The hour of the little ones, I


First Part: THE RETURN OF....

For Don Emilio Krieger, who was with the little ones of forever.
For the children of "El Molino" (Francisco Villa Popular Front) Who lost their homes in a fire.

"In the letter box of time there are joys that no one shall call for/that no one will ever claim/and they will end up faded, yearning for the taste of the elements and nonetheless/from time's letter box loose epistles will suddenly depart, ready to settle in to some dream where chance fears are waiting."
Mario Benedetti

It is raining a slight humid and cold breeze. There has been, however, such, and such fierce, beating of the rain against the mountain over the last few days that it has left not a few dents, and there are scars that have raked the entire side of the mountain. But, never mind, after such a storm, this drizzle is welcome. It is the time of the rains. The time of the little ones.

A good man has died. What can be said when a good man dies? Some children, who fearlessly opened their homes to receive one thousand one hundred and eleven faceless ones, have lost their homes. What can be said when a child loses her home? One says nothing, one is only silent. Because one often remains silent with sorrows. Nonetheless, in an attempt to make them feel better, the little ones from this side of the siege are extending their bridges, like hands, to where the good man is missing, and to where doors and windows are missing, in order to be opened to the other forgotten and little one, the other dignified and rebel. They are extended in order to accompany, in order to be close, in order to not forget. It is perhaps for that that the shadow, unhurriedly, is tenderly honing the first two of the fourth epistle, hoping to coax a smile amidst so much pain that is being suffered there.

Down there, the candle is repeating its vocation as lighthouse for that sailor in the mountain who, lost, is navigating the shadows of the dawn. Yes, let's go, but be careful with the mud and those puddles. You're going slowly? Good, I'll go ahead and let you know from in there. Good, here I am. Yes. The shadow is alone once more. No...Just a minute...There seems to be someone else. That candle won't stop sputtering! No, I can't manage to see who else is there, but it's obvious that there's someone, because the shadow is speaking. No, he's more refusing, because he's doing nothing other than repeating "no, no and no." I'll go over to that corner in order to see better. There it is. Mmhh. I believe our favorite shadow has gone crazy. No one can be seen hereabouts. And he, with his: 'No, no and no.' Ah well, it was to be expected, so much rain and so many dawns would end up driving anyone crazy. What? But I already told you no one was there! I should move closer? And if he sees me? Alright then, slowly and discreetly. No, I tell you, there's no one. Just a minute! Yes, something different now...There, in a corner! Yes! What a relief! He has not gone crazy, no. What happened is that he was so small I didn't notice him...What? Who is he speaking with? OK, then...you'll see. Do you really want to know? Then...then, with a beetle!

!DURITO! Letter 4

"No, no and no!" I tell Durito for the umpteenth time.

Yes, Durito has returned. But before explaining my repeated "no," I should recount the complete history to you.

When the rain formed a river the other dawn right in the middle of the hut, Durito arrived on board a can of sardines that had a pen stuck in its middle, and, on it, a handkerchief or something like that, which would later be discovered to be a sail. On the highest part of the mainstaff, excuse me, of the pen, a black flag was flying, with a fierce skull resting on a pair of crossbones. It was not a proper ship, landing right at the edge of the table, and it did so with such a tumult that Durito came flying through the air, and he landed right on my boot. Durito gathered himself up as best he could and exclaimed:

"Today...today..." he turns around to look at me and says: "Ah, you, carrot nose! Tell me the date promptly!"

I hesitate, a bit out of wanting to embrace Durito since he'd returned, another little bit out of wanting to kick him for the "carrot nose" thing, and another bit more for...for...the date?...

I look at my watch and say: "October 12, 1999."

"October 12? By my faith, nature imitates art! Good. Today, October 12, 1999, I declare discovered, conquered and liberated this beautiful Caribbean isle that answers to the name of...of...Quick, the name of the isle!"

