now, with medication, they can control them.

Grandmother, then, begins to tell us of her relatives with this ailment. Which turn into tales of her health and what the doctors say. But she doesn’t believe them. She has always been in good health.

 

Córdoba

We arrive here less than five minutes behind schedule. Not unusual, as we were also pulling first-class preferential and sleeper cars.

The night beyond the light station platform is deep.

Some passengers have quick-trotted through the lobby, to the front. There taxis wait. They pile their packages in and zoom off through the deserted streets. Andrés is one of them.

Others have joined the line to buy tickets for the Mérida train. It leaves at six-thirty this morning.

Within a short while, those people are stepping over rails, hauling heavy bundles. They board two dark, engineless passenger cars.

I, myself, pass the time talking with Chucho, the cook, and Connie, the waitress. A cup of coffee steams between my hands.

At dawn, I’ll get a hotel room. Spend a day here exploring this town and resting.

& come tomorrow morning, I’ll be waiting in that line, stepping over the tracks, boarding one of those two cars bound for Mérida.

 

 

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

A time for repose – the desk lay bare of any projects for a while, allowing me to concentrate on preparing a new chapbook manuscript (presently under consideration by a publisher) and making poetry submissions.

And then, like the proverbial “when it rains, it pours,” projects began to come in: the translation of a story by the Ecuadorian writer Cristián Londoño Proaño; editing an article on Chinese literature; an article on Argentina.

And, indeed, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world. Spend the afternoon browsing through the list (with links) below, journeying to Guatemala, el Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and other destinations between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego.

…. and until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!

 

poetry, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Central America

Flying a kite on Playa Las Machas, Arica Chile. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“The Beginnings of May” in Writing In A Woman’s Voice (5 June 2018)

“May Day 1998 – San Salvador” in Writing In A Woman’s Voice (6 June 2018)

“Night Watch” and “Mangrove” in The Writers’ Café Magazine (UK) (August 2018)

“On the Wind,” in Blue Fifth Review – Poetry Special (September 2018)

“Santiago Climes” in The Pangolin Review (Madagascar) (8 September 2018)

 

South America, destinations

Santa Marta, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

            AndesTransit

10 Alternative South American Destinations

 


 

Need of an article for your publication or website?

Or perhaps a translation?

Or your dissertation, book or article proofread / edited?

Please feel free to contact me.

I am also available to participate in literary events.