RICARDO FLORES MAGON: VIDA Y OBRA
(HISTORIETAS RELACIONADAS CON LAS CONDICIONES SOCIALES DE MEXICO)
(4. DE LA SERIE)
EDICIONES DEL GRUPO CULTURAL RICARDO FLORES MAGON
APARTADO POSTAL NUM. 1563
BAH, A DRUNK!
That beautiful morning was probably the saddest for this poor man suffering from tuberculosis. The sun was brilliantly shining, giving enrichment with golden splendor, to the beautiful city of Los Angeles.
A few weeks ago, Santiago had been fired from his job. He was terminally ill from TB, and the "nice" bourgeoisie, who exploited him for years, had the nerve to throw him to the street, as soon as he realized that the weak arms of his slave could not give him the previous profits.
When Santiago was young, he worked zealously. He used to dream: to earn a "good" salary and to be able to save some money, to be able to make it easier the last days of his life.
Santiago saved. He "tightened" his belt and accumulated some coins; however, each coin he saved meant privation, in such a way that if the savings were increasing, the arteries of his body had less blood.
"I will not save anymore," Santiago said courageously one day, when he realized his health was declining. In fact, he did not save anymore, and, so in fact, he could prolong his agony. The salary increased, this was no doubt-it increased. Some labor strikes, produced by his own union members, had produced these increased wages, but of course, if wages were better than before, basic merchandise prices had top cost, so that the advantage gained by the suffering from the strikes was deceptive, resulting in hunger and coldness at home, lines of policemen, even jail and death from the encounter with the strike suppressers.
Years went by, salaries went on the rise and so did the cost of bare necessities, at the same time Santiago's family would augment. Work hours had been reduced to eight, thanks to the strikes; however, and again "the buts"-the tasks to carry out had to be done in the same eight hours-the same that before were performed in ten or twelve hours, so he had to use all of his skill, strength, all of his life experience acquired as a worker, to be able to deliver. The cold "lunch," gulped down in a few minutes at noon, the nervous tension to which he submitted his body, so as not to loosen the machine's movement; the dirt, lack of ventilation of the shop, the unbearable noise of the machines, the poor nutrition he could possibly get, because of lack of provisions; the poor room where he slept with is numerous family, without fire, without comfortable clothes, the lack of tranquillity overwhelming his spirit, as he thought about the future of his family; everything, all, was in conspiracy against his own health. He thought of saving again, with the hope to leave something to his family when he died. But, what could he save? He limited the household expenses to the extreme limit, as he saw dreadfully that the pink cheeks of his little children had disappeared, and so was he, himself, feeling famished.
Santiago realized his dilemma, that if one is not made of iron, nobody knows what to do: save at the cost of the health of your loved ones, so one could leave them a few coins at the time of one's death, maybe money to be spent in medications to combat the anemia of his offspring, or not save so he could feed his family better and be without anything, penniless when he would go. Then he would think of the helplessness of his family, maybe prostitution of his little daughters, the "crime" his loved sons would commit, to get a piece of bread, and the sadness of his noble spouse.
Meanwhile tuberculosis had advanced in his beaten body. His friends fled from him, afraid of contamination form the sickness. The bourgeoisie would retain him at the shop as he could still work, and as could labor, he could get good sums of money from the unfortunate slave.
The time arrived, nevertheless, the moment when Santiago was not useful, neither for God nor for the Devil, and that bourgeois who used to pat his back when he was tired, after leaving the shop in the afternoon, after making his boss richer, and his health poorer, fired him, as it was not profitable to leave him at the shop; he was not producing anymore.
With tears in his eyes, Santiago arrived at home one afternoon, when nature and all things smiled. Children played in the street; birds pecked here and there the asphalt; dogs with intelligent and smart eyes, watching people walk around, unable to guess the sorrow or happiness of the human hearth. Horses swept with their tails, from the persistent flies bothering their polished legs; the newspaper boys would amuse the scenery with their yelling and their roguishness; the sun was setting in a purple bed. So much beauty everywhere! So much sadness in Santiago's home!
Between accession of cough, deep sighs and moving sobs, Santiago told his loyal wife the sad news: "Tomorrow we will not have bread..."
Oh, kingdom of social inequality, you take so long to arrive!
Everything that could be pawned went to the pawnshop; this is what you call these caves of thieves protected by...the law! To the pawnshop one went, and all the few small jewelry they have had, going from parent to children of the poor race; to the pawnshop went those shawls his mother-in-law displayed when young, and which were treasured as dear relics; to the pawnshop went that beautiful painting, the only luxury from the room that was, at the same time, kitchen, dining room, living room, and...bedroom; to the pawnshop went the humble clothes they owned.
The illness in the meantime, not losing time: much advanced, worked without tire, eating up Santiago's lungs. Black masses would be expelled from the patient's mouth on each access of his cough. The malnutrition, sadness, and lack of medical attention, dragged the patient to his tomb, as so it is said. There was no other choice but to get into that prison, in that hateful, mediocre welfare, into which the bourgeoisie condemn humans who have produced so many beautiful things, and so much richness, so many good deeds, for such a pittance that can be obtained with such a damned salary.
To the hospital he went with his skin and his bones, the unfortunate Santiago; meanwhile his noble companion went from one factory to another and workshop to workshop imploring to any scrooge to exploit her arms. Until when, disinherited brothers, would you decide to overthrow the iniquity of the actual capitalistic system?
At the hospital, he lasted a few days...was helplessly declared by the doctors, his illness was terminal, and he was confined to the incurable ward. No medicines, poor nutrition, no medical care; this is what charity did for our sick patient, while the bourgeoisie, who exploited him all his life, would carelessly squander, in going out on sprees, from the coins earned at the sake of that poor man's health.
Santiago requested to be released from the hospital. There was no reason to be a prisoner, and during that beautiful morning, that perhaps was the saddest of this poor afflicted man's life, a policeman dragged him, "as a vagrant," through a public park, going like this, from one prison to another.
The lovely Californian sun was shining intensely. The beautiful avenues flourished with well-dressed people and happy faces; puppies happier than millions of human beings resting in the arms of pretty and elegant bourgeoisie women, shopping while Santiago, in the police car, would hear once in a while this exclamation: "Bah, a drunk!"
(From "Regeneración," number 35, dated April 29th, 1911.)
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