Wednesday, March 24, 2010

El Cargador

On a warm, windy March day Vincent Stanzione and I went
into the pueblo of Santiago Atitlan in search of anybody who
might know some of the history of a man known to most as
El Cargador. A man who for most of his abbreviated life carried
cargo from boats that unloaded at the docks. He carried his loads
from 6 AM until there was little or nothing more that needed
moving. Little was known about him except that he was often
ridiculed because of his appearance, that he was ridiculously
drunk most afternoons and nights, and that he almost always
slept in the street.

Vincent, fluent in both Spanish and Tzutujil, talked with some
of the people who knew him best. He died sometime during the
past year and was given a pauper's burial. As best we can
determine there was one mourner, the Nabeysil (a sacred
bundle dancer), a long-time companion.

Vincent has transcribed the simple comments made about El Cargador. Most recalled him with sadness or humorous comments. It seems that practically everybody recognized him, but knew little of his life.

"He was always a bothersome person. He drank a lot as a young man and I think that maybe he was driven mad, mentally ill, by the people around him. He had brothers, but I don't think anybody knows where they are."

"He owned a small parcel of land in the center of the pueblo.
Some of his family loaned him small amounts of money at times,
and then, when he was unable to pay them back, they took his
land. Then they threw him out of the house."

It seems that he was fond of the young girls, but was totally inept around them. They would tease him and he would throw stones at the girls. When Vincent began talking with them this is their first memory.

"His thinking wasn't straight, his head wasn't straight. He just wasn't normal in the way people should be normal. Once a man wanted to clean him up because he was a filthy person, he never washed. Never cleaned his clothes. People were afraid of him because he was so filthy and
smelled so bad."

"He got people really mad. And they made him angry. There was a lot of rock throwing and name calling."

"They taunted him by calling him Mono (monkey) and laughed at him when he got mad."

"He might have been appreciated in older times, times when people appreciated people like him, people who were touched or slow, but knew when earthquakes were about to happen, or how to make the rains come. He could have been a spiritualist, he would have had some respect. He might have been a diviner or an oracle and had a real place here."

His name was Adoy. (K'aamronel, Cargador. Eb'rel, drunk). He was from the pueblo of Panul originally. He was Diego Rianda. He will be remembered by many as an entertainer, a simple thankful man, always grateful for a few coins to buy rum, one who, probably never knowing it, enriched lives just by being a special character.

(( Vincent Stanzione is the author of Rituals of Sacrifice: University of New Mexico Press ))

1 comment:

  1. No person, no matter how poor or handicapped, or mentally challenged, should pass from this earth without acknowledgement that he lived. What you did here, in honoring this poor soul, was a selfless act of kindness, or what we call a mitzvah.

    And, you're writing is improving!