A story of childhood memories in the coffee farm.
We usually look back at childhood memories with much fondness. They are a reminder of a time when one was innocent and everything was new. What happens in our childhood usually has a strong input in the adult we decide to become.
I remember when I was 9 and my mother took my brother and I to a book fair in downtown San Salvador. Besides leaving with classics like "Tom Sawyer" and "Michel Strogoff", I also left with a small Mexican handbook on how to practice pro wrestling. It came with detailed drawings explaining how to apply various holds and throws, plus a full-body bodybuilding workout. 27 years later, I love wrestling and strength training. The handbook, still in my old bookshelf in my mother's house, is still browsed once or twice a year.
Coffee was no different: My first memories of the farm involve my mom driving a 1973 Ford Cortina wagon for nearly two hours from San Salvador to the Western mountains. The last part of the trip was dirt road that ran for 2 kilometers until we stopped at the farm's big red gates. She would have to wait until the dust clouds disappeared to open them. We would enter a driveway that seemed eternal for a 6-year old. Cypresses and izote to the right, a full view of the miles and miles of coffee-filled mountains to the left, complete with a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean.
We'd reach the finca's casco and I would be fascinated by a field where the workers and people who lived nearby played football. The goal posts were made of bamboo. The best of all was the topiary on top the old, tall cypress hedges that surrounded the field: figures depicting a rubber duck, a bear, a rainbow and Disney characters like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse and Dumbo would welcome all into the farm. For my 3-year old brother and I, the farm's casco was a paradise.
It must have been a year or so later when we, alongside my cousin Hugo, met a child around our age that lived in a nearby farm. He was friendly and spoke only with deep, raspy sounds and hand movements. He was mute. I found this odd but what struck me the most was that he was barefoot. His feet were very dirty but he did mind it. I tried to ignore that as that made me uncomfortable. Why didn't he have shoes?
I asked my mother why he didn't have shoes and she said that some people in the country didn't have any. She didn't say much else. At age 6, my first notions of inequality and poverty had appeared. I realized I was on the "have" side. I didn't think much else for a while.
We would play with him whenever we saw him. Despite his friendliness, I'd lose my patience often because communication between us was difficult. My cousin was more patient and kind. My brother, being the youngest one, followed us in whatever we decided to do. We played with him until it was time for us to go back to the city or his time to go back to his house. Eventually, his muteness stopped being an issue. His lack of shoes became normal to me, but just at times.
Fast-forward 30 years later and I just finished watching a wrestling TV show after planning my activities for my next visit to the farm. The gates are no longer red but green, the topiary and the football field haven't existed for decades... I haven't seen the mute kid since I was 17...He had shoes...I am thinking what to do to bring the farm back to its glory days...and to stop kids from being shoeless...