Sunday, May 1, 2016

Signs that Berta is alive: Flower of Azalea, by Melissa Cardoza

Flower of Azalea
April 29th, 2016

She couldn’t have been six years old, or around that, barefoot. Leaning on a support beam, or hiding behind her mom’s body, Azalea would spy on me with her bright eyes full of mischief and shyness. Sometimes she would come up to my chair and with her little finger she would trace along the plastic armrest, up anPuchica! if that isn’t the prettiest name I have heard. And Azalea laughed through the few teeth she had at that age. Did you know that there’s a song named after you? She shook her head. Should I sing it to you? She nodded. Like the froth swept along by the mighty river, flower of Azalea, life surprises you with a hug. I changed the words to the bolero so as not to fill her little head with too much drama.
d down, the other finger in her mouth, her eyes looking at me. What did you say your name was? Azalea. ¡

From time to time I would run into her again, always in COPINH’s community center, Utopía, with her mom who would complain to me about school. Other times I would watch her playing around with her friends. Groups and groups of people would come through, for an assembly, for a ceremony, for a meeting or a party. Berta would be there, organizing, drinking coffee, fooling around, rallying people. Azalea would watch her with her eyes open wide because she drove a car like the men and spoke strongly.

Azalea had grown up. I ran into her at a mobilization of the Lenca women of COPINH during the occupation of the Attorney General’s building, an energetic action that grew from the fury of Berta’s sisters. Definitely the most powerful action so far. The women with their voices, their forms of protest, their strength and determination. Azalea was there holding up the traditional Lenca vara alta, she is an adolUtopía still resides in her face. What are you doing here, little girl, I ask her playfully. Well, here in the struggle.
escent, but that little girl from

Here in the struggle, it echoed inside of me. Later I heard her speak to the press, speaking about la compañera Berta, about COPINH, about her Lenca people, and then later in the People’s Summit. I listened intently to the crisp way she spoke, as resolute as a spring of water or a blooming tree. Her grounded words, precise, were spoken without raising her voice or gesturing wildly, without pretense or imitation.  

Azalea, the small flower of the mighty Gualcarque River. They threw stones at her that day when the delegation was attacked by people close to the company, that day when the crowd was divided, some indignant at not being well-enough protected, everything out of control, some coming to understand the difficulties lived through by people resisting industry’s advance, all feeling in their bodies the fear, experiencing the hate, the viciousness that followed Berta to her death.

On one of those long trips I took with Berta, miles on end traversing the land, those trips where we would laugh and debate, or be quiet for hours, we were coming back from a comrade’s funeral and I, caught up in my middle class anguish, told her that at this rate we would end up losing all of this country’s best fighters. And she, speaking more as expert than prophet, told me, Well yeah, they kill the becompa. I insisted, Berta, so then who is going to change this country? It’s not like there’s a lot of people with that level of determination, other wise we wouldn’t be where we are. And she looked at me with those dagger eyes that she would sometimes bring out, raising her voice: What the fuck is wrong with you, with your curly-haired self, the people are who will make change, the ones who always struggle, the sons and daughters of the people, we never run out of fighters, some come first and others later, but have some confidence, compa, otherwise what are we doing? What do we do all we do for, huh? 
st first, to fuck with the rest of us; but that’s how this goes,

Here in the struggle, Azalea said, just barely a young woman, with that mischievous Lenca smile, the same one Berta would have on as she says, See? What did I tell you?

Melissa Cardoza
April 2016

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