If Machetera weren’t so lazy, or if perhaps she had a bit more of the self-promotional instinct, she’d be a little more prompt in publishing the translations she does for Tlaxcala. (And then you could find them here because you’d need a virtual Rosetta Stone to find them there – redesign on the way!)
Anyway, last Sunday, Tlaxcala published her English translation of a piece by Tlaxcala‘s newest member, the immensely talented Honduran cartoonist Allan McDonald. McDonald also produced a wicked cartoon of Otto Reich that Machetera inserted here (scroll down a bit).
His piece, dedicated to his little girl, Abril, is about Ramon Custodio, the man who was once a voice for the dispossessed in Honduras but not any longer. And while Machetera was slacking on the posting, another translation materialized. Machetera is not saying hers is better. Just different. So here you go. If you prefer to read it in French, Tlaxcala has it here.
Honduras: The Rubber Man
By Allan McDonald
Long ago, when life was not fashionable and the world was a pathway of brownish stones, in the years of the olive green jeep, of scrabbling for candy, of the Alliance for Progress, that came disguised as powdered milk for the poor children at my school, it was the fabulous ‘80’s, when I came out of my house to fly kites against the wind unleashed by the sky and listened to the old people talking about a man named Custodio, a man of steel, forged in the heroism of openly accusing the military and being a defender, a handkerchief for the tears of wounded democracy in that green era.
Time slipped away like the dawn and we survived like crabs on a beach covered with the dead shells of all those among us who were trying to cross the border of hope in order to arrive at the ‘90’s.
So I turned 17, a cartoonist as always and already working at a paper, publishing my daily cartoons and every Saturday, my humor page, persistently believing that the utopia of a better country would show us rebellion’s destiny; I always thought that way, always, and one memorable afternoon, one of those you carry in the reaches of the soul so as not to fall away into oblivion, I was walking through the Los Dolores neighborhood, headed toward the archives of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), that at that time was located there, near the market, where the cries of frustrated vendors intermingled with the prayers from the church, the other marketplace of taxidermied crucifixions.
I entered CODEH and asked for help on a research project into old cartoons; looking through the yellowed papers, the dust and light, it seemed like a bodega of memories, when all of a sudden standing in front of me was Dr. Ramón Custodio, the old man of myth, with his mustache strung along his skin like a leaf caught in the roots of his battle weathered face, his gaze centered in the movement of his hands which were in the pockets of his grey pants, wearing a white guayabera and his hair flying like a suicidal swallow in the summer of its years. He stretched out his hand. “Aha, boy, I’ve wanted to meet you for some time, greet you, and have coffee so that we could have a long talk about your work…” he said, with tired words, filled with sincerity. We sat and spoke of the hard things in the country, of the confusing transition from the political crisis to the economic crisis; these were the years when Callejas* reigned, of institutionalized theft; it seemed curious then that I, still an adolescent in 1990, under a lamp frosted by the chill of newspapers read long ago, was talking with him as though in one of those tales about old men and children. In saying goodbye over the rush of agendas invented by the curiosities of time, the Doctor put his hand on my shoulder and out leapt the difficult words of a good grandfather to a quarrelsome child, which I’ve never forgotten:
“Look, boy, do you have children?”
No, I answered, imagining the emotional pools in the middle of my lost heart and never dreaming how a child of mine might be.
“Look, boy, today you’re a good cartoonist, strong, very rebellious, but tomorrow, when you have children, you’re going to forget all of this and you’ll think about the everyday, of how to get food for your children, you’ll see,” pronounced the good grandfather and turned around, losing himself in the artificial light between the dust and papers that whirled around like an already forgotten carousel.
Almost twenty years have passed since that day where I found myself with Don Ramón, and as time passes, history marks everyone’s lives. He did his things and I did mine, publishing a daily cartoon; I drew him a few times when he launched his independent campaign for the presidency, when he didn’t manage to collect the signatures that the pantomime of democracy demands for entrance to the circus, and later I saw him in living color in the Congress, raising his right hand in front of the fauna of starving mongrels who chose him as the new national commissioner on human rights – that class that detested him so, hated him and had even put a price on his head – they gave him the prize for this matter that the Doctor knew from memory, rather than practice.
Today, now that there are no longer words nor excuses nor curious boys nor wise old men, today in this plainly de facto country, face to face in the street, each person carrying the peace of their dignity like a cross, those of us who march in the light of victory certified by a democracy of struggle and noble acts to defend the lost nation, and those who enclose themselves in their offices with desks of fine mahogany, with drawers filled with the moist dust of nostalgia fallen into disuse, and the photo of the elected president taken down, obediently dragged away, replaced by the spurious one, and behind that, the blue and white flag, humble from head to foot, my simple flag that envelopes the deaf and the blind, those made leprous from fear and the heroes felled by the arrogant club of rancor.
There’s the Doctor, on national television, with his face now erased from the CIA archives, facing the spokesmen for the system, saying that the dead don’t exist, that the army is using rubber bullets, that the innocence of the honorable men is proven, that probably it was a lazy protester, someone who believes in the pale promise of a nation, who shot a communist bullet.
Come now, friends, I who’ve never touched a weapon, I who’ve never hidden behind my desk to draw any president, I who always drew openly, I rose with fright and ran to my little daughter’s crib, she who the Doctor called out twenty years ago, little Abril, and I covered her with my hands, I held her, I sang her a love song, I covered her eyes so as not to see that man who I’d so admired, and told my little one what the Doctor said: “Look, boy, I know that when you have children you’ll think differently,” and it’s true, I think differently, with my daughter to carry, I should be rebellious, I should have dignity until the very end, so as not to turn myself into a rubber man, and when the years have gone by and my Abril can fly kites, she will think of me as that man who never betrayed her, and on that day it will rain and she will not feel sadness, because by then my daughter will have a new country.
*Callejismo, for Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, President of Honduras from 1990 to 1994
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.