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Foreword:

Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico, including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his greatest contribution to the literature of the time. He died in 1896 at the age of 64.

The Donation (La limosna)

By 

Vicente Riva Palacio

 

Perhaps there are many who are not interested in what I’m going to say; but it touched me deeply, and nothing in this world will make me shorten the story and I have to publish it, whatever happens to it in the long run and at the peril of experiencing the intricacy that some call excessive sensitivity to sentimentality.

But the facts are like musical chords: some of us listen to them without emotions and there are others, who have unexplained resonance in the most delicate cells in the heart or the brain, and of whom we say, or think without saying: these notes belong to me.

Julian lived in in one of the towns in the northern part of the Republic of Mexico. I don’t know his surname, because Julian didn’t know, but he was a happy man. .A blacksmith, honest and hard working; a big strapping, healthy fellow, who in his work earned more that he needed to support his family. Of course he was not rich, or as one would say- wealthy. He had a little house in the suburbs of the town.  There, like in a pidgin’s nest, lived his mother, his wife and his son, Julian. There everyone got up before sunrise; there they worked, sang and ate their daily bread of  joy and honesty.

Julian returned each Saturday bringing the earnings from his weekly work; he gave it all to his wife, and she knew how to allocate it successfully and with such good economy, that the money seemed to multiply in her hands. It was the unvarying miracle of the five loaves repeated without interruption, and she never forgot cigars for Julian or a glass of brandy for her mother-in-law before the meal.

The boy was called Juanito: fresh, clean, happy and with his two years acting as if he was eighty, excitedly running after the hens in the pen or pulling up the flowers in the little garden by the House. But he was so loving and so adorable, that each one of these mischief’s were rewarded with a Rosary of kisses from the father, the mother or the grandmother, whom he was laughing out loud at, showing his uneven and still growing baby teeth.

One afternoon, Julian was waiting at the workshop for his weekly pay check. Suddenly he heard the parish fire alarm, and felt his heart jump. There was no cause for alarm. The parish was a large rural community, and, however, he felt that it was not his house that was burning. He ran hastily, but it was true: the flames were devouring his house that just a few hours before had been his blessed home.

All efforts had been futile: nobody was able to escape the fire. Julian did not ask for details; in one hour he had lost everything he owned. It was pointless. A loving family took him in, and for more than six months he was not heard from.

Four years passed by and Julian, always sad, went to work at the shop with his usual punctuality. He took from his salary only what he strictly needed for his own upkeep, and distributed the rest to the poor of his parish.  Saturdays, however, he had a strange habit. . He went out in the streets with a guitar; entered houses and sang, with a very sweet voice, quite unknown songs, so melancholy, that the men shivered and the women cried; and afterwards, when one of them, filled with emotions, solicited around to give him some money him, he said with a deeply sad accent;” No, Madam, I don’t want money; you have already paid me, because I only came to beg for alms of tears. “

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October 2012

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El Buen Ejemplo

by Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896)

Translated to English from the Spanish original by Kenny Beechmount

Foreword

Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico,
including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his
greatest contribution to the literature of the time. His marvelous way of
describing life in rural Mexico and bringing life to imaginary events is
particularly well demonstrated by in El Buen Ejemplo (The Good Example)

===================================

If I said that I have seen what I’m going to tell you, without a doubt,  someone would say that this was not true; and it would make sense because I didn’t see it, but I believe it, because an old lady told me, referring to persons she trusted, that they had heard it from a person, who had been friends with a credible witness, and on such a basis, one can well give credence to the following story.

In the southern part of the Mexican Republic in the foothills of Sierra Madre, which extends to the waters of the pacific, there is a little village, all of which in general are like this: small, white houses, roofed with red tiles or shining palm leaves, sheltering from the burning rays of the tropical sun, under the cool shade, provided by towering coconut palms, copiously crowned tamarinds, rustling plantains and gigantic cedars.

Small streams of water runs across all the lanes and sometimes hide between beds of flowers and vegetables.

