Crazy Mario


Note: This is a recount of a story told by a woman and written from her perspective. The story is written in Spanish and English because that was how it was told. For the most part, the Spanish phrases are translated or restated with the same meaning in English. This bilingualism is a reality de la cultura fronteriza, the “Border Milieu”, el ambiente fronterizo, the distinct culture of the U.S.-Mexican borderlands.

NOGALES, Ariz. — Mario was part of our lives since we were small kids and today, 40 years later, I was one of two people at his funeral.

Every Christmas Mario was alone, solo, solo. “Ni padres, ni familia, ni esposa, ni amigos, nadie…” But every Christmas he would come with little gifts for the kids in my family that he’d buy from the Chinos at the store called La Tenaca. My favorite gifts, the least expensive, like the monkey with cymbals, were Mario’s.

Every family has their secrets that they guard, siempre hay secretos que se guardan en una familia. In my family the secret was the truth about Mario.

One day mi tía Meli y la mamá de Mario got in a fatal accident in Nogales, Sonora. Se murió la mamá de Mario, he was five and his only family was dead; so my family adopted Mario, we just took him; no había nadie más.

Mi tía Meli had dreams of Mario becoming  as great as her father, the  revolutionary general, General Camargo; and they would keep the secret of Mario’s mother from young Mario.

The secret would be kept because mi tía Meli felt responsible for Mario’s mother’s death so she promised a “Manda” to walk in religious pilgrimage the 60 miles to Magdalena, Sonora with the Manda of forgiveness, to kiss the statue of San Francisco, for her sin of killing Mario’s mother.

She made that walk for years, but became too old and fat. Now, Mario was a teenager and my father carried on the “Manda,” in secret. Estas mandas me parecían una locura, algo absurdo, pero fue para absolver el pecado que tomó la mamá de Mario. They were ridiculous pilgrimages, almost absurd, done in secret to make up for the secret sin that took Mario’s mother.

Imagine that since you were a kid the family was doing this crazy thing in secret. I didn’t even know about the secret until I paid for Mario’s funeral.

When we were young we loved Mario. I was his favorite because I had blond hair. Then when I got my first boy friend, he began to ignore me. When I saw him on the street he’d cross and would stare ahead; would you think that was your relative? I still have doubts. He stopped bringing me cheap presents from La Tenaca at 15.

Mario was human but distant. Whenever Mario heard mi tío Marco play the piano Mario would listen, staring into infinity. After two hours Marco Antonio would stop playing and Mario would just stand up and leave sin decir nada a nadie.

Then he found out that he was “adopted” by General Camargo.

General Camargo se enriqueció en la Revolución de 1910 from the wealth of the two large land owners in Chihuahua y los hacendados. Everyone knew how General Camargo got this wealth, but the treasure was never found.

Mario started digging for the treasure under his floor because his part of the inherited casa en la cuadra Camargo was Camargo’s bedroom. He dug for years and when he was found a week after he died with his cats on his body, he had been digging. His cats were his connection to life outside himself.

His fifteen cats were everywhere en la cuadra de General Camargo.

Once Mario tried to too kill my mother with a steak knife because his cats were shitting in her yard and she complained. Mario told my mom, “No más son animals y se pueden shit donde quieran!” It always amazed me that he tried to kill her, but he didn’t call her “perra” or “puta.”

Mario and his cats were alone for years; then he stopped coming out of his part of the house. Un día lo olimos, then one day we smelt it; we found him dead digging in his floor. Nearly every floor in every colonial house in Mexico is dug up, buscando tesoros.

When they came for his body the 15 fat cats were on top of him. Mario died with a digging spoon in his hand. Being his only relative my mom had to go to the coroner’s office and identify the body.

Three days later mi prima, la hija de mi tía Meli, came to the cuadraa Camargo. I was visiting my mom that day and mi prima fue llorando, llorando, “We’ve got to get Mario’s body now or they’ll burn it! I need $1200 right now to save his body!”

My mother didn’t have the money and Mario had tried to kill her, “No voy a pagar yo, casí me mató.”

So here I was en mi piyama y despeinada llevando pantuflas with my checkbook at the coroner’s writing a check to get Mario’s body out of the freezer and into the ground. Half an hour later mi prima y yo attended Mario’s funeral.

So Mario taught us that las familias no tienen que guadar secretos. Dile a tus hijos todo. Don’t keep secrets from the kids, tell them every thing, they’ll find out anyway.

Leave a Reply