- Like a Painted Footprint
In memory of José Zazueta Yoquibo.
Once when Naty took me for a walk along the river, I saw something jump behind the rocks. It was very agile and quickly disappeared, which is why I thought it might be a deer. So I asked Naty, “What was that?” She replied, “A Guarijío. They are the Indians who live here, in the Sierra.”—Taydé Parra, San Bernardo
Of Cipriano’s Life
I was born near Guamúchil, about four kilometers down, in a place called Cueva Larga. Guamúchil is just before you get to Los Bajíos. That’s where I was born. I have four sisters and two brothers, plus one who died of sickness because in those days there was no doctor. We were very poor. We didn’t have anything and our father worked with the people who had resources, with the ranchers. They paid him very little, at that time about 5 pesos.38 My father worked from sunup to sundown. Sometimes he went to work and they would pay him with five liters of corn for the day, for the whole day, from the early morning until the sun went down, just to earn five liters of corn to feed us. That’s the way it was in those days. Everyone worked with the only people they could, the ranchers. To some of us the ranchers provided steady work and often they would let us sharecrop. But the people got nothing from that [arrangement] because to work and support ourselves we needed provisions—five liters of corn, or often they would give them a liter of salt, and that’s … that’s how they supported themselves back then, that’s how it was when I was old enough to understand.
Paid in provisions, it was very little what people earned back then. Our mothers would go out to look for—when there was fruit—pitaya, etcho, tempisque, which by the month of May is beginning to give a little ripe fruit.39 Everyone ate wild fruits. Since they had nothing else to eat they had to look for it in the monte.40 There they found the well-known spots with beehives and honey. And there was a root called chíchiguo—it’s a little [End Page 482] root that sends up a shoot and it turns yellow when it dries out.41 Those they had to dig for us to eat. All of this is what the poor people ate.
Often people would put together traps to hunt deer. Back then there was nothing to kill with, no rifles or anything, so they hunted deer with this trap that they made with a rope tied to a branch. The deer would lasso himself in it, and there they would grab and butcher him. With the javelinas it was the same. If they had a good dog he would chase after them and run them into the caves. Then they would light a fire: with just the smoke the javelina would die inside the cave. They also looked for fish in the arroyos and rivers. Before they built the Mocúzarit reservoir there were catfish, mojarras, and before that there were mullets and shrimp that we Guarijíos called cochirones (Spanish speakers called them cauque, not shrimp).42 Now none of that is left.
Then I got big enough to work, caring for calves and making money, and that way I could help out my father. I earned five liters of corn. That is what they paid me, and also some extra clothes that the bosses would give me. I was never too shy, probably because hunger made me look for food wherever I could find it, and the same went for clothing. After that I could buy a little bit of clothing for my father and mother. I was the eldest son, so I had to work.
At around twelve years old, I left for the valley. I went through Quiriego so I could sell four sacks of corn, since there, I heard, they paid better. I ended up...