Carol! La Carolina! Ya crecistes, Carol,” he tells me and hugs me warmly.

In La Antigua, he always looks lost and unsure of himself. Mi tío is schizophrenic and an alcoholic, that much I know. I find myself staring at him as he maneuvers his space on the street in La Antigua or tries to find a narrative to all the stimuli that are rushing past him, a stream that flows through the gray matter of his brain and the neuropathways which are so different from my brain.

I think, “Somewhere inside me are his genes and that possibility.”

I watch him and he knows I’m watching him, so he plays, changing from one side of the street to the next and he waves back at me while the cars pass between us. Like the petulant and bossy niece I have always been with him, I tell him to be serious because he could get hurt crossing the street that way. He covers his cigarette with most of the thin, stretched skin of his hand. “Don’t worry so much, you’ll see how the electromagnetic energy flows through your eyes and into your liver where you can breathe better.”

I tell him to stay put while I go to the bank and say “¡Tío, deja de molestar!” He laughs. I smile as I half turn my back on him; he waves back again knowing I’m watching. Since I arrived in Guatemala last December a plot has been brewing in my head to get him on medication and then build him a home in Media Luna with a bike on his own small plot of land where he can plant his own coffee and bananas and roam the fincas in peace. He’d have a small bed, a table to read his newspapers, a small TV, and his new glasses. I can then come and visit him, sleep on the hammock and drink coffee on the porch overlooking the endless rows of banana and palm trees while he sits on the stairs and sings old boleros with his cracking, croaking voice – the same voice and song his father would sing before he disappeared into the fincas and was never heard from again. “Hace un año que yo tuve una ilusión, hace un año, que se cumple en éste día.”

This month we are taking him back to Media Luna. It is what he wants, every day he speaks of it by telling us about the pounding in his chest that will not let him sleep at night and the ceilings that press down on his eyes. As I tuck him into the hammock in the patio of our home, making sure his head is warm and his feet are comfortable, I think of how taking him back will be the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.

Kara Andrade is a Central American-based freelance journalist who has worked as a multimedia producer and photojournalist for Agence France-Presse, France24, Americas Quarterly, Associated Press, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and other publications. If you are interested in helping Neftalí get a house in Media Luna, a fund raising project is being organized through

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author