Here we are on the 1st of March and I noticed this morning that I haven't posted since last Tuesday... which is strange for me I know, to be honest I haven't had much desire to write about anything. A 16 year old boy from the community here was violently killed early last Thursday morning and I've been feeling it a lot more than I thought I would or in some way even think that I should. Let me first allay fears and say that Los Laureles is not a violent or dangerous place - Rolan was mixed up in some unpleasant activites and was hunted down by some very powerful men from outside the community. Funny that I mention his name like that, Rolan; I never even knew it until I had to help his brother Blas plan the funeral arrangements. For these past two years I've simply known him by the nickname that everyone else used, Sida. SIDA, by-the-bye, is the Spanish acronym for AIDS; not that Sida had SIDA but that should give you an idea of his social class within the garabge dump community. For those of you that have uncanny memories you may recall that Blas(17) is a good friend of mine, comes to church now and then, plays for our U-18 soccer team and is a well-respected leader amongst the youth of this community. He also has two very young brothers, Juan Carlos(11) and Berlin(8) whom I adore and who regularly participate in our daily activities in Los Laureles. Sida though, Sida marched to the beat of a different drum - he was addicted to cocaine. He spent his days working on the garbage trucks, his evenings scouring the garbage dump for scrap metal and his late nights high. To support his habit even further he and a few close compatriots would sneak on to the property of a wealthy neighbor of Laureles and relieve him of sundry items that they thought he might not need and that they knew they could sell to the scrap metal collective here in the dump - things like truck engines, car batteries, fenders, whole wheels...if they had really given it much thought they probably could have dismantled and reassembled a whole automobile and sold that instead of selling it off piece-by-piece as scrap metal. At the time I chuckled silently to myself but now feel ashamed for having done so; I knew what they were doing, knew that it was wrong and I certainly didn't support them in their activities but the sight of them passing my house each evening (the path into the neighbor's property begins just below my home) loaded down with massive car parts was kind of humorous to me (I can find humour in just about anything...I'm kind of a simpleton in that respect). Despite his thievery, his vicious drug addiction that was wasting him away to nothing, despite his wanton disregard for his mother and younger siblings despite all of that, Sida was a joy to be around. He was warm, kind, always respectful and soft-spoken; unlike some of his friends he never stole from the people within Los Laureles - instead he would always ask for this item or that, maybe a few bucks and if someone refused him he asked for a cup of water, blessed the person (in all sincerity) and went on his way. Sida was well-loved here in Los Laureles.
By all accounts Sida and his closest companion Jorgito (I mentioned Jorge's mother a while back trying to hold back tears as she talked of sending him to jail to keep him from killing himself) were spending last Wednesday night as they always do, stealing from the wealthy neighbor when his thugs (he has a host of them to guard the premises) caught them in the act. Jorge managed to escaped but Sida was not as fortunate and they beat him mercilessly before killing him execution-style in the no-man's land between Laureles and the neighbor's property. He was found the next morning by a resident here on his way to chop firewood and by the time I managed to get there (I had been downtown most of the morning) nearly the entire community was gathered around his body, weeping, whispering and waiting for the coroner to show up. Blas, who rarely speaks, was wordless and inconsolable - I know that in a way he feels slightly responsible for the direction Sida's life took. I spent the rest of the day and evening with him planning the vigil and burial, retrieving the body from the morgue and sitting with him through the first part of the vigil; our church supplied the coffee and light food for the all-night viewing. The next morning we buried Rolan in the municipal cemetary and by mid-afternoon all seemed to be forgotten, even Blas seemed to be back to normal. And that's what has had me so verhutzed. I knew Sida, I liked him well enough but I wasn't particularly close to him yet I cannot shake him from my mind these past few days; I can't stop thinking about the terror that that young, kind boy must have felt just prior to being killed. I can't read the minds of the people here, I can't know what Blas is thinking but even in the hours following his death people talked about it so matter-of-factly as if this were a normal part of life and that we probably shouldn't give it too much thought. It was treated as more of a spectacle to be observed than as something to feel or reflect on. Some even muttered that he had this coming and that his life serves as a lesson to the rest of us. I want to shake people, to yell at them to remind them that one of the nicest, most respectful boys in the community was just violently murdered and no one excepting his mother seems to be giving it a second thought.
I'm left asking myself where is Jesus in all of this, how might he be glorified? I have an idea but I don't want to speak too soon. I'll leave it at that
up above my home in the bullrushes