After reading his Bible in the mornings in his rose garden, my grandfather Papa Polo walked three miles into the country with an empty pail in his hand. He kept a young cow which gave fresh milk for all of us. He handed the pail to the cook to boil before serving it at our breakfast; the only way to keep us healthy. In those days there wasn’t any homogenized milk.
Next he prepared the menu for the day and sent the cook to the market to buy groceries for that meal, which she’d serve three times daily at the dining table. All of us children–the kids of all of Martina’s workers and myself–knew to not say “I don’t want this,” as the food was there to be eaten.
“Don Hipolito,” as everyone addressed him, treated all those around him with respect and love. In these childhood years, I was very happy. My grandparents’ home was special, safe, and gave me a stable life.
We had a well in the middle of the property, which gave the coolest of water, with an enclosed wooden wall for privacy when bathing. They filled the pila with the best water found in that part of Usulután, where the thermometer could easily reach one hundred degrees in the summer.
As I got older, and got better at listening in to the servants gossiping, I started to piece together whatever it was that happened to me in Berlín, the tiny Salvadoran town named after the German city. They talked amongst themselves, “Doña martina will not allow Miss Amandita to go up there, as they murdered her father, they may kill her too.”
I asked my mother Romilia about it when she came to visit, but she avoided the subject. Her outlook changed as I grew older. She was visiting El Salvador and called me from there. I lived in Tennessee by that time, with my husband and our children. The subject of the call? She had found an attorney who’d advised that now, as an adult, I could go to the Salvadoran court and appeal for my rightful inheritance. My answer? “ No Mom, I am settled in my own home and what business do I have to possibly expose myself and getting shot just as my own father did?”
This disappointed her, but I also knew, she felt guilty. For I had lost an inheritance, one that my father would have given me, had someone not murdered him when I was two.
My father, Pilar Reyes, was a coffee plantation owner. He owned several mountains of coffee, thousands upon thousands of acres. He was murdered, under suspicious circumstances. That was when my mother took me to my grandparents, where I would be safe. I never received an inheritance. Someone back in that coffee plantation made sure that would never happen.
They killed him. They’ll kill her too.
I have lived with those words in my mind, all my life.
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