"What isle?" I ask, still taken aback.

"What do you mean, what isle, fool? This one! And what else would it be? There is no pirate worth being so who has not an island for hiding treasure and sorrows..."

"Island? I always thought it was a tree, a ceiba to be more precise," I say, leaning over the edge of the dense branches.

"Then you are deceived, it is an island. When has it ever been heard of a pirate landing in a ceiba? So, either tell me the name of this island, or your fate will be to serve as lunch for the sharks," Durito says threateningly.

"Sharks?" I say, swallowing. And I hesitatingly venture: ""It has no name..."

"'It Has No Name,' Mmh. By my faith, it is a right dignified name for a pirate's island. Good, today, October 12, 1999, I declare the island of "It Has No Name" to be discovered, conquered and liberated, and I name this man with the obvious nose to be my boatswain, first mate, cabin boy and lookout."

I try to ignore the insult, as well as the multitude of positions conferred, and I say:

"So...Now you are a pirate!"

"'A pirate,' hell no! I am THE PIRATE!"

Up to now I had been noticing Durito's figure. A black patch adorns his right eye, a red handkerchief covers his head, on one of his many arms a twisted wire is made into a hook, and in another is that shining wand that once was Excalibur. I am not sure now, but it must be some kind of sword, saber, or whatever pirates use.

And, in addition, there is a little branch tied to one of his little feet as if it were...as if it were...a wooden leg!

"And, so: what do you think?" asks Durito, making a half turn in order to show off all his finery concocted for his pirate's clothes.

I carefully ask him: "And so now you're called...?"

"'Black Shield'!" Durito says pompously, and he adds: "But you can put 'Escudo Negro' for those who aren't globalized."

"'Black Shield?' But..."

"Certainly! Was there not a 'Redbeard' and a 'Blackbeard'?"

"Well, yes, but..."

"There is no 'but'! I am 'Black Shield'! Compared with me, 'Blackbeard' would be but gray, and then with effort, and 'Redbeard' would be more faded than your old scarf!"

Durito had said this while simultaneously brandishing both his sword and his hook. Stopped now, in the bow of his can of sardi - excuse me, of his vessel, he begins reciting the "Pirate's Song"...

"'With ten cannons on each side'..."

"Durito," I try to bring him to his senses.

"'Wind at the stern, full sail'..."

"Durito..."

"'It does not cross the sea, it flies'..."

"Durito!"

"What? A royal galleon is within our reach? Quickly! Unfurl the sails! Prepare to board!"

"Duritooo!" I shout, desperate now.

"Calm down, don't yell or you'll look like an unemployed buccaneer. What's going on?"

"Could you tell me where you've been, where you came from, and what brought you to these lands, excuse me, these islands?" I asked, more calmly now.

"I have been in Italy, in England, in Denmark, in Germany, in France, in Greece, in Holland, in Belgium, in Sweden, in the Iberian Peninsula, in the Canary Islands, in all of Europe." Durito has said all this while taking bows to the right and to the left.

"In Venice I ate one of those 'postas' with Dario that the Italians are so keen on, and which leave me i-m-m-o-b-i-l-e."

"Just a minute! Which Dario? You didn't mean that you were eating with Dario...?"

"Yes, Dario Fo. Right. Eating, eating not. He was eating, I was watching him eat. Because, look, that spaghetti gives me a stomach ache, and even more so when they put 'pasto' [grass] on it."

"'Pesto'," I correct him.

"'Pasto' or 'Pesto,' it's all grass. As I was telling you, I arrived in Venice from Rome, after having escaped from one of those "Temporary Detention Centers (for Immigrants), that are a kind of concentration camp where Italian officials isolate - before expelling from the country - everyone coming from other countries, and who are, therefore, 'different.' Leaving wasn't easy, I had to lead a sit-in. Obviously the support from those men and women in Italy who are against institutionalized racism was fundamental. The fact is that Dario wanted me to help him with some ideas for a theatrical work, and I didn't have the heart to say no."

