Stories From El Salvador: Norma

Nov 5, 2018
12:34 PM
Originally published at Stories From El Salvador

People visit the graves of their loved ones, during the commemoration of the day of the dead at a cemetery in Panchimalco, 18 kms south of San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Day Of

by Norma, Chalchuapa

It’s always the same on November 2nd, Día de los Difuntos. Faded black and white pictures, three plastic flowers, a candle and an embroidery textile that reads “Que en paz descansen.”

The day is somber, quite, like if time had taken a nap. Once my grandmother’s sister arrives, the hypothetical scenarios begin: What if si hubiéramos sido nosotras y no ellos, what if that day we had gone to the market instead of them, what if we had paid more attention to her headaches, what if we had visited another doctor, what if we had prayed more…

After the revisits of the what if scenarios come the memories of what they would be like if they were alive. They wonder if they’ll still be married, uglier, chubbier, richer, or poorer. Yet the inevitable always comes as soon as the first tear is shed. It always hunts my imagination how it is possible to still cry hysterically after so many years. It’s a lie when they tell you that it gets easier with time, at least what I experience with my family.

Moments of silence are followed by a repertoire of funny stories only to start the crying again. Chosen music always seems to be boleros this day: Vicente Fernández, Pedro Infante, or Antonio Aguilar. Some of these are played repeatedly rarely feeling as if they were already heard. This is like performing open-heart emotional surgery diminishing the pain with beer, tequila, rum, or whatever spirit is around.

Here we can’t go to a cemetery to visit the home of the difuntos. I’ve come to realize that maybe that’s why the pain visits us yearly, leaving us with the worse emotional hangover of the year. The dehydration the day after it’s real and thank God my mom is always prepared with agua de coco in the fridge.