Thursday, May 24, 2007

Momias gallegas.....

Reading that excelent blog, Penultimos Dias I found this article from El Periodico de Catalunya, about the mummification of a few Galicians in Havana.
No, they are not talking about that Galician, kasstro. They are just talking about the people who died of morrinha, in Havana and elsewhere in Cuba.
Well, in my trips and nights spent in the Necropolis of Havana, I entered many times that Pantheon, Naturales de Ortigueira. And walking with handmade torches in the obscure galleries while we read in loud voices the names of people we knew, the granparents of friends, neighbors, and perfect unknowns, we always knew that there was something magic about this building which is the biggest funerary structure in Cuba.
There's also another one, the pantheon of the Asturians that I visited a lot.... a friend of mine had a key, pilfered from his grandfather's desk at the Asturians society, and we would enter the Pantheon just to see the names and take a look at the ornaments.... And in that one I saw a mummy. My friend had something for the morbid and macabre, and he told me that he had spoken with some guy who was in charge of exhuming the dead and place the bones in the ossuary, and asked me, of all people, if I wouldn't mind to go with him.... I could not say no to such proposal....
We arrived early, the bicycles were left inside a crypt, and we walked to the Pantheon. The worker, a toothless alcoholic, was there in the semidarkness -half of the electric bulbs were busted and the building window in that section was boarded up- chiseling away the white cement of the lid of the burial niche. He pulled the coffin out.... we knew that something was weird because there was no smell whatsoever.
Was it an empty coffin?
He cursed, the coffin was heavy. He used the claws of a hammer on the edge of the lid, as a lever to pry it open, the lid broke in pieces, and there it was. A mummified woman was inside the coffin. Her skin was very dark, she looked like a wilted flower rather than a lifeless body.
I was speechless, and my friend chickened out, fainting.
The undertaker kicked him in the ribs and slapped him. I think that I didn't faint just because of that! I reacted, and I took my friend by the arm... his legs were like flour sacks, with his knees bending under his weight, and I lifted him like a firefighter, and took him out.... It was a sunny day outside of that dark building. And suddenly a lighting crackled and lit and a thunder boomed.
The building was hit by a lighting and the few lights that were on went off with a hissing sound.
Needless to say that we left the cemetery faster than you say abajo fidel.
We mulled the recovery of our bikes for at least three more days, when we went on bright daylight to pick them up and rode so fast out that we probably left grooves in the asphalt.
Days after that, I 'fessed up to my grandfather.
He said that maybe since there were no trees in there, and since it was so sunny, and without any humidity -Havana gets hit by droughts every so often, and they are lengthy- the corpse had transformed itself into a mummy. Apparently, he was right.
As y'all know I have a love affair with that cemetery. I learnt the ropes of photography in a place that is very difficult to photograph. Everything is white. As in white marble. The sunlight reverberates everywhere there.... your best shots have to be taken in a cloudy day, with an orange, red or yellow filter to show the cloud built-up and darken the blues of the sky. I have to say that nothing beats the eery light of torches at dusk, or at dawn. Oh yes, there's something that beats it.... when you have your camera with a long exposure setting, and suddenly a lighting hits the cross of a chapel or a tree or some other building.... The Cemetery of Colon is the place in Havana which gets hit with more lightning. It's an amazing spectacle.
I guess the second most hit place is the Chinese Cemetery across the street from the Cemetery of Colon. That's another eery place.... you could see cats and dogs -strays and domestic animals whose owners let loose for them to fend for some food for themselves- eating from the dishes the Chinese families left on top of the tombs for their ancestors.
When I was a teen or in my twenties, the cemetery rounds will also include another cemetery that's close to the other two.... The Protestant Cemetery, where some independence heroes are buried. The Queen of Mean lives nearby, and there were goons posted everywhere so nobody would disturb raul kasstro from his drunken stupor.
Typically, those youthful cemetery walks ended up in the almost never functioning Jalisco Park. We would have a flask from where to drink something.... and we would climb on the carroussel, and some of us would be on top, and some of us would propel the carroussel by running alongside until all jumped aboard.
One kid would sit outside and look at the park... who knows if he was Carlos Varela. I was older...
Then, the other day I posted that video by Porno para Ricardo, and Jalisco Park was there. And today I read this article about the mummies..... who knows, will I see Jalisco Park again in my life?