"Durito..."

"Afterwards I went on the march against the UN for the war in Kosovo."

"That should be 'against NATO'..."

"It's the same, and then, after a series of adventures, I set off to the Island of Lanzarote."

"Just a minute! The island of Lanzarote? Isn't that where Jose Saramago lives?"

"Yes, right, I call him 'Pepe'. What happened is that Pepe invited me for coffee so that I could discuss my experiences in the Europe of the Euro. It was magnificent..."

"Yes, I'd imagine that it would have been magnificent to chat with Saramago..."

"No, I'm referring to the coffee that the Pilarica prepared for us. She makes a truly magnificent cup of coffee."

"You're referring to Pilar del Rio?"

"The same."

"So, one day you're eating with Dario Fo, and the next you're taking coffee with Jose Saramago."

"Yes, those days I was hanging out with nothing but Nobel prize winners. But I tell you I had a fierce discussion with Pepe."

"And the reason?"

""The prologue, that one he wrote for my book. It seemed to me in bad taste that I, the great and even-tempered Don Durito of La Lacandona should be reduced to the world of Coleopterous Lamellicorn." (Durito is referring to Jose Saramago's prologue to the book "Don Durito de La Lacandona." Ed. CIACH, A.C.).

"And what was the discussion about?"

"Well, I challenged him to a duel, as and how demanded by the laws of knight errantry."

"And...?"

"And nothing, I saw that the Pilarica's heart was breaking, since it was obvious that I would win, and I forgave him..."

"You forgave Jose Saramago?"

"Well, not completely. For me to forget the affront, he shall have to come to these lands and declare, at the top of his voice, the following speech: "Listen all. Tyrants, tremble. Damsels, sigh. Children, be of good cheer. The sad and needy, rejoice. Listen all. Once more across these lands walks the ever grand, the magnificent, the incomparable, the well loved, the eagerly awaited, the onomatopoetic, the greatest of the knights errant, Don Durito of La Lacandona."

"You forced Jose Saramago to come here to say those...those...those things?"

"Yes, it seemed like a light punishment to me as well. But after all, he is a Nobel prizewinner, and I may, perhaps, need someone to do the prologue for my next book."

"Durito!" I chided him, and added: "Fine, but how did you happen to turn into a pirate, excuse me, into THE PIRATE?"

"It was Sabina's fault..." Durito says, as if he were talking about a partying compañero.

"You visited Joaquín Sabina also?"

"Of course! He wanted me to help him with the musical arrangements for his next record. But don't interrupt me. It happened that Sabina and I were chasing down bars and women in Madrid, when we reached La Ramblas."

"But that's in Barcelona!"

"Yes, there's the mystery. Because a few minutes before we had been in a pub in Madrid, captivated by an olive-skinned beauty, an Andalucian from Jaen, to be more precise, and then I had to go and satisfy one of those biological needs called 'primary.' That's when I made a mistake about the door, and, instead of the 'water' one, I opened the one to the street. And it happened that it was in La Ramblas. Yes, there was no longer any Madrid, nor Sabina, nor pub, nor olive skin, but I still needed a 'water,' because a knight cannot go about doing those things in just any corner. Ergo, I looked for a bar, trying to remember from when I had been hanging out with Manolo..."

"I imagine that you are referring to Manuel Vázquez Montalbán," I asked, no longer capable of being astonished by anything.

"Yes, but it's too long a name, so I just call him 'Manolo.' Then I was anxiously, restlessly and meticulously looking for someplace with a 'water' when there appeared in front of me, in a dark alley, 3 gigantic shadows..."

"Bandits!" I interrupted, startled.

"Negative. They were three trash dumpsters, under whose shadow I calculated that I would be able, intimately and discreetly, to do what I had planned on doing in the 'water.' And so I did. And, with the satisfaction of a duty accomplished, I lit my pipe and heard, with absolute clarity, two chimes from 'Big Ben'."

