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XII


I was born in Limon, close by Moyahua, right in
the heart of the Juchipila canyon. I had my house and my
cows and a patch of land, see: I had everything I wanted.
Well, I suppose you know how we farmers make a habit
of going over to town every week to hear Mass and the
sermon and then to market to buy our onions and to-
matoes and in general everything they want us to buy at
the ranch. Then you pick up some friends and go to Prim-
itivo Lopez' saloon for a bit of a drink before dinner;
well, you sit there drinking and you've got to be sociable,
so you drink more than you should and the liquor goes
to your head and you laugh and you're damned happy
and if you feel like it, you sing and shout and kick up a
bit of a row. That's quite all right, anyhow, for we're not
doing anyone any harm. But soon they start bothering
you and the policeman walks up and down and stops oc-
casionally, with his ear to the door. To put it in a nut-
shell, the chief of police and his gang are a lot of joykill-
ers who decide they want to put a stop to your fun, see?
But by God! You've got guts, you've got red blood in
your veins and you've got a soul, too, see? So you lose
your temper, you stand up to them and tell them to go to
the Devil.

"Now if they understand you, everything's all right;
they leave you alone and that's all there is to it; but some-
times they try to talk you down and hit you and--well,
you know how it is, a fellow's quick-tempered and he'll be
damned if he'll stand for someone ordering him around
and telling him what's what. So before you know it, you've
got your knife out or your gun leveled, and then off you
go for a wild run in the sierra, until they've forgotten the
corpse,see?

"All right: that's just about what happened to Mon-
ico. The fellow was a greater bluffer than the rest. He
couldn't tell a rooster from a hen, not he. Well, I spit on
his beard because he wouldn't mind his own business.
That's all, there's nothing else to tell.

"Then, just because I did that, he had the whole God-
damned Federal Government against me. You must have
heard something about that story in Mexico City--
about the killing of Madero and some other fellow,
Felix or Felipe Diaz, or something--I don't know.
Well, this man Monico goes in person to Zacatecas to
get an army to capture me. They said that I was a Mad-
erista and that I was going to rebel. But a man like me
always has friends. Somebody came and warned me of
what was coming to me, so when the soldiers reached
Limon I was miles and miles away. Trust me! Then my
compadre Anastasio who killed somebody came and
joined me, and Pancracio and Quail and a lot of friends
and acquaintances came after him. Since then we've been
sort of collecting, see? You know for yourself, we get
along as best we can. . . ."

For a while, both men sat meditating in silence. Then:

"Look here, Chief," said Luis Cervantes. "You know
that some of Natera's men are at Juchipila, quite near
here. I think we should join them before they capture
Zacatecas. All we need do is speak to the General."

"I'm no good at that sort of thing. And I don't like the
idea of accepting orders from anybody very much."

"But you've only a handful of men down here; you'll
only be an unimportant chieftain. There's no argument
about it, the revolution is bound to win. After it's all
over they'll talk to you just as Madero talked to all those
who had helped him: 'Thank you very much, my friends,
you can go home now. . . .' "

"Well that's all I want, to be let alone so I can go
home."

"Wait a moment, I haven't finished. Madero said:
'You men have made me President of the Republic. You
have run the risk of losing your lives and leaving your
wives and children destitute; now I have what I wanted,
you can go back to your picks and shovels, you can
resume your hand-to-mouth existence, you can go half-
naked and hungry just as you did before, while we, your
superiors, will go about trying to pile up a few million
pesos. . . .'"
Demetrio nodded and, smiling, scratched his head.

"You said a mouthful, Louie," Venancio the barber
put in enthusiastically. "A mouthful as big as a church!"

"As I was saying," Luis Cervantes resumed, "when
the revolution is over, everything is over. Too bad that so
many men have been killed, too bad there are so many
widows and orphans, too bad there was so much blood-
shed.

"Of course, you are not selfish; you say to yourself:
'All I want to do is go back home.' But I ask you, is it
fair to deprive your wife and kids of a fortune which God
himself places within reach of your hand? Is it fair to
abandon your motherland in this solemn moment when
she most needs the self-sacrifice of her sons, when she
most needs her humble sons to save her from falling
again in the clutches of her eternal oppressors, execu-
tioners, and caciques? You must not forget that the thing
a man holds most sacred on earth is his motherland."

Macias smiled, his eyes shining.

"Will it be all right if we go with Natera?"

"Not only all right," Venancio said insinuatingly, "but
I think it absolutely necessary."

"Now Chief," Cervantes pursued, "I took a fancy to
you the first time I laid eyes on you and I like you more
and more every day because I realize what you are
worth. Please let me be utterly frank. You do not yet
realize your lofty noble function. You are a modest man
without ambitions, you do not wish to realize the ex-
ceedingly important role you are destined to play in the
revolution. It is not true that you took up arms simply be-
cause of Senor Monico. You are under arms to protest
against the evils of all the caciques who are overrunning
the whole nation. We are the elements of a social move-
ment which will not rest until it has enlarged the destinies
of our motherland. We are the tools Destiny makes use of
to reclaim the sacred rights of the people. We are not
fighting to dethrone a miserable murderer, we are fight-
ing against tyranny itself. What moves us is what men call
ideals; our action is what men call fighting for a prin-
ciple. A principle! That's why Villa and Natera and Car-
ranza are fighting; that's why we, every man of us, are
fighting."

"Yes ... yes ... exactly what I've been thinking my-
self," said Venancio in a climax of enthusiasm.

"Hey, there, Pancracio," Macias called, "pull down
two more beers."





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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