With love and other revolutions // I didn’t know meant violence (White and Yellow Butterflies)
I didn’t know what violence meant, I’d only read about it occasionally in books by Vargas Llosa and Benedetti, or listening to Víctor Jara. I was one of those who used to sing his songs well after midnight, I wanted to shout rebellion and ask for social changes, just for the sake of it. But there’s no comparison, I can’t believe what I’m seeing now.
I’d already been to loads of demos and the police had even protected us, cordoned off by yellow tape as armored trucks sped past down the practically deserted avenue. I loved shouting slogans of protest and seeing how people felt more liberated every minite that passed as they ran, offering prayers to an inexistent god, or just watching the curious onlookers giving the thumbs up as if to say “Good, these youngsters are going to change the future of my screwed-up country!”
Why didn’t anyone tell me that things weren’t always like that? We start believing we’re revolutionaries when things are going our way, or apparently working out, but the majority soon back-off when death roams along, rubbing his hands and biding his time, with his black lips pursed waiting to kiss someone close by on the forehead.
A group of friends and I arrived at the place where everything was about to happen. The temple of treason and the mafia were formally attired for the occasion: dressed in an enormous iron skirt that covered each and every entrance of its intimacy.
It wasn’t like the other occasions. Now it wasn’t the transient police protecting us but grenadiers, willing to do anything to defend their monthly salary of seven thousand pesos, who watched us from behind their masks and plastic shields, sheathed in those shiny boots that at some moment kicked me in the face more than once, knee protectors, truncheons, bullet proof vests…
I don’t know how it all started. When I realized the danger I was already in the middle of it. Columns of fire came off the ground following the sound of smashed glass bottles. We were separated by curtains of smoke, forced to cover our eyes. I saw Satan swinging from the trees, laughing at us, ordering the police to fire mercilessly again and again, those rubber bullets that hurt like hell, penetrating soul deep…
We carried on rioting, though by now it didn’t matter why we were there, we just threw everything within reach at them in an attempt to get out of there alive. Rivers smelling of blood ran down the streets and flowed into the subway, which was once witness to another of our historical massacres.
We all tried to getaway. I lost sight of my friends hardly imagining this could be the last time I’d have the chance to speak to them. The streets were jammed with blue caps and green helmets who blocked our way to freedom. Everything was turning upside down, we didn’t want to be there, though a few weeks ago we had actually looked forward to it.
There was no one around, our screams went unheard and our cell phones weren’t much use in describing the terrible things that were happening to us. Nobody cared. We were the forgotten, misfits, the third world filthy bastards in disagreement; the little sons of a bitch who didn’t understand democracy and transparency: the vandals that that nobody wanted in a sovereign state (sovereign?) like ours.
Blood pulsed through our heads, our need to defend ourselves with sticks and stones, feet with a sense of life seeminly guided us by their own will towards a hideaway where the fetid smell of tragedy, death and badly disguised bitterness wouldn’t reach.
The national coat of arms served as a mute witness, cried with us without uttering a word and looked on with little faith at what was occurring beneath its claws. It seemed annoyed, I’m not sure if this was with those who were there fighting because they couldn’t comprehend that utopias don’t exist or with them for not realising that dreams are made to be fulfilled
Nothing was what it should be, the columns of fire appeared like tails of cloud restlessly sweeping from side to side, the detonations felt closer every time and the tension level kept on rising. I wan’t familiar with anything and for a fleeting second I reproached myself for being there, I should have just kept my head down, like those who had once said to me “we knew that this would happen”, “the change should come from us”, “screw him for kicking up this fuss”.
The chaos had reached a climax, my mind was almost entirely eclipsed, my vision clouded, my hands weary tired, my cheeks red raw, my ideals in shreds, my dreams broken the same as my right leg, which a fragment of broken metal fencing has just sliced through; my ears confused, there wasn’t a harmonious sound, or the sound of claxons, of the wind brushing past the trees, only the sound of thuds, screams of motherfucker, bullets, the clicking of cameras recording our cries, curses, explosions, and above all this the guffaws of the demon with a red tie who wouldn’t stop singing under his breath what appeared to be my national anthem…
I didn’t know what pain really meant until that bullet perforated my skull and everything that I had lived for gently slipped away…My friends, my family, my girlfriend, my career, my grant to study a Masters degree abroad, my memories, my childhood, my first steps, my first time with her in bed, the first time I flew a kite, and my first deception on seeing how the thread slipped from between my fingers as my spirit was now leaving me amid the fluttering wings of preying condors and the wailing of ambulances that couldn’t keep abreast with loading so many bodies, bodies with dulled eyes and no willpower left in the soles of their shoes…
The volume was starting to get lower until everything became silent, I sensed with clarity my last synopsis and saw how the yellow and white butterflies that fluttered inside me were freed, they were released forcefuly all at once from my gullet into my mouth and from my nostrils. I don’t know how, but all of them managed to draw a frank smile on my lax face… I had done what they had bidden me to do…
(Your forehead shall be girded, oh fatherland, with olive garlands by the divine archangel of peace… But should a foreign enemy (Was I the enemy?) Profane your land with his soul… This duet to Satan and myself makes us feel so good…It’s not as bad as they say… Think, beloved fatherland, that heaven gave you a soldier in each son…)
I watched those fantastic creatures fly away until they were lost somewhere between the smoke and the sun at its zenith, before I went to sleep, so I wouldn’t see what would happen in this putrid land so lacking in courage and full of those ambitious for power.
Original post in Spanish by Rob Cruzzó
(Translation by Kalizamar)