His dirty undershirt, stubble beard, and gold tooth retreated and advanced as the hammock swayed back and forth, and don Ernesto’s words kept steady pace with the accustomed rhythm. His wife had prepared a tortilla and a small portion of rice pudding for me, the family’s meal for the day, and as guest I was obliged to eat it all. Miriam Lazo was right, the campesino’s generosity is overwhelming. I hoped that someone in the barrio would soon bring a hog for don Ernesto to butcher, his only work now that he has moved back to the city.
A woodcutter by trade, don Ernesto Flores has moved often in his life, cutting, hauling, and selling wood to the highest bidder in times of plenty, and enjoying the sense of independence that work provided him. Now, times are thin; soil erosion is a serious problem and scarce natural resources are tightly controlled by the government. Moreover, the contra war has frustrated don Ernesto’s efforts at subsistence farming and forced him, grudgingly, to flee to the crowded capital.
Now, with nothing to do, don Ernesto sits in his hammock outside his humble ranchito for hours on end. He does not possess the skills or the desire to hold a regular job; he is unable to adjust to working for someone else; and he is unhappy about being separated from the land.
However, don Ernesto is naturally good-humored and greatly enjoys telling jokes and stories. Here, he recalls his personal experiences gained over some fifty-odd years I would guess, offers some wry political commentary, and waits for conditions to improve in the countryside.