Jose climbed the broken steps of his ancestral home and gazed at what was left of Hacienda Grande. It had been one of the oldest ranches in Columbia. Quality cattle, coffee, and grain lifted it above the rest. It was the Coca plant that destroyed it. Gone was the main house, the granero, and all the corrals. Instead, squatter shacks were scattered about. The residents were probably eking out a living tending the coffee plants on the slopes of the Andes to the west for some agri-business based in Cartago.
He had heard the stories. A perceived insult to one of the cartels some said. Others were positive it was when Jose’s grandfather stopped growing their coca. The truth of why did not matter now, 25 years later. What mattered to Jose was his birthright disappeared the day the cartel Sicarios came. They dragged his grandparents and 3 of their 4 children from their home and shot them dead. Burning and ransacking all the buildings just to emphasize to other growers how seriously the notion of loyalty was taken.
The cartel made a mistake. They failed to find Jose’s mother, who was attending college in California. When word reached her, she disappeared. Unknown to her, she was one month pregnant. And now Jose stood on this old killing ground trying to make sense of it all.
Startled, Jose turned around. Facing him was an old man he assumed was a mestizo, probably a resident of the tin shack village near the tree line. “No Habla Espanol. Do you speak English?”.
The old man replied, “Si Senor, a little.”
They stared at each other. The old man spoke. “You have her eyes.”
The mestizo handed him a photograph. “I pulled it from the rubble.”
It had to be his grandmother, the most famous Flamenco dancer since Carmen Amaya. Another family fable had risen from the grave.
“You knew my grandmother?”
“Si, I was head vaquero.”
Both became silent. Jose said, “Thank you for this, my mother had no pictures.”
The old man stared at Jose. “You must avenge her senor.”
“I will. ………. Count on it.”______________________________
Image courtesy of Ashwin Rao