MY UNCLE WICHO

9 04 2010

A WORLD FOR MARIO

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Mario is the youngest of my seven maternal uncles (two of boys have already died).

Mario is long and skinny like a pole to knock down cats (the common phrase is perfect for his stolid simplicity).

Mario is not rough, but his environment weighs on him.

Maria was a drinker and womanizer (what else is there to do on the bright red Alquízar estate of seventies?)

Mario was a pitcher and almost made the Havana team in the Baseball National Series (but he became a Seventh Day Adventist and stopped drinking and got married and had children and it was forbidden to even train on a Saturday).

Mario is severely asthmatic.

Mario has a mamey tree that still stands, even though it is a tree from before the Agrarian Reform and certainly will outlast the Revolution.

Mario’s children grew up and left him behind (as is normal in every civilized country, although in Cuba it is an exception).

Maria is getting old, he stopped going to the stadiums and the temples, but he never stopped protesting.

Mario is alone and comes from time to time to my house in Lawton to see his sister Maria (my mother who is 74), through an impossibly long journey of changing trucks and vans that cross San Anotonio de los Baños and Santiago de las Vegas.

Mario sits. Talks. Asks about the country, as if he didn’t live in the country (and not without reason).

Mario has heard some barbarities on the enemy’s radio. He senses that things are getting worse. He feels it. He asks about some “Farías” on hunger strike and if I have seen the Ladies in White (I don’t say that I have portrayed them between panic and compassion). He argues with the crystal clarity of someone who has cheated death, but without the fanatical gleam of years ago.

Mario looks sad. Sometimes he nods off from exhaustion in the middle of a conversation. You want to give him a hug and tell him: “Uncle, don’t come back again.”

I tell him about Cuban politics. I pick up the mood. I invent a world of realistic lies (the news of the last hour for Mario is literally science fiction).

Afterwards we always talk a little about the universe. A Protestant after all, Mario has a somewhat timid apocalyptic streak. He knows of the atom and of earthquakes (banalities of cultural diffusion). Occasionally my uncle justifies Jesus. Occasionally he conveniently forgets to quote him. Occasionally he feels like having lunch and Maria gives him my used shoes (it seems like a parable of the fatherland of José Martí).

Mario takes a nap (as a child I hated that Cuban Mongolian drowsiness).

Mario wakes up in a hurry because he has to travel all the way to Alquízar and doesn’t want to take the whole night to get there.

He scribbles a dozen thanks with misspellings that, when you read his letter, don’t seem like spelling mistakes but his natural country style. Then Mario says goodbye and goes off with my used shoes and the promise we’ll soon come to see him (I have been breaking my word for twenty years).

The sun when it rises
tenderly on the horizon
is a red and eternal God
that by giving heat becomes a giant.
To every plant it gives light
after the first breath
but when in its turn
it reaches under the eaves
the hands of the guajiro
fan the sombrero.

I remember him from my childhood. Today is amazes me that Mario is still in the world of 2010. There is something inhuman in such a memory of little fibs. There is something inhuman in so much forgetting of the truth

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