Alberto Pinzón Sánchez – Argenpress
On April 9, 1964, I landed at the port of Cádiz. I’d traveled 16 exhausting days in the varied steam of a ship from Cartagena, and carried in my pocket a note from my mother, addressed to a friend of my father, the Colombian ambassador in Madrid; Hernando Sorzano González, also known as the ex-Laureanist Francoist* governor of Santander in 1950, who upon his return to Colombia, became a member of parliament and together with Darío Marín Vanegas and the rags to riches Matilde Castañeda, sponsored the mercenary from Chulavita, Efraín González. (1)
After the rigorous paperwork in the Francoist neo-colonial caricature called the Institute for Hispanic Culture, moved along by the Señor Ambassador, I began medical school at the University of Sevilla which operated in the crumbling hospital of Macarena, located where the present-day Andalucian parliament operates.
Back then, Spain of the porón-pompero was being debated amidst the ruins and the misery of the national-Catholic dictatorship of the “caudillo” Francisco Franco, with the impotent resignation of the defeated. I was practically a millionaire with my monthly budget sent by my mother via Icetex, of $100 miserable dollars, equivalent to 1,000 Colombian pesos, with which one could buy 6,000 pesetas.
Soon some other Latin Americans brought me to the Alameda de Hercules, owned by Segundo Marrero, a communist from the Canaries who was captured shortly after the war and who finally got out of prison after a 23 year sentence for his libertarian ideas.
After each dinner, Segundo carefully closed the door and with the simplicity of a former inmate, showed and carefully explained (to the South Americans, only) the remains of the communist newspapers he’d made by hand, the horrors of that haven of tranquility and security. He was defeated but unconverted, he said.
So I studied medicine for three years. But (there’s always a but), then came the Fair of April 1967. It was spectacular, because Jacqueline Kennedy came. Two Colombians who were studying plant pathology at tthe expense of the Coffee Growers Federation met up with us at the busiest tablao. There we were in the bar, enjoying some fine wine, when at our side an enormous, corpulent black man began to argue heatedly with the waiter. Finally, with our pidgin English we were able to help him. He was a North American officer who flew a plane armed with nuclear bombs that the North American army kept at its base at Torrejón, and to thank us, he invited us to his apartment in a luxurious neighborhood in Remedios, to continue dancing. One there, he called four women who he’d known for some time, and the dancing went on well into the morning hours. Suddenly we were alerted with shouts from a friend on the balcony and we came out to see that the black pilot had hurled himself from the open window. The only thing that could be heard in the room were the words of one of the women who yelled: “No-one say anything untrue. Whoever lies is dead.”
After a few minutes, the dreaded “gristapo” arrived and handcuffed us and took us to the police cells, located diagonally across from Segundo’s restaurant, the Alameda de Hércules. Today it’s a commercial center. We were strictly isolated and held incommunicado. A pallet of straw as a bed and a hole in the floor for a toilet. Bread and water morning and night. For lunch, a watery bean soup. For 40 days we vanished; invariably every morning, one by one, a bath in ice water while the police beat us for half an hour with a rubber hose, which it was said left no marks. Later, also by turns, we went to an interrogation room where the boss shone a light in our eyes, boxed our ears, demanded a confession about who and why we’d killed the American pilot. It seems that throughout that trance, everyone remembered what the woman had said, and we clung to the truth.
Finally, a Puerto Rican investigator for the U.S. Army confirmed a number of previous suicide attempts by the pilot in Chicago and found our explication convincing. The head of the interrogations came with his coke-bottle lenses and with a cynical smile masked by a tiny mustache, and returned our passports (which I still have) inscribed “the holder of this passport has 48 hours to leave the Spanish state through any border.”
Without knowing what to do, I crossed the street and went to Segundo Marrero. He received me, closed the door and advised me to leave through Portugal. The ticket to Lisbon cost 600 pesetas. He went inside and returned with 1,000 pesetas that he gave me. I went to my quarters, packed a bag with the most important things and that night traveled from Sevilla to Lisbon. The rest remained there. And curiously, at the border, no-one asked for my passport. With the rest of the money I was able to send an overnight letter to my mother, who quickly sent me a paid ticket on an Avianca “Super-Constellation” to Bogotá. It was June of 1967.
The day that I returned to my country, the “Opus Dei” Education Minister Octavio Arismendi Posada and the President of the iron hand, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, ordered the military occupation of the National University, located on the airport route. A crowd of desperate students resisted the troops, hurling empty eggs, and while I watched the melee, I smiled. I’d learned two indelible things besides a hate of Francoism and its Colombian version: the value of truth and of solidarity.
(1) Téllez Pedro Claver. Efraín González. Ed. Planeta. Bogotá 1993. (615 pages).
* Laureano Gómez was the governor of Santander province who shared with Franco a phobia about communists, Jews and Masons. [translator’s note]
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.