Sunday, August 15, 2010

Birth and Death

The first two weeks at the new Coop tienda location have been a success. Sales are steady and Hector, the shop keeper, has done a stellar job at maintaining the set of books I have requested he keep. The books detail the sales, purchases and credit flowing through the business. We have also initiated a new meeting at 5PM every day in which the Vigilancia (vigilance committee), Tesorero (treasurer) and Hector reconcile the books to see how the day ended. The store doesn’t actually close until about 8PM but our “day” ends at 5PM and sales after that point go onto the following day’s books.

This week the minibank also was moved from its temporary location at Jenny’s computation center to the new tienda local. With the move came Veronica (bank teller) and Manuel (doing an internship of sorts at the minibank). Having Veronica at the tienda adds a little spunk to the atmosphere. The girl likes to gossip and has shared all sorts of gushy town dirt with me, such as, which men frequent prostitutes, who hits the bottle a little too hard... I would elaborate but I recently found out that someone who reads my blog (you know who you are) has been reporting information back to people in town and I don’t want to cause any unnecessary trouble. I’m sure you understand.

Veronica’s affinity for gossip is not the only entertaining thing about her. She is six months pregnant and her little bun in the oven is also the source of good chit-chat. She finds out the sex of her little "túmulo" this week. I don’t know the word for bump in Spanish. I do, however, know "túmulo" which translates to speed bump so this is what I refer to her baby bump as- close enough. We spent one afternoon last week going through potential baby names. I did the naming and she would respond if she liked it or not. It went a little like this:

Anna: Micah
Veronica: No, hate it 
Anna: Max
Veronica: OK but Maximilian
Anna: Jackson
Veronica: Jason?
Anna: No, Jackson
Veronica: Jason?
Anna: Zachary
Veronica: Esaqu..... (definitely couldn't pronounce that)
Anna: Brent
Veronica: huh? 
Anna: Trent
Veronica: huh? 
Anna: Charly
Veronica: I like that one. Give me some more...

And so the afternoon went. She came out liking a few of my suggestions but when I offered Annalisa for a girl's name she just laughed at me.

I had intended to end my blog post with the baby name story but there was a passing in my town Friday night which has given me the opportunity to bring together, as often occurs, the two themes of birth and death. I will warn you that this post is now turning a little dark...

Friday night as the town was experiencing a unusually heavy rainfall a man was killed outside of the town cemetery. The murder took place while I was tucked away in my bed, coincidentally, watching the horror movie American Psycho (thanks Danielle). I didn’t hear the handful of gunshots that rang out because they were masked by the pounding raindrops on my rooftop and the sound of Christian Bale's chainsaw. It wasn’t until Saturday morning, when I stopped by the tienda, that I learned of the tragedy. I will recount the details that I have gathered from various sources.

The deceased was a young man of questionable character; a known gang member who also meddled in the dealing and consumption of drugs. His fatal flaw, however, was his inclination to steel from the people in town and then escape of to the capital to sell the ill-gotten gains. Let me remind you that my town is pretty small- just over 2,000 inhabitants. The large majority of people are honest, hardworking and respectful so when there is a rotten apple in the bunch it's easy to pick that person out. And picked out this delinquent was. He was walking by himself after nightfall and someone (or some people) took the law into their own hands and shot him to death. He was found shortly after the deed was done with no less than 8 bullets in his body. One right through his forehead.

Civil policing is not uncommon in Guatemala. In a country where few have faith in the government, police are seen as another futile and corrupt arm of the powers that be. And as awful as this incident was, the townspeople are shaken but show no outrage. “Now we will have fewer problems” is their ultimate conclusion, "the gangs will think twice before coming to Casas Viejas."

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