28 July 2006

Trujillo Blues

20 April 2006

TRUJILLO—The sun is a big orange ball the same color as the face of my Doxa dive watch. The Caribbean Bay of Trujillo turns the color of a finely blued gun barrel except where the sun burns a path of reflected orange across it. Dark skinned boys and girls play in the gentle waves off the end of a dock with a thatched roof. I am alone at the mahogany topped bar of the Rogue’s Galleria drinking a Port Royal beer that, in small type at the top, reads: “At 87° 56’ W, 15° 51’ N A FAIR HARBOR AND A SAFE ANCHORAGE.” These, I assume, are the coordinates for Port Royal--not the well known pirate town of Jamaica--but that of the same name on the Honduran Island of Roatan where the descendents of other pirates still live and from where William Walker sailed for Trujillo in his ill-fated last attempt to become president of Central America.
This is the last city of any size before the Myskitia jungle begins. It was here that Columbus first came ashore on the mainland of the new world and where the first mass was said. A statue of that rather lost Genoan looks out to sea. Here generations of pirates periodically came ashore to plunder and burn, at times leaving Trujillo desolate and nearly uninhabited. And it is here that Walker stood in the face of a firing squad and was buried in the old cemetery.
There is a frontier, end-of-the-world aura to this place. It is stunningly hot and everyone moves slowly. The people are an equal mix of Hispanic and Caribbean black and many go openly armed. There is a feeling of being on the edge, at the end of the line and I wonder if Walker heard the waves to his back, looked at the mountains ahead and down the black holes of the muskets and thought, “It might as well be here….”
After dark I walk through town. The few bars and restaurants are nearly empty and I am feeling slightly mad, the quiet and desolation of this place ringing in my ears. I walk into a place called Mambos and am the only customer. I order rum and Coke in what I think is Spanish but the waitress looks at me as if I had said, “My hat is big but dirty monkeys are eating my brain.” I politely repeat myself until it becomes pretty clear I am not saying beer, which pretty much means I must be saying rum. After finally getting my drink, which I don’t particularly want, I walk out onto the patio. High walls surround it and a huge spreading tree hung with baubles and chimes grows in the middle. It is unlit and the wind pulls at a loose flap of tin roof. On one wall is a large movie screen.
When the waitress comes out to ask the strange gringo sitting alone in the dark if he wants another drink she tells him they show movies on Sunday. He asks her why there are no people here at such a nice place and she replies, “It isn’t Sunday.” He decides against another, pays his tab and walks back into the night.

Dust clouds blow down the streets and I feel very lonely. Down the hill, from the beach I can here the Afro-Latin rhythms of Punta music. I walk down and at the entrance to the Arenas Disco is a heavy-set, fiftyish gringo by a dark pickup truck talking to two chubby, pre-pubescent local girls. I nod to him as I enter. He scowls back and turns away. Inside a few black girls are dancing on the small floor. I order a Port Royal and stand at the bar and talk for a while about nothing with a dred-locked man whose rusty revolver protrudes from the cargo pocket of his shorts. Like The Rogue’s Galleria down the beach the bar is open to the sand and sea. I walk out and down the beach and stare at the dark waves. The Arenas is the only place where there is any sound and movement so I walk back to the front where the unfriendly gringo had been. As I come around the corner one of the young girls is displaying her fat little proto-breasts to the man. She quickly jerks her shirt down. He is heavily built of a solid stature, square face and grey brush-cut hair that look ex-military. His face is sagging, and the corners of his mouth turn down. He stares at me as I walk by and his look is heavy with a confidant sadism built of years of doing things the world judges wrong except where the sun is too hot and life is cheaply sold, cheaply bought and cheaply taken. When I finish another Port Royal and leave he and the girls are gone.
Trujillo is quiet and nearly dark as I walk back to my room at the Hotel Plaza Central. I smear my body with DEET repellant and kill mosquitoes to pass the time until I am tired enough to sleep. There is that ugly moment when you know that sooner or later you have to sleep and that every time you smash the last malarial little bitch another three take her place. So the lights go off and you feel the sweat run in rivulets down your chest and the mosquitoes whine in your ears and finally unconsciousness comes.


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