Gabriel F. Cruz Pérez

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Early settlers

A RIVER INTERNAL –
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man. -Heraclitus-

1. Stones in the River

I always liked picturing life as a flowing river, with its turns and twists, rocks and waterfalls, calm streams and sudden rapids rolling from pleasant valleys to dark lonesome forests. And how suddenly it can trickle down to nothing. Like life, it’s wild, untamed and unpredictable.

Like a river, with every passing second, we cease to be who we were, only to become someone else, someone new. Our actions, words, and thoughts, fall from us like stones onto the riverbed, polished and worn down by the currents of time. It’s the only proof of our existence. It is in the cruel continuity of life, that the beauty of all things really lies.

A photograph or a lost diary then becomes a magical thing, a stone over-turned ready to be discovered in the dark riverbed. A picture is worth far more than a thousand words. A photograph captures the lost moments of our lives, a millisecond in the intimacy of the human condition. We come across a photograph of generation past and feel a connection. It’s like looking into the eyes of a ghost. Then it dawns on us, a sense of recognition that someday we too will be nothing but photographs left behind for our grandchildren.

2. Pictures in the Closet

Growing up, my mother always told me, “All we have is each other. We are a family, and that is all we need….”

As a child growing up in the ‘90s in Puerto Rico, and being the only living member of my biological family to have ever set foot on La Isla del Encanto, I felt utterly and completely alone. The inevitable conversation always found a way to creep into our daily lives. In our happiest moments, it lay there, hiding, hissing away like a slithery undertone. On lone Christmas mornings and uneventful Father’s Days, it was there too. “It just wasn’t fair,” I often thought to myself. “Why do all the other kids get to have a father? Why does it have to be only my mother and me? Why can’t I have cousins, uncles, and more importantly an abuela? Don’t I deserve to ask for a la bendición from an elder relative and have it bestowed upon me?”

In the years that followed, I attempted to gather the scattered fragments of my earliest memories in hopes of reconstructing my distant past, a time when I had once been surrounded by all this mythical family.  My questions eventually led me to the old shoe boxes filled with aging photographs at the foot of my mother’s closet. I knew once I opened that closet door, I would be treading dangerous waters. This dark, intimate space deep in the confines of my mother’s room was off limits to me. It was a violation of her privacy. It would take a couple more years for me to learn that my mother had once had another life and hadn’t always been my mother. However, at this moment, I had no fear. My mother worked until very late, often leaving me alone and at my own discretion for hours. I knew I could commence my investigation without fear discovery.

At first the photographs did not seem at all unusual. Most of them dated back to my mother’s college days and outings with her two best friends, amongst other trivialities. It was then that I noted something odd. There are no pictures from her childhood. The image of the child my mother was remains foreign and alien to me, almost inconceivable.

As I continued to explore my mother’s memories, I came by a large and somewhat blurry color photograph of a very tall gentleman leaning against the grill of an old automobile. He wore a firm looking white Stetson hat, a button shirt, and a pair of jeans with cowboy boots. He was tan, strong, and ported a blurry, carless smile. Along with that picture, I found a very similar photograph, the same automobile the same pose, except the man had been replaced by equally tall woman of fair complexion and blond hair, dressed in colorful bell-bottomed attire.

I later learned they were my maternal grandparents. I looked at those images with special interest, especially my grandfather. The odd connection I felt between an abstract image of this stranger and myself was fascinating! I had never and would never know him. All I knew from the little my mother told me was that he loved her very much. She had been his favorite, because unlike her sisters, she resembled him the most, both physically and emotionally. She also told me he was an alcoholic and he abused my grandmother. He eventually died of his affliction, alone and miserable. However it can’t be denied that he is, in a sense, my father also. His life was the river from which my mother’s flowed and my mother is the fountain from whom the streams of my own life spilt onto this earth, and into this life. All I ever wanted was to know her, my mother, and in a more profound sense, to know myself.

3. A Father River

Roberto Cruz Murcía was an only a child when the last of the civil wars plaguing Honduras erupted. Roberto would forever recall the sound of gunfire on the dirt streets of the small town in which they lived. Almost half a century later, on the 28th of November of the year 2010, Roberto Cruz Murcía recalls the Golden era of his family to his son. His voice crosses the Atlantic Ocean from the city of Vienna to Puerto Rico as he narrates their heritage.

Roberto was still able to recall the image of his father with great clarity. He was a stern man, a fervent Nationalist who, alongside his wife, Consuelo Murcía, concealed rifles and weapons in a hollow spot in the wall of their historical colonial house. The house had also once been the home of the first Spanish governor in the Americas, the former capital, a town called Gracías.

President Ramón Ernesto Cruz & Consuelo Murcía – 1971

Early on, Gracías had transformed from a rural, scarcely populated town, into the bustling seat of the colonial government. In an almost poetic parallel, so had been the fate of the small Spanish clans of the Murcía and Cruz families. They rose with the town, gaining land, respect, and most importantly of all power.

Don Ramón Ernesto Cruz Ucles, a civilian, finally won the presidential elections of 1971 after a ten-year struggle against the military government. Along with him, Consuelo Murcía, his then sister-in-law, achieved the position of Sub-secretary of Education. Eventually, the prosperous clans met the same fate of the little town from which they had originated and which had seen its prosperous fortune consolidated when the gold mines ran out and the capital was relocated to Trujillo.

Their affluence and power faded away into the tides of history shortly after the ambitious militarist; General Oswaldo López removed President Ramón Ernesto Cruz in a coup, forcing Cruz to seek exile in the bordering nations. Consuelo, along with the rest of her family would disguise themselves in the acceptable “red” of the Partido Liberal de Honduras (PLH) to survive the shift in political tides. Yet deep in the confines of their hearts lay the vibrant and true “blue” colors of Partido Nacional de Honduras (PNH) fervor, like a flame hidden and inextinguishable. The PNH and the Republic of Honduras ended for over a decade under thumb of military rule.

Thus has been the story of Latin America. Roberto Cruz Murcía can still hear the gunfire as it breaks the calm silence of his childhood.

The son hangs up the phone and reflects on his father’s magnificent story of prosperity and heartache, of power and tyranny, of politics and of love. It’s his mother’s story. It’s his story.

4. Epilogue

Oceans welcome the lives of all rivers as they wither and fade, drying up and ceasing to exist. Yet not without first carving canyons, rock, and mountains. In this same way, a human life is never truly extinguished, just transformed. Thus our forefathers live in us, in our actions and thoughts, and in the very fabric of our fates. I find myself in the stones of the ancestral rivers that flowed before me, and set my fate to carve out an identity of my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Good job, Che! I actually had read this a long while ago. I think the format you chose makes it easier for the reader to relate to the story you’re telling. Additionally, tying the content with the opening quote and the epilogue was a clever and accurate analogy to use. You can really tell you poured your heart and soul into this.

  2. Niceeee

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