La Condenada / Cursed

Spanish

Quizá ahí arriba, donde el aire era más puro, y el caserío se iba diluyendo entre las faldas y laderas de los cerros, habría alguien que le aguardara. Alguien entre esos cerros, inmóviles fantasmas de su infancia. Alguien, aparte de su familia. Alguien en quien redimirse de la ciudad que abandonaba, enferma de sus vicios. Buscó el sendero tantas veces repetido por sus pasos. Las nubes le cercaban con su sombra. “Jump’i”, su cuerpo húmedo, los gestos casi olvidados en su ausencia. “Jump’i”, sonrió al encontrar la palabra justa, borrando la cadenilla que perlaba sus mejillas. Alguien. Los matorrales arañaban sus piernas.

Quizá ahí arriba, donde el aire era más puro, y el caserío se iba diluyendo entre las faldas y laderas de los cerros, habría alguien que le aguardara. Alguien entre esos cerros, inmóviles fantasmas de su infancia.

Y el tiempo le devuelve sus recuerdos, los más grandes, pero no puede borrar el estigma de la ciudad. No puede, las furtivas caricias del patrón, sus senos humillados; no puede evitar los sueños lascivos que le sorprenden con los ojos abiertos, inmóvil, con los dedos crispados bajo el empeine. No puede, el ardor de la carne. Sus padres, esfinges de puna, consultan las hojas de coca. “Laiqa, laiqa”, repiten. Han sorprendido su sueño, las convulsiones. “Laiqa”, y las hojas se quedan en el misterio. La sorpresa y el miedo, los rostros marcados de tiempo y superstición, velan la noche que les cae como una negra masa chispeante. “Laiqa”. Sobre el suelo frío se desparraman las hojas mojadas con alcohol. La “millma” recorre el cuerpo de la joven. El viento acaricia las melenas de paja, silbando en las oquedades de granito. La sangre de un llamo blanco se coagula bajo la presión de los dedos, en los miembros paralíticos de la hija que volvió para el silencio. Una junta de hechiceros declara el duelo que los ancianos aceptan resignados.

Y tuvo que ser así – en ese dolor cantado – la ausencia permanente donde se inmovilizaba el día. Las plañideras elaboraban la tristeza con muecas fingidas. La choza recrudecía sus recuerdos con gestos y palabras que expresaban su devoción a la difunta. El velorio se fue prolongando hasta que todos quedaron rendidos de alcohol y coca. Amanecía ya, cuando aparecieron los mozos encargados del ataúd. La mortaja se deslizó de las manos temblorosas al cuerpo rígido que la recibía como un guante blanco, alborada de pureza. Los ancianos volvieron a escurrir sus lágrimas y todo estuvo listo para la partida. La tapa recibió los primeros golpes del martillo y fue como si ante esos golpes la muerta resucitara. Al principio nadie advirtió que desde adentro partían otros golpes que fueron aumentando en la desesperación de su esfuerzo. El martillo parecía recibir un tétrico, hasta quedar ahí, paralizado por el llanto de la caja. La anciana madre quiso abalanzarse hacia el prodigio que le devolvía a su hija, pero se contuvo al ver que todos huían despavoridos, clamando al cielo perdón para la condenada. “¡Condenada!”, repetían. Súbitamente los clavos cedieron y todo quedó en silencio, cuando apareció la figura blanca de la joven. “Se ha condenado”, el murmullo crecía, y el anciano recibió una cuerda con el encargo de salvar a su hija. “Se ha condenado”, le repetían, “no podrá descansar en paz”. La joven llamó a sus padres y ellos se le aproximaron, tensas las pupilas, rezando en silencio. “Se ha condenado”. Los ancianos, con cautela, giraban en torno al ataúd y a su hija que lloraba de rodillas. “Condenada”, giraban acortando la distancia que los separaba. “Condenada”. Y podían ver la palidez de su rostro, las manos que se les extendían y limpiaban esas lágrimas, “Hija”, las manos con la cuerda, “reza”. Las manos con una sola voluntad. “Reza, hija mía”. Las manos que parecían anudarle un collar. “Condenada”. La cuerda, girando en esas manos hechas para labrar la tierra. “Hija mía”, la cuerda apretando el cuello de la joven, “descansa en paz”, hasta que la mortaja volvió a reposar, en silencio, recibiendo, de nuevo, los golpes del martillo.

