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A tale of old people, gunshots and deceased

What Fermín doesn’t really want is that, when he passes away, his sons and grandkids have to go to another town which is not his to mourn him and that he will have to be carried along with his sorrow, for another five kilometers


A tale of old people, gunshots and deceased

Fermín Segundo moves his sombrero made of palm leaf to fit in and he takes out of his blackish shopping bag an arsenal of blackened documents and creased as much as the 75 years old he has on his back, he puts methodically in order all of the documents, memorandums, propaganda of the PRI party and random sheets from notebooks, with old petitions written with pencil as irrefutable proofs that the deceased in Loma de Guadalupe can’t stand more disaster and they claim for their own tombs.

Sit on a bench at the González Arratia plaza, sheathed in an old green and vivid white wool jorongo (a garment of coat that consists of a square or rectangular blanket with an opening in the center to pass the head through it and it covers from the shoulders till down the waist) that lightly touches his calves, Fermín isn’t overwhelmed by the freezing cold that is felt in Toluca already, discreetly fits his pants and crosses his huaraches as if he tries to avoid the wind to come into his unbalanced agrarian’s body. He moves again facing the irrefutable proofs and starts as it is supposed to be, from the beginning of the times.

He remembers how in 1947, the quarrels for lands among families from Loma de Guadalupe and San Diego Cerrito, get expanded all over the region of the most rural zone in Valle de Bravo, exactly when at that time the Miguel Alemán dam was under construction and which, today has become in a powerful touristic development in the area.

The conflict and jealousness for the selling of common lands and properties for the dam and the first rich real-estate developments of the zone ended up with a bloody confrontation among both communities which in that moment used to be one single common.

Some people as Fermín, still hold clearly those days, because there were men with guns and riding horses who used to roam around the area, hunting rebels who were opposing the dispossession of their houses, and then the ones from the other town who did want to sell, were doing the same and it was like that for several weeks to the point that the deceased were piled up and the people couldn’t stand more blood.

By then, Fermín would be a 3 or 4 years old kid, he was living in a little place with his mother, his father and a little squad of 11 kids who, along with him, used to get hidden among the magueys (a type of cactus) behind the river, when they listened to the sound of guns and horses getting closer.

Nobody knows exactly how many lives were taken from that agrarian conflict but it is true that the proclaimed war between both mazahua communities is still alive to the point that even the spirits suffer, says Fermín, because since then, when somebody dies despite is a kid or a grown up person, the first question that comes up is: “what do we do with the deceased now?”

And the issue isn’t for less, says Pedro, Fermín’s inseparable companion, who assures that the conflict ended up there… but the peace agreement consisted on separate some goods that both communities were sharing and a non-aggression pact.

In this way, it was agreed that the market and the pumping plant will be for Loma de Guadalupe; the common house and the cemetery for San Diego.

Since then, both communities marked their own territory and stayed divided, and even that now each town has its own school, roads and other services, there is only one graveyard where the heirs of the families that started the problem and their followers, still don’t forgive that old quarrel and every time they can they light up the old issues.

That is why each dead person is a dilemma for the people of Loma de Guadalupe, since the closest cemetery they have, it’s the one in front of them and it is prohibited for them. That is also why that each time that there is a deceased there, the inhabitants of San Diego get delighted and sit placidly in front of the imaginary border line that divides the towns to see how the neighbors solve the new conflict.

And then you can see the queues of mourners going with their deceased coming and going, from Villa Victoria to Valle de Bravo, from Loma de Guadalupe to the borders of San Diego, looking for a place for the deceased, waiting for their compassion without leaving their dignity in front of their enemies, says Fermín proudly.

A gust of wind comes down from the Xinantécatl (a volcano kind of near the city) and now Fermín feels cold, he shivers and till then, he agrees to change the bench for a table in a little cafe in the city center. Small as himself, not taller than 1.50 meters, blackened by the work on the countryside, he asks for a cup of tea and a piece of sweet bread which eats calmly while he starts and finishes the ritual of putting in order, extend and show the “irrefutable proofs”.

- “And what about the irrefutable proofs?” I asked.

- “They are the proof that the deceased of Loma de Guadalupe haven’t gotten justice for over 50 years”, he says with a mixture of Spanish and Mazahua languages which emphasizes even more the antiqueness of the conflict.

That’s the point where the proofs fit, why?, the old man asks while he swallows the last piece of bread and immediately he answers: because this is the story of the deceased from a town and who are looking for their place in the world.

It was then, after so much pilgrimage and confused mourners, when Fermín’s grandfather decided more than 60 years ago that it was enough of so much hustling with the deceased and he started his come and go to Toluca to ask for support to the governor in charge and authorize a cemetery for Loma de Guadalupe. Don Hermilo didn’t achieve too much, but he started to gather the “irrefutable proofs” which his grandson, Fermín, carry to everywhere he goes and before him, his son Sebastian, in the dirty bag where the records ended up in less than yellowish sheets of paper, frayed as his squared shirt, dirty or blackened due to so much manipulation and public expertise that the smallest provocation encourages Fermín.

More than 40 years ago, Sebastian, his father, continued the demarche and the pilgrimage to Toluca, bringing every time the worthy load and, thickening, at the same time the irrefutable proofs. The oldest document dates the middle of the 50’s and it is written by Fermín’s grandfather, who asks to “your Honor” with heavy letters, for a land where the inhabitants of Loma de Guadalupe can bury their deceased.

In Valle de Bravo there is no official record through the history of this story of cemeteries and dead, but in Loma de Guadalupe, a distant community of less than 1,000 inhabitants that survive thanks to their grows and sheeps, Fermín’s stories get lost among the memory of the oldest ones.

Adela Hernández is 78 years old and with her difficult Spanish, mixed with Mazahua, resumes all by saying that “those f*ckers” of San Diego el Cerrito will be doomed alive for not letting rest in peace to the deceased and daring to take them out of their tombs, as it happened with her daughter Ana 50 years ago, when she died due to pneumonia. That rainy night and knackered with mourn, she had to bury her secretly, eluding her neighbors’ surveillance; in the middle of the dark, she took out the little white bundle with her daughter’s body, she dig a hole in a shore, put the little deceased and quickly she covered it up. After this, she put a little bouquet of wild flowers and she came out as fast as she came in. The next evening when she returned to cry her, little Ana had already been exhumed without any warning or advising. “That f*ckers they are”.

- And where did Fermín come up with the “irrefutable proofs” thing?- I asked in the town.

- “Once a lawyer from Valle de Bravo came and he said he wanted to be candidate to become a deputy of the PRI party, so he asked us for our vote, then Fermín approached and showed him some papers of his grandfather where he asks to the governor for help to have a cemetery, the guy in the suit checked the papers, took a look on them and told Fermín that he was right, and that if he won the election, he would help us immediately, because those were “irrefutable proofs” of the fairness of their petition.”-said a woman without stop smiling.

At the city center’s little cafe, here in Toluca, Fermín gets relaxed on his chair and he accepts another cup of chamomile tea, he asks for another herb but for the third time he is told that there is nothing like that here by the waiter. “Ok”, he answers huffy.

During his come and go to Toluca in the last 20 years, when he took as personal the struggle of his father and grandfather, Fermín has brought petitions directed to Mario Ramón Beteta, Ignacio Pichardo Pagaza, Emilio Chuayffet, César Camacho, Arturo Montiel and Enrique Peña Nieto. Not to Eruviel Ávila because he didn’t know him, even more, he didn’t even know that it came and went another governor, nobody told him, no one, not even the police officers that guard the entrance to the palace of government that time he came and when he was denied to enter after checking maliciously Fermín’s irrefutable proofs.

Neither in Valle de Bravo has found too much help. Mayors come and go and nobody wants to sign the municipal license that is missing so Loma de Guadalupe can have its cemetery, though there is a piece of land ready since several years ago for this purpose, a real achievement of Fermín and his predecessors.

He assures that one year after the trifling, his grandfather started the negotiations to get definitely separated from the problematic neighbors and transact through a trial, the division of the common. However in 1958, the federal government denied such division and only was allowed that Loma de Guadalupe is taken as an attachment of San Diego del Cerrito, therefore the failures of the never ending negotiations.

Such measure imposed by the Agrarian Court allowed to calm the spirits and create a less stressed atmosphere, however, the deceased issue hasn’t been solved completely.

In recent years, the people of Loma de Guadalupe have been supported by a near town called San Diego Suchitepec by allowing them to make some funerals, though it implies to walk several kilometers and carrying the deceased. That cannot last forever, claims Fermín.

The thing is that the deceased of Loma de Guadalupe have ended up so dispersed that in these days of November, the mourners come and go all over the area, bringing and taking tears that never end.

On the Day of the Dead’s eve, old Fermín is more restless. He walks like a suffering soul following the roads that bring him to Toluca and take him back. What Fermín doesn’t really want is that, when he passes away, his sons and grandkids have to go to another town which is not his to mourn him and that he will have to be carried along with his sorrow, for another five kilometers.

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