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  • from Canto de Sirena*
  • Gregorio Martínez

Afterwards, basically, I went to Nasca for the elections of 1945, but to Acarí, my home village, I never arrived. I didn't go precisely since the night that I left clandestinely following Volantelacas in order to come to Coyungo. Strangely, the first time that I returned, I arrived fleeing from the cops from Puesto de Nasca because they wanted to put me in jail for having punched Don Pedro Gabelio in the whorehouse. This white son-of-a-bitch stood in front of the whorehouse and refused to let either black or cholo inside, on account of he didn't want the races to mix, he said, and he didn't allow anyone to argue the matter with him. He didn't take into account that the whorehouse was a business that could be freely frequented by anyone who might arrive in even the most broken down state with only the desire to "water his horse." He said, "Hell no!" and any black, any cholo was expected to wait outside the door, with a long face, with his mug drooping, looking like a dog keeping vigil under the table waiting for someone to throw him a bone, some leftovers. That's how most of those controlling whites were, arrogant and making distinctions between cholos and blacks, who for them, weren't "people" at all, or better said, poor people weren't "people," but the whites were, which is why only they comprised their own guild, their society, priding themselves on their supposed lineage, and only for them did decency and gentlemanliness exist. We poor people were too ordinary to be recognized in the company of "people." That's why Don Pedro Gabelio stood in front of the door of the whorehouse and shouted with all of his might: "Only 'people' can enter here, dammit!"

One day I arrived from Estanquería at about five o'clock in the afternoon and I went in front of the whorehouse because I had a girl there who was responding to me and yet she was a little artificial at the moment of sharing her enchantments. In front of the place there was a guy who made coffee. I approached him and I said: "Miguel." And he looks at me. "How are you?" he asks. "Fine, thanks," I answer him and then I say: "Miguel, hold my wallet because I intend to go inside to see how you-know-who is doing. Have you seen her?" "Don't even think about going inside," he says. Then he bends down and starts to dump out the ashes of the stove, and from there he says to me: "You know that a weed never dies and it never wilts, and if it doesn't die, where is it going to go? It will never die. It will only go away when it is pulled out from the roots. Then he stands up and he fixes his eye on me: "Don't go in there dammit! That stubborn asshole Don Pedro Gabelio is in there," he points with his finger. "Look how this corner is filled with cholos, and on that other one, you can now barely see the crowd of blacks, hunkered down as if carrying squash on their backs." Indeed, there was a big crowd of people, some respectable [End Page 263] men and some big boys. There they were all hiding, when before they were waiting for their rice water, and now on the corner they were scared out of their wits, trying to decipher even a little scrap of what was happening beyond that door. They would never even dare to do more. "What did he say?" I asked Miguel. "He didn't say anything. You know how he is. He simply propped himself in front of the door and refuses to let neither cholo nor black go inside. He doesn't want it. He says they should go to the pasture and look for a she-ass." "Ah," I said, and then I asked him to give me a coffee. I sat on the bench and took out a cigarette. "Do you smoke?" I...


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