Uncle Chispa


If all the men and women whose lives make the world go round every day work for the greater good, they will honor the memory of their dead. The idea of doing good and the idea of remembering the dead is part of our lives each day in this world. There is little point in trying to bring them back with photos, anecdotes or paintings, yet these photos, anecdotes and paintings, unlike the dead, continue to exist. A photo, for example is true: yet death escapes both truth and lies and in general also eludes understanding. All you can do is write stories with it: there was a photo of Chispa, the younger brother, in his mother Felipa’s bedroom. Years had passed since she gave birth to her younger son and it had been years since Chispa, Chispita, the younger, had, well... Let’s look at the picture; it was in a room in Felipa’s house, which was very small. She had just the one room and a kitchen-cum-dining room with an outside privy. Or was the photo in the kitchen? Wherever it was, the photo of Chispa was on display, placed to be seen by Felipa’s visitors. Her grandchildren would come to visit, and she would hand out sweets and admonishments while preparing the mate tea. That memory exists only in black and white; for Felipa is long gone and all this was a long time ago. We suspect that our recollection of death is in black in white because that’s the way it has always been: things either are or aren’t; they’re there or they’re not; light or dark; something or nothing. To make this life transfixed by death a tolerable one, the industry of death invented, last century, the oil painting photographs: from an original in black and white to a color reproduction, with details of clothes which endowed the pictures of the dead with a veneer of realism. Some salesman must have passed by Felipa’s house and promised her a photo of Chispa in color. The picture held pride of place in her little dwelling; her grandchildren, the nephews and nieces that Chispa never met, looked and looked and looked at it until they felt they had to ask a question about the revered man. But it was not what Felipa answered that mattered or matter so much as the colors, its glossy sheen, the younger one, Chispa himself: all that is not death.


Damián Ríos