My name is Antonio Marez, but my friends and brothers sometimes call me Tony. I’m eight years old and live in Guadalupe, just outside of El Puerto in New Mexico, with me madre Maria, mi padre Gabriel, and mis hermanas Deborah and Theresa. I have three hermanos: Andrew, Eugene and Leon. They fought in the war and came back changed men. Until her death, la Grande, Ultima, lived with us; she came when I was six, though she had known my family for years and was present at my birth. Ultima was a healer, though the townspeople feared she was a bruja, a witch.
Growing up on the llano is difficult. Step into my life as I tell you about the peer social world in the plains of El Puerto, New Mexico.
I have a group of friends from school that I hang out with: Abel, Bones, Ernie, Horse, Lloyd, Red and the Vitamin Kid. I also pal around with Jason, Samuel (the Vitamin Kid’s brother), Florence, and Cico, but I normally only see these guys at home or in the summer.
Horse loves to wrestle, but Bones is crazy. The Vitamin Kid is the fastest runner in our town of Guadalupe. Florence does not believe in the Catholic religion, which is a sin. He died with sin on his soul. Samuel in Cico believe in the Golden Carp. I saw it once with my own eyes. Jason’s friend the Indian said that the Golden Carp is like another god.
There is a bad place in our town: Rosie’s house. I am scared of Rosie’s house because it represents sin. The women in Rosie’s house are unclean and the men that enter are marked with mortal sin that they can’t erase. My brother Andrew, my favorite brother, went here often before he left town again with my other brothers.
I started school later thank kids my own age, and I was the oldest student in Miss Maestas’ first grade class. I did not speak very much English at the beginning of the year, but Miss Maestas’ taught me how to read English and write my name. I made such progress by the end of the year that she promoted me straight to the third grade, where I could be in class with all the guys, like Horse and Bones!
My friends and I are not old enough to drink. We haven’t made our First Eucharist yet, so we don’t even get to have altar wine. However, there is an evil man in town, Tenoria Trementina, who is the saloon-keeper in El Puerto. Narciso, the town drunk used to frequent the saloon, but became enemies with Tenorio because he supported Ultima. On the night of her death, he tried to warn everyone that Ternorio was going to kill Ultima, but no one believed him because he was drunk. Ternorio killed Narciso that night too.
I have dealt with bullying in the schoolyard before. Ernie especially likes to pick on me and make fun of me. Red gets bullied a lot too because he is a Protestant and the rest of us are Catholic. Jason also gets made fun of because he hangs out with an Indian. The bullying isn’t so bad. It makes me feel like one of the guys, and like I’m growing up.
A war veteran in our town, Lupito, suffered from the war disease before he was killed. My brothers suffered from this too. It was not much different than Narciso’s drunken stupors. My brothers became restless. Lupito became violent. There is no way to rid yourself of the war disease other than death, at least that is what the men of the town say.
I have seen a lot of death in my young life. The first death I ever saw was Lupito’s. He was killed by a mob after he shot the sheriff in one of his fits of war sickness. My friend Florence died too, when he was diving into the river and drowned after being caught in some wire. He did not believe in God, so I am afraid he went to Hell. One of Tenorio’s daughters died too, though I didn’t see her die. Father Byrnes would not let her be buried in the church because he thought her soul was evil. I also saw the deaths of Narciso and Ultima on the same night. Tenorio shot Narciso because he was trying to warn everyone that Ultima’s death was coming. Tenorio also killed Ultima that night, and killed her owl, her spiritual guide, as well.