Saturday, October 17, 2015

It Continues to Be Unbelievable

It has been too long and there is lots of news. So much news that there hasn't been much time to update this blog. Starting with the most recent, Alex has finally been "condenado" (condemned) or sentenced, as it would be in English. He has officially received a sentence of sixty-two years not counting the five already served. Recently he sent a letter to Estela and her children pleading with them to come and visit him (the expectation, of course, is that they would come laden with food, clothing and money) in the jail in nearby Chimaltenango before he was to be transferred to the long-term prison in the western part of the country.

The only one who showed any interest was Denis, now eighteen, who likely needed to see his father to have some closure. On the way to school one day he told me about the letter and I encouraged him to visit his father and, more or less, have it out with him. He admitted to being "confused" about Alex. At eighteen with his own national ID Denis no longer needed his mother to go with him to the nearby jail. I told him that his father was going to tell him that he was innocent, it was all a big mistake and that he was a victim. Don't they all say that? I suggested to Denis that he tell his father that he was not a victim, rather it was all of his many children and his victims who were victims.

A few days later Estela reported that Denis had gone to the jail in Chimaltenango and had returned quite quickly after being told that his father had been transferred two days earlier to Pavon, the infamous prison in Guatemala City and possibly one of the worst in the world. I was sorry that Denis did not have the opportunity to confront his father and encouraged him to go one day to Pavon, as scary as that prospect was.

As it turned out Alex had court dates on two recent Mondays in Antigua regarding his transfer to Pavon. Denis went the first week and had to witness a grand performance by Marielos (who has been seen around town with other men on motorcycles and in various stores with the same hombres buying beer) who was dressed to the nines and hanging on to Alex sobbing telling him much the little children (who scarcely remember Alex) miss him. And she wants him to do what about that? She often whines that she doesn't have money for food for her children and apparently no longer works anywhere but arrived laden with bags of food and other amenities for Alex. I am quite certain that he trades it for other favors once he arrives "home."

When Denis had a chance to talk to his father he told him that Marielos was stepping out and reminded him that her last pregnancy was not, as she claimed, the result of a conjugal visit. Alex seemed non plussed and is likely only interested in the bags of food and future conjugal visits in some filthy closet at Pavon.

Denis went again the following Monday hoping to have a bit more time with his father. Alex was sporting brand new jeans and shoes which he said were delivered to Pavon by "Silvia." Silvia is the first cousin of Marielos and has a pre-teen son named Alex for the obvious reason. Silvia is also his legal wife according to Renap, the government entity in charge of vital statistics. Now, do you really think that I could make that up?

Alex asked Denis if his mother was going to visit him in prison and Denis told him "no," that she wasn't interested. And why would she be? Clearly Estela is the only one of all these women with any brains.  As I predicted Alex told Denis that it was all a big mistake, that he was innocent. He asked Denis if he would come and see him in the big, bad prison and Denis politely declined saying that he needed to study and work and help his mother. If he had any extra money it would go to help his mother who wanted to paint their house and not to Pavon. After five years Denis was quite obviously disgusted with this person who has never been more than a sperm donor to him. He told his father that if anything happened to me, Tía Joan, that "I will kill you." Let's hope it doesn't come to that for all concerned. I think that now Denis is in a much better position to dispense with Alex and move forward as the serious, considerate, kind and sensitive young man that he has become.

In June I accompanied Denis on a long promised trip to Perú to visit a couple of teachers who had befriended him the year his father was arrested. We went to Ariquipa, the Colca Canyon where we photographed condors in flight and then on to Cusco and Macchu Pichu. I am not sure the Denis will wander very far in the future but he took all of the newness in stride.

Denis and Alex Marcon in Ariquipa, Peru

Jackie's son, Liam is twenty-six months old, attending school with his mother and chattering in both Spanish and English. Recently, he had surgery to rectify an undescended testicle and also a hernia. While in the local charity hospital his pediatric surgeon was a young, attractive visiting Columbian. Apparently when the young doctor met Liam's equally young and attractive mother he asked the boy "where is your father?" Liam reportedly grinned and say "no hay" (there isn't one).

Liam, 2, on his first Skype call with Tía Astrid.

