Los Caminos de la Vida

July 20, 2012

I don’t know why, but I woke up with this song in my head (also had another zombie apocalypse dream; I’ll have to write a vignette of those).

Anyway, this song is so special to me for many reasons. For one, it’s sung by an old school Colombian duo–two guys that came from the same town my mother was raised in. And two, it’s in the vallenato style. I don’t like merengue, I don’t care for cumbia and I only like salsa from the 60s-70s but I love vallenato. Something about it–the accordion– is very folk and tropical at the same time. Maybe it’s also because my aunt loved vallenato.

My aunt commited suicide when she was 27 (same age as Monkey Man). She drank a bottle of cyanide, spent nearly a week in the hospital’s ICU until her organs just gave out. The doctors had said there was no chance of her surviving the extent of the internal damage, but while in the hospital bed, between brief moments of consciousness, she kept saying that God was going to give her a chance to live for her kids  (a three year-old boy and an infant girl) and that maybe she’d made a mistake.

She passed away in the spring of 1993, and my mother always tells me about how much I remind her of my aunt, her sister. I only remember her in pictures and vaguely in my early, early childhood. I’m often told my aunt was the artist, always painting and drawing. My mother also says she was a comedian. When she was ten, she’d stand in the street corner of la vecindad and the wealthier kids would pay her part their allowances just to hear her make jokes.

She’d been raped at the age of eight and lived in the highly aggressive/violent family my grandparents formed. The home where the oldest boy had to knock out his father with a stick so he’d get off of his mother; the home where his mother nearly stabbed her husband to death on several occasions. (Not to mention the poverty.)

My aunt didn’t mention the rape to anyone until after she’d married, and my mother was the only one she told.  My aunt, ED, married a cop who only seemed help her create yet another aggressive family. She was the “darky” or “la negra/negrita” meaning “the black one”. She was the wild one too, always dancing and carrying a big Afro-puff above her bobbing head. My mom was the quiet, white one. Chalk-skinned-stick they called her because my mother is fair, the whitest of the siblings and was a very thin girl.

“Your butt is just like hers too! She hated having a big butt,” my mom tells me.

“Well, I both hate and love my butt,” I reply.

We laugh about it now, but I know it’s torn her up not having had a chance to see her at the time of her death. We were living in the States by then and being undocumented meant that if she flew back to Colombia for the funeral, she couldn’t come back to the U.S. to us, or rather, if she did it would have to be through the river or Arizona desert and risk death or deportation.

The lyrics of the song are so raw, simple and pure:

The Chorus
The paths of life are not how I thought
nor how I imagined they’d be when I was as a child.
They’re not how I believed them to be.

The paths of life are so difficult to tread,
difficult to walk down
and I can’t seem to find the exit…
etc.

“The Paths of Life” by the Little Devils aka Devil Brothers. (They should hook up with my Pretty Little Demons, huh?)

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