By Emiliano Ruiz Parra
Translator: Flora Thomson-DeVeaux
I ask Santos Nahum Oliva to give me his address in El Quebrachal to send him this note. I’ve never gotten a letter, he says over the phone. I ask for his email address. He doesn’t have one. He’s only ever been on the Internet in San Esteban, the municipal seat, three hours away. El Quebrachal has no bridge crossing its riverbed, so in the rainy season geographical and digital isolation become one and the same. There once was a chance for someone in the family to break that state of siege: Judith, who was 15, wanted to go to school in Tegucigalpa. One member of the Oliva family could have challenged the destiny of those born into poor villages: study through sixth grade (the most you can do in El Quebrachal) and then spend the rest of your life milking someone else’s cows, clearing pastures, taming horses that aren’t yours, and sowing beans and rice to live on. With the murder of Sabas Ramón Oliva, that chance evaporated. In El Quebrachal, Sabas Ramón had lived the life he was destined to. He was the oldest of nine siblings, the father of two sons and two daughters whom he baptized with Biblical names. His persistence and courage distinguished him, and not just when he played central back in soccer games. Of all his siblings he was the only one who dared to cross. The first time, he was 42. He made it to Houston, Texas and found work in a Chinese restaurant where his charm got him a position as a waiter. But the American Dream, which for an undocumented Honduran means being exploited in the richest country in the world, would only last two years. He was discovered and deported. Still undeterred, he tried four more times. The first three, his son Santos Nahum tells me, he was deported by the Mexican authorities who do the dirty work of keeping illegal immigration down for the Border Patrol. The fourth time, that dirty work was done by the Zetas. He was 47. Judith’s opportunity melted away, along with all hopes of completing construction of the family house. Sabas Ramón wanted to spend two years in the United States, save up for a bicycle cart, and retire as a vendor distributing milk in his village. Plans that are now just castles in the air. What remains of Sabas Ramón Oliva, apart from memories, is a pair of soccer shoes he gave to his son Uriel before he left. Shoes to wear through the rainy season as well as the dry, because the only bridge that broke El Quebrachal’s isolation was destroyed in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.