There was a school in the village and it must still be there. At that time, the
principal, Don Lucas Forcida, a character very much-loved by all the
neighbours, never failed to fulfill his heavy obligation during the customary
hours.  “What a calling for martyrdom those village school teachers must have.”

In this school, following traditional customs and general use in those times, the boys studied like a kind of choral society,  in different tones, but always with exasperating monotony, in choir they studied, in choir they counted and the same with the letters and the syllables and with the Christian doctrine or the multiplication tables.

With heroic resignation, don Lucas withstood this daily opera, but there were times when the boys excitedly shouted to see who could do it the loudest and the best and one could see the stupidity of it all moulded in the factions of the likeable and honourable face of Don Lucas.

At five o’clock in the afternoon, the boys left the school, throwing stones, pulling dog’s tails, shouting and whistling, but only once outside the jurisdiction of don Lucas, who watched them leaving, trembling with satisfaction, as a novelist would say.

Then don Lucas took a great rattan armchair out to the street; a servant brought him a cup of chocolate with a large bread pudding, and don Lucas, enjoying the fresh air of the afternoon, receiving on his bald forehead the light, scented breeze, arriving from the forests, as if to comfort the neighbours from the chores of the day, began to consume his modest snack, sharing it affectionately with his parrot.

Because don Lucas had a parrot which was, as they say these days, his weakness, and which always was on a perch at the door in the school, at a respectable height to escape the boys and sheltered from the sun by small pieces of palm leaf. This parrot and don Lucas understood each other perfectly. Occasionally, it mixed its words, more or less well understood, with the sing-songs of the boys, not clashing or increasing the uproar with shrill cries it had learned in its maternal home.

But when the school was deserted and don Lucas went out to drink his chocolate, the two friends freely showed all their affections.  The parrot went up and down the perch, saying what it knew and what it didn’t; rubbing its beak on it with satisfaction, and hung in its feet, head down, to receive the soup and bread with chocolate which don Lucas gave it with paternal affection.

And this happened every afternoon.

Several years went by and don Lucas gained such confidence in his beloved perico, as the boys called it, that he didn’t cut its wings nor took care to put the string on its legs. One morning at about ten o’clock, one of the boys, who by chance was outside the school, shouted “Mr Teacher, Perico is flying away” No sooner had they heard this, when the teacher and pupils charged forward to the door in a
wild rush; and there, in the distance, like a grain of green enamel, struck by the rays of the sun, they saw it, unfortunately increasing its passage , before escaping to the nearby forest.

Pursuit was impossible because not even by having the affiliation of the runaway, could one have picked him out in the multitude of parrots that populate those forests. Don Lucas, speaking from deep within his breast, uttered: “It is God’s will,” returned to his seat and the school lessons continued, as if this terrible event had never taken place.

Several months past and don Lucas, who had forgotten the ingratitude of Perico, had to go on a trip to one of the nearby villages, using some vacation time.

At daybreak, he saddled his horse, took a light breakfast and left the village, cordially greeting the few neighbours he met in the streets.

In that country, nearby villages are those separated by a distance of some twelve to fourteen leagues, and don Lucas had to travel most of the day.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon; the sun poured torrents of heat and the wind not so much as stirred the tufts of the palms, silhouetted against a blue sky, with the indolence of a tree of cicadas, singing tenaciously in the middle of the blue, terrible silence of mid day.

Don Lucas’s horse trotted noisely  with the measured beat of its footsteps hitting like the monotonous sound of a ticking clock.

Suddenly don Lucas thought he heard, in the distance, the singing of the children when they were studying the letters and syllables.

At first, it sounded like a hallucination produced by the heat, like the music and beats that those who suffer from dizzy spells at first may hear; but as he got closer, the sounds became more distinct and perceptible; it was a school in the middle of the deserted forest.

