Sometimes I wonder if we, as souls, choose where we want to be born?
If so, our parents are the obvious first aspect of the choice, but what about the place? I always have been grateful about the place I was raised. It was a small and quiet town, too small that you could walk it across in an hour and so quiet that roosters waked you up in the morning. The place was intimate. People knew each other well, all afternoons they pulled chairs outside their house and sat to enjoy the sunset and watched their kids play soccer at the street as part of the daily ritual of a peaceful life. Violence was an alien concept for the residents, something seen only in television, in a distant reality.
Nothing happened in that place. Time seemed to stand still in a paradox like the ones described by science fiction. We used to joke that if the world ended in a catastrophe, the waves of the destruction would stop at the outskirts of the town and people inside would live their ordinary lives unaware of the apocalypse.
After a happy childhood I left the town, coming back sporadically with the marveled eyes of a tourist spotting the minimal changes of the town enduring its puberty to become a city.
My last visit was a few days ago, a week after the place became national news. The small city was host of a violent confrontation between a heavily-armed group—presumable drug dealers—and the local and state armed forces including the army. News reported 11 deceased with only two civil casualties.
At my arrival, I questioned several people driven by my interest about the happenings. Crossing the references of witnesses the balance threw 40-50 casualties including women and children. And apparently, the main issue was not due drug distribution—even considering the crime organization behind traffics drugs indeed—but the sale of illegal (stolen) gasoline. With the prices of gasoline skyrocketing in the country was not a surprise to me that fuel is becoming the main illegal business in the region—let’s accept it, gasoline is more profitable than cocaine—, marking the advent of the fueldealers.
The days following the showdown, the city was empty. There were no chairs at the street. No kids playing soccer. People were terrified, hidden in their houses. There was a curfew.
It was impossible for me not to ask myself if I witnessed shootings for gasoline when I was a boy living in that place.
The answer was, yes.
I was a toddler when I first saw Mel Gibson surviving a bunch of crazy criminals with a diabolical thirst of gasoline in Mad Max. I saw it in that distant reality we call fiction, seated peacefully in my couch in front of the TV set.
Contemplating the photos and hearing the testimonies of the event was like if all that time held back for years in that quiet city unfolded in the blink of an eye to catch up today’s reality. The once peaceful town was no more.
I believe it will be difficult for me, if someday I bring my offspring to that place and share with them my memoirs, not to appear a liar when they witness the contrasting face of the future.
But more than difficult, it will be sad.
That town of my childhood would only live trapped in my memory, because it was converted into a romantic fiction, substituted by that violent fiction that usurped the reality.
And that reality it’s frightening.
Like I said, I always have been grateful about the place I was raised.
I will always remember it like depicted in my memoirs. Not like the wounded and frightened place where some fools kidnapped the future of their children in an attempt to prove that, somehow, carrying a gun it’s the cure to stupidity.
M. Ch. Landa