Copagira: Cuentos marginales. Cochabamba: Arol, 1975. 109-112.
English Translation

Perhaps way up there where the air was purer, where the town became lost among the slopes and hillsides of the mountain, there was someone waiting for her, someone in those hills, the hills that reminded her of the quiet ghosts of her childhood. Someone, besides her family. Someone who could help her redeem herself from the city that she was leaving behind, the city that had caused her to become ill from her vices. She searched for the path that she had walked so many times before. The clouds surrounded her with their shadows. Sweat, her damp body, the gestures nearly forgotten in their absence. Sweat, she smiled upon finding the right word, erasing the wet drops that formed pearls on her cheeks. Someone. The thickets scratched her legs.

Perhaps way up there where the air was purer, where the town became lost among the slopes and hillsides of the mountain, there was someone waiting for her, someone in those hills, the hills that reminded her of the quiet ghosts of her childhood.

And time returns her memories to her, the most important ones. But she cannot erase the stigma of the city. She cannot. The master’s furtive embraces, her humiliated breasts. She cannot avoid the lascivious dreams that surprise her with her eyes open, unmoving, with her fingers clenched under her instep. She cannot erase them; her hot flesh. Her parents, sphinxes of the altiplano, consult coca leaves. “Cursed, cursed,” they repeat. The convulsions surprised her as she slept. “Cursed,” and the leaves remain a mystery. Surprise and fear, her parents’ faces marked by time and superstition. They keep watch during the night that falls over them like a black sparkling mass. “Cursed.” The leaves, moistened with alcohol, are spread over the cold floor. The sacred ribbon of wool runs the length of the girl’s body. The wind caresses the tufts of scrub brush; it whistles through the openings in the granite. The blood of a white llama coagulates under the pressure of their fingers, on the paralyzed legs of their daughter who returned searching for silence. A group of witch doctors declare mourning and the old couple accepts their words, resigned.

And that’s the way it had to be. In their pain, openly expressed, there would be a permanent absence that would immobilize time. The wailing women showed their sympathy with false expressions of sadness. The crude dwelling made their memories more painful; with gestures and words they expressed their devotion to the deceased. The wake continued until everyone was exhausted from the consumption of alcohol and coca. Dawn was nearing when the young men in charge of the casket arrived. The shroud slipped from trembling hands to cover the rigid body that received it like a white glove, like a rebirth of purity. The old couple again squeezed out their final tears and everything was ready for the departure. The lid of the casket received the first blows of the hammer, and it was as if those blows caused the dead girl to revive. At first, no one noticed that from inside the casket there were other blows that were increasing in force and desperation. The hammer seemed to receive a gloomy echo until it remained hovering there, paralyzed by the weeping coming from the casket. The elderly mother tried to throw herself toward the miracle that was returning her daughter to her, but she stopped when she saw that everyone was fleeing, terrified, crying out to the heavens to pardon the cursed girl. “She’s cursed!” they repeated. Suddenly the nails gave way and everything was silent. The white figure of the girl appeared. “She has been cursed,” the whispers grew, and the old man was given a rope with the charge of saving his daughter. “She has been cursed,” they repeated to him, “she will not be able to rest in peace.” The young girl called to her parents and they approached her, their pupils fixed, praying in silence. “She has been cursed.” The old couple cautiously circled the casket. Their daughter was now on her knees, crying. “Cursed,” they circled, shortening the distance that separated them. “Cursed.” And now they could see the paleness of her face, her hands that reached out to them and dried their tears. “Daughter,” their hands holding the rope, “pray.” Their hands, with only one wish. “Pray, my daughter,” The hands that seemed to tie a knot. “Cursed.” The rope, circling in hands that were made to work the earth. “My daughter,” the rope squeezing the girl’s neck, “rest in peace,” until the shroud once again reclined, in silence, and received once more, the blows of the hammer.


CULTURAL NOTE

Many young Bolivian girls from the countryside travel to large cities to work for wealthy families. It is not uncommon for the males of a household, fathers as well as sons, to abuse the young peasant women who work for them. In this story, the young woman has returned from the city where she was working and where she was presumably involved in some type of relationship with her employer. She becomes paralyzed for some unknown reason, but believes her illness may have been caused by her sinful ways. The witchdoctors advise her parents to accept their daughter’s fate, which is death. The girl is placed in the casket while still living, and seems to resuscitate from the sounds of the hammer nailing her coffin closed. However, the peasants believe that if a body resuscitates while in the casket, this indicates that the person has been cursed and must be put to rest, even if this means killing the person who was supposedly already dead.

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