Jackie, who had been very upset when Alex was arrested, declined the recent opportunity to visit her father. Estela told me that she had finally gone to Renap to register Liam's birth. There was much deliberation about whether or not to add the child's birth father's name giving him legal rights. The cons out weighed the pros and Jackie had to say that she didn't know who the father was in order to get a birth certificate with a blank space. When she provided Alex's surname "Turuy" as part of the boy's four part name the young woman in Renap indicated there were more "Turuy" children in the area. While Jackie knows of Cris and Mishelle she did not know that her father remains legally married to "Silvia." This new piece of information apparently provided a final reason for Jackie to dispatch Alex from her life as well. Quite obviously her father was not whom she had thought he was.

Astrid, soon to be sixteen, just started the ninth grade at the Antigua International School after spending three months of her summer vacation in the United States mostly working on her English but also absorbing lots of reasons to return to school with new determination. She spent six weeks in Portland, Oregon and also visited San Francisco, Reno (where she attended an all day Mexican wedding), New York and Washington, DC. She doesn't even want to hear her father's name much less visit him. Done.

Astrid with her host siblings, Tai and Zahra, in Portland, OR.

Astrid's school moved this year into a newly built facility where there is no public transportation which means that I had to figure out how to get her to and from school. After considering a number of options an underpowered motorcycle was purchased in Estela's name for Denis, who is of an age that allows him to get a license. He now drives his sister to and fro. The deal is helmets for both and no night driving or other passengers. The two have to buy the gas which limits their travels. So far so good and an unexpected bonus is that Denis has given up the hair gel which doesn't do well inside of a helmet.

Diego will officially become a teen-ager in a few weeks time. Thankfully, the hormones have not shown up yet but could any day now. He has had a rough year mostly because he and his mother remain at odds for good reasons and his family of thirteen are all now living in one house. The other house was sold to pay debts that I had declined to cover.

Diego visiting Astrid's little orphan pal, Carlitos.

Probably as a result of having no educational support at home Diego is going to have to repeat the sixth grade which is somewhat odd for a twelve-year old who can train adults on how to use technology. In January he will go to the same bi-lingual, Montessori and now "green" school that his younger siblings attend. I am confident that this move will be the answer to bringing his academic skills up to the same level as his tech skills. In addition, he will gain the sense of family that this school offers and the opportunity to purse the IB curriculum for high school. He has been invited to join his future classmates on a camping trip next week to celebrate the end of the school year.

Cristofer and Mishelle continue to thrive and, so far, remain fairly oblivious to things like poverty, sociopaths and Pavon. They love school and often one or the other of them will thrust a birthday party invitation at me. Without my help they wouldn't participate in the birthday parties of their classmates. They too will be going camping next week albeit on the grounds of the school which is located inside a coffee farm.

Cris, Mishelle and Jojo running a small business at school. Jojo is fluent in
English, Spanish and Japanese at age six.

The Guatemalan schools are finished for the year this month. Diego, Cris and Mishelle will attend "Green Camp" at the coffee farm where their school is located for six weeks of their school vacation. All three have opted for horse back riding as part of their camp curriculum.

If you follow the news about Guatemala you will know that there have been some startling political developments. Both the president and vice-president have been deposed and are in prison on corruption charges. Another ex-president is on trial for genocide. Judges and prominent business people involved in the corruption scandal are falling daily. The prisons are filling up fast. On the 25th of October there is a runoff election for president. While neither candidate is fabulous whoever wins will have to cope with the groups that are determined to bring forth positive change in Guatemala.

Following the political events is better than anything on television. It has been long rumored that the ex-president and vice-president have had a long standing affair. She is not handling well the women's prison and feigned illness in order to spend a month in a military hospital (after being run out of the well respected Centro Medico). She has been ordered back to prison by a judge. The same judge is demanding to know who delivered a computer, exercise machine, stove and refrigerator to the ex-president and he has ordered them all removed. The ex-president is implicated in all sorts of nastiness here going back to the "disappearance" of some 200,000 during the civil war. His trial on corruption charges is scheduled to start on December 21st.

On a more positive note for Guatemala a very moving film has been submitted to the Academy Awards for consideration as best foreign language film. The film "Ixcanul" is the first ever Guatemalan submission for an Oscar. Many of us have seen it in private screenings but it should be widely available soon. While not uplifting it is an accurate portrayal of what life is often like for many young women in rural Guatemala. The two female leads live in a village about twenty minutes drive from Antigua where there is no running water. The woman who plays the mother is illiterate and I hope to see both of them on the stage in Los Angeles accepting an Oscar early next year.

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