El preso del Viernes Santo / Silvio Orta Cabrera

The Good Friday Prisoner

From the late 40s until the mid 50s I never missed a single Good Friday procession of the Holy Sepulcher, back in la Victoria. At the head of the procession was the fixed presence of a very humble man, who handed out movie flyers, wedding invitations and burial notices, a man with a long name, Nemesio Enrique Romero Castillo, who would always enunciate it when replying to us with irritation after we’d call him “Perico!” [parakeet], a nickname derived from the physiognomy of his crooked face. Aside from those instances, he was as peaceful as his honest linen coat, Chaplinesque shoes and crumpled grey linen hat with its black band.

Carrying a long pole, Nemesio led the procession so as to make sure the images, especially the tallest ones representing the Nazarene and the Pained One, didn’t get stuck on electric wires. A fervent member of the Society of the Holy Sepulcher, he assisted the progress of the dead Christ with a severity that accentuated the “Popule Meus” of José Ángel Lamas, resonating since 1801.

On those Fridays we would crowd in front of the police station to watch the prisoner they’d release. This is where the entourage and the compassed balance of sweaty bodies would pause the longest under the heavy image, a life-sized, marble reproduction of the martyr, to whose weight were added the thick windows of the funerary box and the cedar beams of the stage used to support the sculpture. The prisoner came out somewhat embarrassed, thanked the Lord and accompanied the procession until the nearby end of the trajectory at the Matriz church.

Nothing else. No thanks to the Mayor and his other captors. How different from president Correa subordinating the fall of Raúl Reyes to the argument that this event had prevented his plan to liberate ten more hostages in negotiations with the FARC, with Ingrid Betancourt among them! How far from the smiling impiety and the mixed-up clamor and consumerism of Piedad Córdoba calculating how much closer to the presidency each liberated person might bring her! How unlike the mercantile scream of “Manuel, send me Ingrid!,” which translates as “Help me, comrade, make 83 percent of Venezuelans forget the mobilization of the ten armored battalions, the anguish and the thousands of millions that my bellicose bluffing cost at least two nations, my own actions as a rrrevolutionary man of peace.” The already “ephemeralist” peace of 4 February 1992.

Do they understand how miserable it is to nourish themselves with the kidnapped victims? (I know, Chávez. You’ve proclaimed yourself opposed to kidnappings, so don’t manipulate them.) Chained every night. Unable to caress their families. Every day, an island surrounded by death on all sides. Is this how the New Man is built? With terrorism as barbaric as Bush’s arbitrary mess in Guantánamo? Your shouting, Chávez, doesn’t release prisoners on Good Friday. Though you may not believe it, you are not the Lord of Christians or non-Christians.

This is what I want to say today, at midnight on the Thursday I turn 72.

{ Silvio Orta Cabrera, Tal Cual, 24 March 2008 }

No comments: