Tuesday, September 05, 2006

4. Fredy's Story

Fredy’s Story

I tell Fredy that we live in Maine. He’s only been there for one day, but he knows it’s cold in the winter. He worked in North Dakota for another project one winter, and finally asked to be reassigned because he couldn’t take it anymore.

Fredy tells me that he spent 14 months in Cambridge, Massachusetts many years ago. “What were you doing there?” I ask, expecting to hear that he was a student, or maybe working. “Hiding,” he says. .

I was not a victim or a hero, he says. I came from a poor family with nine children. When I was young, I was a professional soccer player. (Not any more, he adds. Now I’m too old. He laughs. Fredy is a about 40, a good-humored, articulate, and charming guy. He works for Safe Passage, before that for other projects helping the poor of his country.) Because of this, I had a little extra money. I had the idea of going to the Mayan Highlands to help people out. This was the early eighties. Bad idea, I say. Bad idea, he agrees.

I went with friends. There were five of us. We went into some villages and started helping people fix their floors and roofs and such things. After a couple of weeks, some soldiers came looking for us. They said, “You aren’t Indios. This isn’t your business. You should leave.” While this was happening, one of my friends was talking with the youngest of the soldiers. I don’t know what they said, but suddenly the boy shot him right here. Fredy pats the middle of his chest, just below his throat. He was just nineteen years old, studying to be an engineer. Dead.

We got to Santiago Atitlan. While we were there, another of my friends disappeared. We never saw him again. There were three of us left. We all left the country. I lived in Cambridge, and then in California, and in other places for years. Finally, I came back. My two other friends, one lives on Long Island, in New York. The other lives in Switzerland.

The boy who killed my friend was probably from a poor family. Even boys from the highland villages joined the Army. At that time, the Army would pay a family 350Q if their son joined up. That was a lot of money to them. So some poor families with many children would send their sons.

Life, death, economics again.


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