"But, Durito, that's in London, England..."

"Yes, it seemed strange to me as well, but what wasn't that night? I walked until I came to a sign that read 'Pirates. Wanted. No previous experience required. Preference to Beetles and Knights Errant. Information at 'The Black Speck' bar." Durito lights his pipe and continues.

"I continued walking, looking for the sign for 'The Black Speck'. I was feeling my way, barely making out corners and walls, so thick was the fog that was falling over the alleys of Copenhagen that night..."

"Copenhagen? But weren't you in London?"

"Look, if you keep interrupting me with the obvious, I'm going to send you to the plank and from there to the sharks. I already told you that everything was quite strange, and if I had read the sign soliciting pirates in London, I was then looking for 'The Black Speck' bar in Copenhagen, Denmark. I got lost for a few minutes in the Tivoli Gardens, but I kept on looking. Suddenly I found it, on a corner. A weak light was emanating from a solitary street lamp, barely scratching through the fog, illuminating a sign that read: 'The Black Speck. Bar and Table Dance. Special Discount for Beetles and Knights Errant.' I had not previously realized the high regard and sympathy they hold in Europe for beetles and knights errant..."

"It could be because they do not suffer from them..." I barely breathed.

"Do not think that the irony of your murmurs escapes me," Durito says. "But, for the good of your readers, I will continue with my narrative. There will be time enough to settle accounts with you.

"I was saying that, after noting the great intelligence of the Europeans in recognizing and admiring the greatness that some of us beings possess, I went in to that bar in Montmartre, close to 'Sacre Coeur'..."

Durito stays silent for a moment, waiting for me to interrupt him and to say that that was in Paris France, but I say nothing. Durito nods with satisfaction and continues:

"Once inside - an amethyst mist was encroaching on the atmosphere - I sat down at a table in the darkest corner. Not even a second had gone by when a waiter, in perfect German, said to me: 'Welcome to East Berlin,' and, without saying anything else, left me what I took to be a carta or menu. I opened it, and it consisted of just one sentence: "Potential pirates, second floor.' I went up by a staircase that was just behind me. I reached a long corridor flanked by windows. Through one of them the canals and 400 bridges that raise Amsterdam above the 90 islands could be seen. In the distance the 'White Tower' could be seen, which reminds the Greeks of Salonica of the extremes of intolerance. Still along the corridor, further ahead, through another window, the curved peak of the Swiss Matterhorn came into view. Further along could be made out the miraculous stones of the Irish Blarney Castle, that give the gift of words to those who kiss them. To the left, rose up the bell tower of the main Square in Bruges, Belgium. Following the passageway, before coming to a dilapidated door, a window looked out on the Plaza del Miracoli, and, by stretching one's hand a bit, one could touch the weak incline of the Tower of Pisa.

"Yes, that corridor looked out on half of Europe, and I would not have been surprised if there had been a sign on the door reading 'Welcome to the Maastricht Treaty'. But, no, the door did not have even one word on it. What's more, it didn't have a knob. I knocked, and nothing. I pushed the heavy piece of wood, and it gave way without difficulty. A mournful creaking accompanied the opening of the door...

"I then entered a room that was partially obscured. Inside, on a table full of papers, an oil lamp was poorly illuminating the face of a man of indefinite age, with a patch covering his right eye and a hand-made hook that was pulling at his long beard. The man's gaze was fixed on the table. Nothing was heard, and the silence was so heavy that it clung like dust to the skin..." Durito brushed the dust off his Pirate clothes.

"I have here a Pirate," I said to myself, and I moved towards the table. The man did not turn a hair. I coughed a bit, which is what we educated knights do in order to attract attention. The pirate did not lift his gaze. Instead, the parrot (who I had seen on his left shoulder) began reciting - with such excellent intonation that even Don Jose de Espronceda would have applauded -the one that goes: 'With ten cannons on each side, wind at the stern, full sail, it does not cross the sea, it flies'..."

