Burying the Umbilicus

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Posts Tagged ‘Oral history’

Rosolio and Andrea, Yelapa, 1981

Posted by lekorn on November 12, 2009

In 1980 I began conducting oral histories with several of the elders in the village. Below are two brief excerpts from interviews with two of the Yelapa’s eldest.

There was a special gathering of the men to decide the development of Yelapa  The government had  proposed to “develop” Yelapa over a period of years by putting in agua potable, electricity and perhaps even a high rise hotel, though no one could imagine where it would sit, only that it would sink into the sandy soil.   

After hearing all the arguments, the men voted to accept the government proposal to spend millions of pesos and bring about a radical change, but not before Rosolio was heard.  He stood up to begin his story.  He said he had been ten years old when his family helped found the village in 1910 and now he was the oldest villager present.  He spoke of greed, saying: “Those of you who vote for these changes are not from here.  You have moved here in the last five years to take the wealth that Yelapa has in her bay and the mountains.  Already you have cut too many palms and the turtles are gone and you want more money and bigger motors for your boats.” Rosolio spoke passionately and his words were soft and round as words will be when spoken by men with no teeth.  Though he was listened to with respect accorded the elders, when the vote came and he voted alone.

Though I knew most of the people in Yelapa, I had never met Rosolio Lorenzo Garcia.  My friend Martina was married to his son Felix who had lost an eye when a piece of wood he was macheteing splintered.  Two or three times a year Martina brought brooms that Rosolio made over to my house.  But perhaps because he was an elderly man, he did not approach foreigners easily or when he walked past my house to the beach, he kepts his shoulders erect, eyes straight ahead. The most we had ever exchanged was buenas dias or muy buenas tardes.

A few days after the village meeting, I approached Rosolio and said I wanted to talk with him about his life. He invited me to his house the next day and when I arrived he was just returning from work for his afternoon siesta.  Seven days a week he rowed huge two-man canoes which carried people and cargo from the boats to the beach.  It was rigorous work that required precision timing as there are often thirty people or hundreds of kilos of cargo easing through rough ocean swells.  When I arrived, Rosolio was in a twine hammock that he had made and Andrea was making tortillas for their lunch.

 

Rosolio:            In that village out there that you see there were but sixty-five inhabitants altogether.  It was in 1910 that we peopled this place.  No one but absolutely no one else was here.  I was then ten.

Korn:                How old are you now?

Rosolio:            80 or 82.  It’s been 72 years since that happened.  Our living was made from fishing and a little bit of (coconut) oil.  That was the source of income for our parents and as their children we continued to work on the same thing.  Everything was so cheap.  Oil was five centavos a kilo and men were paid twenty-five centavos for a days wage.  Maiz was a peso for sixty kilos.  It was unbelievable.  We went to San Blas in sailboats when the wind was favorable, if not, just sheer oars.  Life was indeed tough at that time and this was our way of life until the agrarian world came in. When that happened a wealthy landholder snatched a rich piece of land from us.  There was a war from 1914 to 1918 and after the war there was peace for ten years.  But it was difficult because people would not buy our products and livelihood was even tougher.  In 1928 the government took the land away from the landholders and gave it back to the campesinos, and all of that was my lot.

                         There were ten family heads who lived here and of those ten only three knew how to read.  I lost my father and became an orphan at the age of fourteen and I lost my mother when I was seventeen.  I had no more schooling than two years when I was ten years old.  From eight to ten I had a cousin who used to go to Puerto Vallarta and he helped me a little bit more.  He used to like to buy books and stories.  He used to like to buy these books in order to find out more about the forebears and about history.  We used to work together and he would help me.  Often times I talk to the kids about these times.  They didn’t suffer because by the time they were born they would pay over one peso for a person’s wages.  We had only a meager twenty-five centavos per day and with that amount we had to clothe and feed ourselves.  If there were three of us that made seventy-five centavos, it was something so sad.  But at that time, we didn’t have temptations like there are today.  There were no drinks, no alcoholic beverages at the time.

Korn:                        When you traveled to Puerto Vallarta, how did you go there?

Andrea:                     In a canoe with oars.  We would go in the morning and return in the evening for the night.  When the wind was favorable we would set out around 8 o’clock and arrive by one in the afternoon.  We would do a little shopping and then toward the evening the wind would again be favorable and we would return.  If we didn’t have favorable wind we would simply row.  There was no other way to bring food and provisions.  We had to be tough.

Rosolio:            When I was twenty-one I went to live in San Blas.  I worked on the sea and life became easier because there was a market where one could sell what one produced and people bought from those whom offered better prices.  In San Blas there was a small factory that made soap from the coconut oil.  This has been my life, a tough life and I remember all of it because I was part of it.  We lived from fishing and cocito.

Korn:               Where were you born?

Rosolio:            I was born in Chacala, but by the time I opened my eyes, that is when I got to the age of reason, I was here.  My parents came from Chacala.  My mother from Marijuampo.  Gradually the town had emptied itself and they moved to Chacala and then here to Yelapa.

Korn:               When did you marry?

Rosolio:            In 1932….

Andrea:            1933!!!

Rosolio:            1933!

Korn:                Andrea, do you have La Grippe?

Andrea:            Yes, I just got sick yesterday.

Rosolio:            The grippe doesn’t hit her very hard, colds don’t come to her very easily.

Korn:                How old are you Andrea?

Andrea:            Really, I don’t know my age, the files were burned. 

Rosolio:            It was the revolutionaries who did that.

Andrea:            They burned my Jefes house.  I was very young.  In 1918, the last year that we had a revolution here.  It was dying down but there were many revolutionaries who occupied their time doing all kinds of wrong things like stealing.  They came down from Chimo on horseback or mules.  A government squad got a hold of them and took them to Puerto Vallarta and there they executed them.  When my father died we came to Yelapa.  When I got married they wrote twenty years on my certificate.

Korn:                What was the wedding ceremony like? What was the tradition of the time?

Andrea:             Our parents did not have many possessions, also there were no priests for this kind of service because it was around the time of the revolution and they were the ones that were the most sought after by the government.  We had a civil marriage because these fathers were being persecuted.  They wanted to eradicate Christianity or I should say the Catholic religion but it is written in the bible that it will be persecuted but never conquered.

Korn:               Well, did the priests come later on?

Rosolio:            Yes, it’s not like before.  Now according to the bishop it’s up to us if we want to mind our religion, if we want to observe the duties of our religion, if we fulfill these duties then he will send if not one then another.  The women are much more religious than the men.  They are the most religious of all, then as the men, we follow them.  It must be that way because in our religion from the moment they baptized us we contracted some obligations.

 Feliz:              There are many changes.  Before it was like a fraternity, now so many people have come.  The big river is now like a puddle… when a pig was slaughtered people didn’t sell its meat: “Here’s for you, here’s for you.” It was portioned out among the neighbors, and now it’s sold.

Leslie:             How old are you?

Feliz:              Eighty-nine.. My brother died at ninety-six. Here come the tortillas!  (granddaughter enters with tortillas) I’m sweating, am I not?

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