Here's the second winner of our five-day Columbus Day Contest unveiling. The honor of fourth place goes to Elizabeth Horan of Tempe, AZ! Here's her story...
It all started with the worst batch of peach preserve you can imagine and the first cigarette I ever tasted, though regrettably not the last. I’d pestered the sour-faced, white-uniformed store clerk. “¿Jalea de melocoton?” “Durazno,” he corrected, astringent. Wars have been waged around less: at Ácoma, natives hauled water 350 feet straight up for the priest’s peach trees. Then Popé came along. Both priest and trees came down. Withered or cut, memory tossed from the cliff, or into the jar’s own dark secrets in my sweaty palms.
At the checkout my friend and host Mike, a.k.a. Miguel Angel Rocco de la Riva, handed over his credit card and we motivated, peaches sans cream, into his Landrover. The spring air was hazy with diesel fuel. Afternoon sun slipped past the Cordillera. We’re off to yet another evening festivity among Chile’s sharper reds. “What’s the occasion, this Día de la Raza?” I asked.
“Columbus Day to Boston,” Mike stated. This homeland, like that one, never pauses to work. “Party,” Mike, intoned, “is crucial to getting down to business.” Not so in Spain, where even my Castro-hating Cuban landlady, Madrid’s least successful Santeria priestess, who adored Franco and the Army, admitted that tal “Día de la Hispanidad” was a made-up holiday. I pondered: so many different names for the same day. I pestered poor Mike.
“¿Qué tal Día esa, de la raza, o sea cual raza, y porque la celebramos?”
Oh, I’m always digging my own grave with questions that make the Chileans’ eyes lower, choked with disappointment. I’ve pushed too hard and I’ll get no answer except for his silence as he swings his car, ferocious, through the ropy traffic, lurching upwards through el barrio alto, donde la gente linda. “Día de la resistencia indígena, en Venezuela, pace Chávez,” I mumble, wondering, how much can I take of this more partying, air-kissing, heel-teetering, nine-dressing, courteously helloing and may I pour you another?
One answer came just this Sunday past, as we lurch towards the October anniversaries of careening Markets. Chilean newspapers report: more than 20 people were killed celebrating the September Fiestas patrias. And a new holiday is proclaimed, so that el pretérito Día de la raza ya no es. It’s been converted, a “…de las Iglesias evangelicas.”