May 07 2021 | The Slaughterhouse

Autumn afternoon standing by the fences of the local Slaughterhouse, observing the corrals for the cattle’s that were to be sacrificed the next day. They will arrive soon. I am alone and distant from the urban area, a few meters from the national road which does not pass through the village, a dusty place from which one day I intend to escape. Everything is sick, worn, repetitive, boring, obsolete, there. Too many duties and not rights as in the whole country run by a dictator. A lot of obligation, arrogance and hypocrisy installed in every pore of the village.

Santa Rosa is like a prison where anyone seemed to have the power of judgement, feeding the culture of gossip. Feeling of oppression and uneasiness installed in the midst of the community, based on the total control of the movements, actions and ideas of its inhabitants. There is no intimacy, no respect for the individual.

However, there is a mask of happiness. The dynamics of appearances, the stigma of social discrimination by financial and status quo standards. My father was the town’s Chief of Police but in my house, my mother was the brutal commander who, among other measures, applied a tremendous repression if one speaks Guarani, the Paraguayan creole, because that “is the language of the mobs”.

The town’s Slaughterhouse, now my favorite getaway, is beyond the boundaries of the village. From here at dawn, numerous horses drawn carriages with virulence as they transport the freshly, tendered meat that will be immediately exhibited in the local Market. Each butcher owns his cart and horses that allow them to sell their products at meat cutting stalls, side by side. The work and subsequent cleaning of the Matadero, actually the floor of the shed, is finalized before noon. In the afternoon, the silence returns. Only birds of prey fly over the site. Behind the shed, the remnants of biological remains are obvious…

After a while, I decided to ride my horse back home. This tordillo horse is subject to the cruel task of transporting a 200-litre tambor (barrel) of water several times starting before the sun comes up. To me, those early morning moments of fresh air and nature surrendering were another way to enjoy my freedom.

We are these children’s, working as soon as we get strong enough to help the poor finances of a busy family household. Arriving at the San Jose’í Well (Pozo), some two kilometers from the town’s center, docking at the well curb and deal with the situation straight ahead: standing on the cement structured curb with bare feet, throwing buckets (the buckets are made by iron) blowing the walls of the well and by no means crushed against other buckets as things getting wild and eventually all falls inversely on the warm surface of the water emanating from the subsoil; pulling the rope enough so that the buckets sinks and catch as much water as possible and then pull it out until the barrel gets full, ready to go. The tambor lies horizontally on an appropriate wooden cart which has a wooden lid, covered with a fabric of disused clothing that, pressing on the hole, prevents spillage during the race. Fill the barrel with water without interruptions, without hesitation, without distractions, as quickly as possible. That was our task. At noon, the number of other barrileros (kids who are in charge to do this work) increases. While some load the water enthusiastically, others eat their nails on the back of their horses and mules or on top of their empty barrels (tambores). The wide, solid curb (brocal) of the Well shows the multi-impact footprints that wooden wheels, covered in metal, have crushed on it.

Now the water comes out reddish. The level has dropped by at least a couple of meters down to the exposed stubborn wounds of its sprouting riser, as life itself. Water that is for sale among a thirsty locals, especially in times of drought. In the rainy season, people take advantage of filling their cisterns with zinc gutter systems installed under their roofs.

Life is hard in Santa Rosa in the late 1970s. I was in my teenage years and lived in a house full of people. Besides from my parents, we were six brothers and sisters who were eagerly looking for any corner that could give us some privacy. Over the years, the elders moved to the big urban centers. I was the youngest of them all and waited my turn. My turn to get out of that town.

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