Antonio

Antonio Most nights, there was a busker in the arch under Bishop Xelmirez’s palace—the acoustics so good, you heard him long before you came up the stairs from the Obradoiro. He sat because of the long hours, and when he stood he walked as if his leg was turned the wrong way around. I didn’t know his name. Ten years later, at midnight Lucía and I were walking down from Cervantes, Santiago starting again for me. He was playing “Te Recuerdo, Amanda” by Víctor Jara. “¡Claro!” he said to her, “you played at singer-songwriter nights at Modus Vivendi!” His girlfriend came to collect him with their Golden Retriever. She was a student, 10 years younger than him. As they walked away, I thought of second chances, and Lucía’s student days when she said “every window was open playing Pablo Milanés, Mercedes Sosa, and Silvio,” Latin American hope songs. Behind the songs, compañeros, was Víctor Jara—and me and her missing each other in every Old Town bar, me missing being in a different book.

Tarasca sometimes played the hope songs, but more often rebel songs, flew the Basque Ikurrina beside the Cuban star. When I ordered in Spanish, the bearded bartender looked at me askance under black-and-white photos of prisoners, friends of the axe and the asp—echoes of a mural iconography. He turned stony, I wouldn’t play the Irish card. Off my elbow, a local wore the balaclava and the armalite, foregrounded on the Tricolour: an easy t-shirt. Víctor Jara on the jukebox.

“Try playing that on the guitar,” the soldiers mocked in the stadium in Santiago de Chile, after they tortured his hands. Víctor Jara sang back at them from the ground.

 

July, 2003.