Preparing Grandfather’s batism

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


Still life Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua
Still life
Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua

All in all, and be it as it may, as far as Grandfather is concerned, history depends on the historian that’s making up the story at the moment. When for whatever reason, the subject changed to his early childhood, his traits as a historian would assuredly rise to the occasion, his eyes twinkling as he warmed up to one of his favorite topics. His smile would give way to his mischievous grin, the prelude that signals the birth of one of his forthcoming pranks. Like the proverbial cat and the mouse, he’d seize the opportunity to unveil the circumstances of his baptism, narrating his own extremely personal version of the events…

“The question that begs to be addressed is where he got that amount of ashes to clean the silver. You don’t go to the store and buy them by the pound. So I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those ashes that he used to clean the silver, they came from the Cuban cigars that he loved to smoke; he collected the ashes, as he was cheerfully drinking the nights away. And he had the best rum in town to do it. I have to admit, he had the good stuff. I should know, for it came from my uncle’s sugar mills; my uncle only gave him the best. It was quality, like the Guatemalans love to say. But, the truth of the matter is, he never used it to clean silver, no sir, thank you very much. It would have been a waste! He drank the good stuff to calm his nerves; naturally, they were on the edge, because of the attention he knew he’d receive, when the time came to baptize me. As for the alcohol he used to clean the silver, he bought it by the gallon from the druggist, a block from the church.

“Well, there’s that bit of gossip, good juicy tidbits of gossip that began to circulate among the townsfolk. It went round like wild fire, from mouth to mouth. Of course, people started to gather, a busybody here and another one there. You might have thought they were only a sad bunch of curious onlookers, with nothing better to do; but also, you have to understand, just how unbelievable it was to even try and imagine that good for nothing padre José, out of bed early in the morning… Sure enough, pretty soon a huge crowd had gathered surrounding the priest. Their mind had been blown to smithereens, amazed to see the guy actually working for a change. Simply, nobody had ever seen him do it before, not for the life of him, not even by mistake! As the Colombian that owned the bakery in Sutiapa used to say: not even for the berraco, whatever he meant by that!


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History, according to Grandfather Jairo

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


Las Peñitas Beach Leon, Nicaragua
Las Peñitas Beach
Leon, Nicaragua

All in all, and be it as it may, as far as Grandfather is concerned, history depends on the historian that’s making up the story at the moment. When for whatever reason, the subject changed to his early childhood, his traits as a historian would assuredly rise to the occasion, his eyes twinkling as he warmed up to one of his favorite topics. His smile would give way to his mischievous grin, the prelude that signals the birth of one of his forthcoming pranks. Like the proverbial cat and the mouse, he’d seize the opportunity to unveil the circumstances of his baptism, narrating his own extremely personal version of the events…

“That priest was understandably nervous about baptizing me, the first-born son of don Leobardo Díaz Alvarez! As it turned out, the so-called priest, padre José was a card, quite a character. On that very day, he got up early in the morning, something that guy never did, so that nobody would see him. What’s more, talking about early in the morning, I’m sure he didn’t even have the slightest idea, what that meant. Anyway, he got up to wash the font really carefully, because he thought ultimately, “it’s me he’s going to bathe in it.” That poor thing was beyond filthy; it was both as neglected, as it was abandoned. The silver base was grimy and caked with dirt, which accumulated through a long time and because of his carelessness. Of course, the silver had lost its luster and shine. Let me tell you a fact of life: fear rides not, upon a donkey’s back. In his case, even though this glorious event was still a week away, there you have him: rising at the crack of dawn, feeling clumsy from the sleepless nights of anxiety. He’s on his knees, puffing, huffing, and polishing that poor font, to bring it back from oblivion and shine once more!


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Cleansing the silver

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


View of the church Vilcabamba, Loja. Ecuador
View of the church
Vilcabamba, Loja. Ecuador

Grandfather was baptized in a small town called El Viejo, which literally means The Old Town. The old church had a well-known baptismal font, and it was quite famous as a matter of fact, as it dated back to the year 1560. The beautiful font’s antique base had been completely coated with hand-crafted silver, elaborately crafted. It was precisely in it, that Grandfather was baptized. The baptismal ceremony was held during the week that followed a popular annual festivity, known traditionally as ‘The Cleansing of the Silver’.

 This festivity was widely celebrated each year on the sixth of December. Part of the most important religious celebrations in Central America, its significance had transcended far beyond Nicaragua’s borders to most of the Central American countries. For a space of twenty days, this small town becomes the religious center of the country; when thousands of people visited El Viejo to participate in its ceremonies. Visitors gathered from every nook and corner of the country, and there was no lack of pilgrims that even made the difficult journey, from faraway lands in other countries, to finally converge together, as part of the massive annual religious peregrinations to Nicaragua.


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