He stopped surprised and fearful, when from the nearby trees a flock of parrots took flight, singing rhythmically ba, be, bi, bo, bu; La, le. li, lo, lu.  Behind them, a parrot flying majestically, passed close to the frightened teacher, turned its head and said cheerfully:

“Don Lucas, I have school now.”

Since this time, the parrots from that region,ahead of their time, have vitnessed the disappearance of the shadows of obscurantism and ignorance.

To site this translation, please quote: beachmount.wordpress.com/El Buen Ejemplo by Vincente Riva Palacio, translated to English.

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The Year That Went.

We are nearly at the end of a year and it is time to take a look at what took place during the last 12 month. The first thing, of course, is to review last new year’s resolutions and many of them are now relegated to the “chimera”, category, since they kind of fell by the wayside as the month went by. The proverbial excuse is “try again next year”, but then, perhaps not. To fail twice is to fail miserably.

Around the world many things happened, too many to mention here, but a few may warrant a line or two.

In The United States, President Obama remains very popular. 63% liked him last time they took a poll, which, of course, is frustrating to the republicans, even though they gained a majority in the house. Unemployment runs at near 10 percent, which probably won’t change in the foreseeable future, since so many companies now have their products manufactured under contract in China, rather than on the home turf. The US treasury has borrowed so much money on the international market that not even the grandchildren of the present generations will be able to pay it off,–so goes the complaint among many Americans and who knows, perhaps they are correct. Climate change may finally become a subject of interest amongst ordinary citizens, following a host of weather calamities during the year, the last of which was the big snow event along the eastern seaboard, which caused chaos and 4000 flight cancellations.

Then we can go south of the border to Mexico. Welcome to the land of tourist resorts, drug lords, mass murder and ingrained poverty. Perhaps someone will suggest to the grand chiefs that if they set the minimum wage to $5.00/hour or more, the poverty stricken would not need to head for Yankee-land to survive and Mexico would be able to create a consumer oriented economy.

We can head further south, all the way to Venezuela, where the magnanimous president Hugo Chavez has invented a new form of democracy. It is called “Dictatorial democracy” in which he claims that all Venezuelans’ will get lots and lots of democracy, as long as he is allowed to dictate what form it takes and who is in charge of it. Granting him the right to rule by decree set a precedent not seen since Hitler was in power in Germany and we all know what happened then. One must wonder if indeed Chavez’s ego is not founded in some form of extreme narcissism, but then who knows. My guess is that in the long run, “Cubanismo” won’t work in Venezuela. It didn’t in Cuba, so why turn the clock back Senor Chavez?

Before I leave the North and South American continents, it may be worth checking in on Canada, the land of snow, stable banks, US dependent economics, hockey and a minority government. Someday, the hope is that the honourable leader of the opposition would gain enough courage to declare a non-confidence vote against the government so that new elections could be held, but alas, he fears that the liberals would lose once again. Why is it that so many people would like to see both the Conservative Prime Minister and the Liberal opposition leader quietly disappear from site? Perhaps they would like to have someone worthwhile to vote for. Well, whatever the political situation, Canada is the greatest country in the world to live in.

On to Europe and Ireland, the green isle, where the shamrock grows and the little people played havoc with the economy. The luck of the Irish ran out and now they must go and search for another pot of gold at the end of a new rainbow. Even the water supply got contaminated and bottled water became scarcer than hens’ teeth. They need all the luck they can get and we must all hope they find it. Why not create a European lottery, where the profits goes to Ireland–nahhhh- it wouldn’t be fair, would it?

To jolly old England. Word has it that they got their economic knickers in a twist and the old empire is of no help to them anymore. Most of the English still say: “Long live the Queen” and as much as that’s fair, the fact is that she already has. Many are wondering if The Prince of Wales, with his 140 servants will be the next person to rule the roost in Buckingham Palace, or will England choose to become a republic instead. Perhaps the Queen’s grandson and his fiancé,-with no servants-, may be given a crack at it. Whatever will be, will be and nothing that the humble people in the former colonies can say or do will make the slightest bit of difference. A lot of people who read this would probably like to “send me to Coventry”.

