A house by the sea

Chapter 5… Of poor lovesick poets


The lone ranger Beaches at Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua
The lone ranger
Beaches at Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua

     When they moved to live in León, the natural curiosity he had within, drove him to wander around each of León’s municipalities. Most importantly, he met and he got to know many of the people that lived in those parts. He extensively enjoyed making new acquaintances and cultivating friendships in the different neighborhoods; he would stroll happily about the Department of León, as if he owned the place, together with its people. It was all but his playground to grow up in. Many years later, he would take me along on his walkabouts, and I would never cease to be amazed, at how immensely popular he was.
Grandfather’s parents owned a lovely weekend house. “We had lived in Chinandega, a small and quiet city. Naturally the beach house was a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of León, for us a big city.” It was located on one of the most beautiful beaches of the Nicaraguan Pacific coast, quite nearby the port of Corinto.


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Back from the market

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


City Hall Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
City Hall                Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   The entrance to the house was here. It was sheltered, from the sun and rains, by an overhang painted in the same blue color as the facade. It provided a generous shade during the mornings and the sunny afternoons, so typical of San Gil. At the same time, it was a dry spot for the passers-by during the rainy moments that occurred during part of the afternoons.
Without question, it was a cheery street, decorated with facades painted in their different hues of yellow, blue, and green. Many years later, Dora tried to run up it, as if she were still that untiring girl. Laughing at herself, she had to admit: I can’t do it anymore! But, what would you say if I told you that grandmother used to go up and down that street until her death, and she carried heavy bags of groceries from the market while she was at it!


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Love at first sight

Chapter 5… Of poor lovesick poets


The beach cove Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua
The beach cove                   Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua

     For my grandfather, moving to León was love at first sight. On different times, he talked to me about how he loved to visit León, ever since he was a little boy. At the time, the city held a powerful spell on Grandfather and it fascinated him. He enjoyed walking the streets of Nicaragua’s first capital, admiring its old buildings and lovely colonial mansions, with their history-impregnated walls.
“I could imagine carriages driving down those beautiful streets, my dear child. They were drawn by tall, proud horses with long, silky manes, their heads held proudly high, with elegance, bearing, and style; their hooves pounding the cobbled streets and thundering in the air, as they briskly trotted past. The gentlemen wearing those elegant top hats, riding their stallions and entering the huge houses, through doors so wide and tall, they needn’t dismount to pass through,” he told me once, his voice slightly trembling with emotion. He was in a melancholic and pensive mood that afternoon, while we were up in the cathedral’s roof, lazily enjoying the panoramic view of the city, extending below, at our feet.

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A few digestives for the soul

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


The lake's beach Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua
The lake’s beach
Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua

     It was precisely Grandfather who explained why they had moved to León, “…as my daddy’s father-in-law was growing older (your great-grandfather, Ernesto García), it seemed that his interest gradually changed from taking care of the cotton crops, towards taking care of another bottle of rum, which he stored and hoarded with utmost care, in that wine cellar of his, below the manor, in a seemingly endless supply. Now, I love my rum as much as anyone else; I´ve found it’s good for the stomach, especially with your grandma’s spicy cooking, and it’s good for the soul; but I’m sorry to say, as your dear old Gramps grew older, sadly, the old man began to drink his days away.” Anyway, that’s how Grandfather arrived to stay in León, and there he lived, quite happily, until the end of his days. .

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A change in life

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


Solitude Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua
Solitude
Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua

     Grandfather was about to become twelve years old, and in those days, he was considered young but of age. As it happened, don Ernesto, his grandfather on the maternal side, was not growing any younger, and, more to the point, his health was slowly failing. For that reason, and against his wishes, his father decided to leave their lovely colonial house in Chinandega, the home where Grandfather was born and raised, and to move out to León, one of the oldest and largest cities in the country.


     His father had agreed to manage the various plantations belonging to his wife’s family near León. Relocating to the former capital would change their lives, drastically and in many ways. It would also place an additional strain on his father’s already busy days; for together with his brothers, they already had their hands full, overseeing their own peanut and sugar plantations close by Chinandega. As a result, Grandfather, the eldest son, was recruited into the lot of new chores and duties to look after, but he didn’t mind and never complained.


     It was precisely Grandfather who explained why they had moved to León, “…as my daddy’s father-in-law was growing older (your great-grandfather, Ernesto García), it seemed that his interest gradually changed from taking care of the cotton crops, towards taking care of another bottle of rum, which he stored and hoarded with utmost care, in that wine cellar of his, below the manor, in a seemingly endless supply. Now, I love my rum as much as anyone else; I´ve found it’s good for the stomach, especially with your grandma’s spicy cooking, and it’s good for the soul; but I’m sorry to say, as my dear old Gramps grew older, sadly, the old man began to drink his days away.” Anyway, that’s how Grandfather arrived to stay in León, and there he lived, quite happily, until the end of his days.

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Working for the first time

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


The beach Moyagalpa, Rivas, Nicaragua
The beach
Moyagalpa, Rivas, Nicaragua

     They say that a man is as tall as the heights that his imagination dares to soar. With the tales and the yarns that he so enjoyed to spin, my dearest grandfather, surely must have reached the heavens, where he would likely be sitting comfortably on a cotton cloud, right beside the Virgin of the Throne. If she lets him have his way, he would assuredly convince her that the twenty day festivities during December are held in remembrance of his baptism and in his honor.

     “Tread slowly and tread carefully my friends! When ultimately the rumors finally reached the Blessed and Chaste ears of the Bishop, he came up with a brilliant idea. He ordered the priest repeat it every following year. I’m talking about rising early in the morning and his working up a sweat, cleaning all that silver. Apparently the Old Fox, my mistake, the Bishop, greatly enjoyed this, for he and that little priest just didn’t get along, you know…
“Anyway he was ordered to do this in commemoration of that grand occasion. Yes, I should pretend to be a bit more modest; but it’s understood that my baptism was a major historic event. This time I’m speaking of commemorating, that first one and only time, that anybody, yes anybody in the world had actually seen… padre José working in his whole, useless life.


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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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They start to kiss you!

Chapter 3… The Chinandegan magpies


The fishermen Granada, Nicaragua
The fishermen
Granada, Nicaragua

“Thank you very much, I´m sure I am all that and so much more,” he added with a mischievous smile, “you’ll place them right in your pocket, and you can keep them there too; but, allow me to enlighten you: in this valley of tears, there are no free lunches, no sir, nothing, my dear, nothing comes for free.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Grandfather?”

“Honey chile, they´ll be so pleased with you that they will want to pull your cheeks with pleasure, mark my prophetic words of wisdom! But the worst of it all…the most infamous thing that can cruelly be done to an innocent child, like I was once upon a time is… you know what I´m talking about?” he innocently asked wearing his favorite poker face.

“They start to kiss you! Oh yes!” At this point he began to get carried away as he raised the volume of his voice. “With lips crammed with sticky, gooey, fire-man red lipstick, they will kiss you on the cheek, if you’re not careful, on the forehead too! Just in case that’s not enough, they will lick a finger and then wipe you, or smear it all over your cheek, like Aunt Sagrario loved to do. You’ll walk off there with your face painted like a Navajo warrior in the middle of a steaming Nicaraguan tropical day. Your friends will cry themselves to an early grave, and you´ll have nowhere to hide!”

 


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