"Sit down,' he said. I don't know if it was the man or the parrot, but the pirate, or what I surmised to be a pirate, handed me a piece of paper without saying a word. I read it. I will not bore your readers or you, I will tell you, in summation, that it was an application to join the 'Great Cofraternity of Pirates, Buccaneers and Terrors of the Sea A.C. of C.V. of R.L.' I filled it out without hesitation, not without previously underlining my status as beetle and knight errant. I handed the paper to the man and he read it in silence."

"When he finished, he looked at me slowly with his only eye and said to me: 'I was waiting for you Don Durito. Know that you are one of the last true pirates existing in the world. And I say 'true' because there is now an infinity of 'pirates' who are stealing, killing, destroying and looting from the financial centers and the great government palaces, without ever touching any water other than that in their baths. Here is your mission (he hands me a dossier of old parchments). Find the treasure, and put it in a safe place. And now, pardon me, but I must die.' And, as he said those words, he let his head fall to the table. Yes, he was dead. The parrot lifted up in flight and went out through a window, saying: 'I am going to the exile of Mitilene, I am going to the bastard son of Lesbos, I am going to the pride of the Aegean Sea. Open your 9 doors, fearsome hell, the great Redbeard is going to rest there. He has found the one who will follow in his footsteps, and the one who rendered the ocean into but a tear is now sleeping. The pride of the true Pirates will now be sailing with the Black Shield.' Underneath the window, the Swedish port of Goteborg was spread out, and, in the distance, a nyckelharpa was weeping."

"And what did you do?" I asked, now completely immersed in the history (although a bit seasick from so many names of places and locales).

"Without even opening the dossier of parchments, I retraced my steps. I went back down the corridor and down to the Table Dance-Bar, I opened the door and I went out into the night, right onto the Paseo de Pereda, in Santander, in the Cantabrian Sea. I put to towards Bilbao, entering Euskal Herria. I saw young people dancing Eurresku and Ezpatadantza to the rhythm of the txistu and the tabor, close to Donostia-San Sebastian. I climbed the Pyrenees and picked the Ebro River back up between Huesca and Zaragoza. There they managed to make me a vessel, and I continued on to the delta where the Mediterranean receives the Ebro, in the midst of the roar of the Vent de Dalt. I climbed Tarragonia by foot, and from there to Barcelona, passing by where the famous Battle of Montjuic took place." Durito paused, as if to gather speed.

"In Barcelona, I set off in a freighter that carried me to Palma de Mallorca. We headed southwest, skirting Valencia and, further south, Alicante. We sighted Almeria, and, further along, Granada. Throughout Andalucia, a flamenco song spread palms, guitars and heels. A huge gypsy fiesta accompanied us until, after doubling back by way of Algeciras, we crossed Cadiz, and at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, 'voices of death sounded,' coming from Cordoba and Seville. A flamenco song called out: 'Sleep now Durito, beloved son of the world, cease your aimless wandering, and may your path be beautiful.' We had just managed to sight Huelva, and then we headed to the 7 main islands of the Canaries. We put in there, and joined up with a bit of sap from the tree they call the "Dragon,' good, they say, for the ills of the body and soul. That is how I arrived at the island of Lanzarote and had the altercation with Don Pepe, which I have already mentioned."

"Uff! You have traveled far," I said, weary from just the telling of Durito's long journey.

"And what I have left out!" he said, proudly.

I asked:

"Then, you are no longer a knight errant?"

"Of course! The 'pirate' thing is temporary. Only as long as I am carrying out the mission entrusted to me by the deceased Redbeard."

Durito was staring at me.

I was thinking: Whenever Durito stares at me like that it's because...because...

"No!" I told him.

"'No' what? I haven't said anything to you," says Durito, feigning surprise.