Spain, Portugal and Italy are still under the radar and until such time they also will need a few hundred billion dollars to bail out their economies, we wish them “Un Prospero Aňo Nuevo” and, in the case of Italy, perhaps Berlusconi should cut down a bit on his teenage chick adorations.

And now for a quick trip to the Middle East and Israel, whose voracious appetite for land that does not belong to it is only outdone by their hatred for anything Palestinian and total disregard for human rights. Those who live by the sword–well, you know what I mean. Don’t ask me if I wish them good luck. I would have to give an honest answer.

If a Canadian wants’ to go to UAE, a long-term visa will now cost $1000.00. With 25,000 Canadian residents in that country, it should give them an extra 25 million dollar income, enough to support a sheik or two for a month or so. All this for refusing additional landing rights for Emirate Airways in Canada. Go figure.

Iraq. Was the cost of the war to the US taxpayer worth it? Thousands were killed because of a US president’s decision to “Rid the country of weapons of mass destruction” which they didn’t have in the first place. Where is the morality in all this?

Iran. Be careful, the Israeli bogyman may want to harm you.

A trip to Zimbabwe will find the country ruled with an iron fist by none other than good old Mugabe ,-you know, the chap that has ruled there since forever. Some people just don’t want to retire and in Africa, the rule is that “The Lion gets it all”, which Mugabe certainly adheres to. Well, mortality comes to everyone and at age 83, his number is near the top of the list.

As for Afghanistan and the never-ending war. All the soldiers and civilians that have been killed there during the last God knows how many years. One MUST ask if this relentless slaughter can be attributed a meaning of some sort. Russia couldn’t win a war there, so why does the US (and NATO) think they can? Why does the US support a corrupt government there? Is it the huge quantity of natural resources present there? or just simply fear that the country could seriously harm the good US of A. Perhaps the military economics that Eisenhower warned about after the Second World War is still at work. Once Pandora’s box is opened, it is no easy task to close it again and a lot of people have to forfeit their lives for something that should never have taken place. This may perhaps be the right point at which to say: “Yankee go home”.

And then on to China, for the world’s greedy corporations are watching this nation with envious eyes, trying to get a piece of the economic cake. How wonderfully well equipped they all are with blinkers that conveniently hide the human rights violations, so they don’t have to complain about them- not that anyone in China’s authoritarian government would listen to them. It is one thing for China to try and improve the lives of 400 million people who live below the poverty line, so they don’t rebel against the government, but the manner in which they achieve it does not consider basic human rights. Climate change will be the most likely cause for interruption in China’s rapidly advancing economy. When you have 1.25 billion mouths’ to feed, drastic changes to the climate can cause mass disruption in the economy and food production patterns. When a country arrests and jails those who object to the manner in which its government runs the country and the lack of freedom of conscience, they do so out of fear, not out of intellectual reasoning. For China, it is not a question of if, but rather of when the bubble will burst.

As for Russia, Since Putin don’t like competition, neither inside, nor outside the government and since he calls the shots, regardless of who is in charge, the best choice is to leave him to his own devices, bearing in mind that politicians come and go. Russia won’t go away, if he does.

There is India to say something about,-the largest democracy in the world and one of the oldest civilizations. It has problems similar to China, with respect to poverty and a less than admirable relationship with Pakistan. Both having nuclear weapons is an ever present danger to peace or perhaps a deterrent, given that an attack   by either nation with nuclear weapons is certain to mean annihilation of millions of people. Should India pursue an economic model similar to that of China? I think not, for only in an authoritarian state can such a model be forced through. India is a democratic country and must find its own model in this increasingly complex global economy and with stable governments and free elections, it will do just that.

There are many countries I have not spoken of, but I have touched those I feel have made some headlines during 2010. It is my sincere hope that 2011 will bring better conditions for mankind throughout the world.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.

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