Once Upon A Time . . .
By Herbert W. Piekow
The green-eyed Jesuit priest Father Bernardo came into Filomina´s life shortly after the death of both her parents, in the fall of 1925. At the time Filomina was married to the priest´s older brother Rafa. Rafa sat at the dining table, his muddy boots with their silver spurs on the waxed table top. “My brother is both a priest and a lawyer, so he can administer your father’s will.”
There was never any arguing with Rafa. Within the week Father Bernardo had made the journey from Guadalajara to Filomina’s family three hundred year-old-estate. After the Revolution, there were new inheritance laws, which no one knew how to administer. Already the family property was reduced from over 20,000 acres to about 1,600 acres. Rafa´s family had lost almost everything and their home lay in ruins. Both lay buried in the family’s weed-infested pantheon. Filomina knew her husband resented that her family had managed to save their home, some land and both their linen mills, mines and shoe factory. “You and your family always think you’re better than the rest of us,” he shouted one night when they argued about his philandering and drinking.
¨No, you blame others for your faults,” she remembered screaming as she threw a silver-framed photo of her parents. At first she had loved the older, once married and childless man; she dreamed of having his children and growing old with him. However, Rafa was nothing like her father; instead her husband stayed away for days at a time, drank too much and argued over trivial matters. Now he was trying to control her inheritance by having his priest brother come to manipulate her father’s will. Her father died of a broken heart, or rather he charged his horse off the cliff two days after the death his wife died trying to give birth to what would have been their only son.
“Father, you can stay in the casita behind the chapel.” Filomina said while they stood facing one another on the hacienda’s colonnaded entry patio. The next week was busy and full of gossip from other parts of Jalisco about the Calles Law that required all priests to register and to desist from any public statements about the government. All foreign-born priests were to be expelled immediately and any priest heard criticizing the government would be jailed and fined.
“I am a Mexican-born priest,” Bernardo said over dinner with his sister in law and drunken brother. “I think this will all be done with as soon as the President has made his point that after this last revolution we are all equals.”
“I don’t know,” Filomina said as she signaled the maid to clear the dishes before following the two men into the main room where a low fire burned in the fireplace.
“Today I heard that the Federalists in Guadalajara stormed the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and slaughtered everyone inside,” she said as she poured tequila for her husband and a glass of sherry for herself and the priest.
During the next couple of weeks, the priests made several trips to the courts in Ocotlan to process the will and argue the fact that everything was done according to current legalities and that, “Yes, there has been an addendum added after the Revolution that takes into account the distribution of properties to the landless.” The priest directed his response to the judge. During the past several months, Filomina and the priest had formed a strong working relationship and she respected her brother in law.
The final night Filomina had her cook prepare a mole for the departing priest. Rafa had been drinking throughout the day. When he entered the room, he walked to his wife and said, “How is my cold bitch?”
“As usual you´re drunk before dinner.” She turned and the priest pulled out her chair.
“You barren bitch.” Rafa leaned over his wife, “No children but you certainly provide every other comfort including your family´s grand home.” He poured himself more tequila. Filomina and Bernardo talked until he and Rafa left at daylight.
“They hung your husband and the priest from a telegraph pole alongside Guadalajara,” said the maid sometime later. “One of the ranch hands told me he saw the Federales lynch them.”
A few days later Filomina left for Guadalajara; she knew if they could hang Rafa for being Catholic, they could hang her for less. How ironic she thought: her husband had been martyred for being Catholic, something he was only because of birth.
She was living in her family’s Guadalajara home when she realized she was pregnant. When her son was born she named him Bernardo because of his green eyes.
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