"No, you haven't said anything to me, but that look doesn't augur well. Whatever you were going to say to me, my answer is 'no'. I have enough problems as a guerrilla to get involved now as a buccaneer. And I'm not crazy enough to set sail in a sardine can!"

"'Pirate', not 'buccaneer'. It's not the same, my dear and large-nosed cabin boy. And it's not a sardine can, it's a frigate and it's called 'Learn From Mistakes'."

I ignored the insult and replied:

""'Learn From Mistakes'? Mmh, strange name. But, in the end, 'Buccaneer' or 'Pirate', or whatever, means trouble."

"As you wish, but, before anything else, you should carry out your duty," Durito says solemnly.

"My duty?" I ask, letting down my guard.

"Yes, you should communicate the good news to the entire world."

"What 'good news'?"

"Why, that I have returned. And it doesn't have to be one of those long, dense, boring communiques with which you torture your readers. Also, in order not to run any risks, I have the text written out here." Having said that, Durito takes a paper out from one of his bags.

I read and re-read. I turn around to look at Durito and begin with the 'no, no and no' that began this tale.

In order not to bore you more, I will tell you that Durito was trying to get me to release a letter or communiqué, with national and international civil society as the recipients, announcing that Durito had now returned.

Of course I refused, since I had to respond to the letter sent to us by those who are participating in the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation (CCIDOPLDH), asking us to grant them the same trust which we gave them in 1998, to receive them and to give them our word, and they would then shortly be coming for a new visit. And so it goes:

ZAPATISTA ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION

October of 1999

To the International Civil Commission of Human Rights Observation:

Brothers and Sisters:

In the name of the children, women, men and old ones of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and of the Indigenous Communities in Resistance, I am communicating to you that it would be an honor for us for you to visit our lands. You have our trust; you will be treated with the respect you deserve as international observers, and you will not have, on our part, any impediments to your humanitarian work. It would also be our great pleasure to talk with you. We await you.

Vale. Salud and remember that here, in addition to dignity, mud also abounds.

>From the Island that 'Has No Name', excuse me.
From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Mexico, "Learn From Mistakes"
Frigate, October of 1999.

Look out: Postscripts follow.

P.S. WHICH EXTENDS ITS ARM FOR TWISTING - It so happens that, following my repeated negatives, Durito convinced me, offering me part of the treasure. Yes, we have reviewed the parchments, and there is a treasure map. Of course, we still must decipher it, but the prospect of an adventure is irresistible.

P.S. FOR NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY -

"Madame:

It is a great honour for me to be able to communicate to you the super duper (so says Durito's text) good news, the gift that will cause the small and great to rejoice. Let the great financial centers tremble! Let panic reach the palaces of the grand and false gentlemen! Let those from below celebrate! Let all hopes be reborn, and the most terrible nightmares prepare for their departure! May the most beautiful damsels prepare their best galas and may the spring of their hearts sigh! May good men take off their hats! May the children dance with joy! The best and greatest of pirates (crossed out in the original), excuse me, of the knights errant, that the world has ever seen, has returned! Don Durito of La Lacandona! (copyrights) (so says Durito's text). Hooray for humanity! Our most heartfelt condolences for neoliberalism. He is here, the great, I say 'grand', gigantic, marvelous, superlative, hyper-mega-plus, supercalifragilisticespialidoso (so says Durito's text), the only, the incomparable, himself, HIMSELF, Don Durito of La Lacandona! Yessssss! (so says Durito's text)."

End of Durito's text (from which I totally distance myself).

Okay then.
Durito is back now. (Sigh).
I don't know why I'm starting to get a headache.

Vale.
Salud, and does anyone have an aspirin?

The SupPirate (looking extraordinarily handsome with the patch over his right eye) (punsters, refrain)


Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
______________________
Translated by irlandesa

The hour of the little ones, II - Oct '99


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