It was 2:00 AM. We
heard vehicles stopping in front of the house. Almost immediately, Leo had crossed
the alley. He reported in the backyard applauding softly, at the same time he
---Let's go! Let's go señores! Let's
move quickly and quietly!
Everyone stood up immediately.
Each one directed himself, with his belongings, toward the vehicle that was still running. It was a Toyota pickup truck, it looked brand new. People
were climbing into the back of the truck. The driver, a very tall and vigorous
man, standing by the opened front door of the truck was looking at the people while they hurriedly tried to get into the vehicle. Leo was urging them to hurry up. Before
getting in, Juan and I each paid Leo our fare. He stuck the money into his pocket
without even counting it. The driver, who saw the money, complained to Leo:
---Listen Augusto! You didn't tell me there were so many people! Give me some more money.
Then Leo, somewhat bothered, ordered Frank:
---Give him twenty pesos more!
---Ok. ---answered Frank, who a few seconds later got into
the cab with the driver, who was quite satisfied with the extra money.
In very little time, almost every one had gotten into the back
part of the vehicle. We were packed together to the bone. Ana and Carmen were in the front seat with Frank and the driver.
Juan and I would have preferred to accompany Leo, but his car was so full
that there was no room for anyone else. The pickup truck soon took the East Road. Leo stayed behind. He still had to complete
one last errand for the trip. We raced to catch up with the minibus driven by
José and Pedro and loaded with the other passengers.
Frank was supposed to tell the driver which way to go. The driver was driving very fast, to the point that many of us began shivering in
the rear part of the truck.
---This driver is crazy! ---said a fat woman sitting next to
me, who leaned all her weight on me when the driver made his brisk turns.
The driver maintained his high speed. Soon we left behind the cities of La Romana and Higüey. Then
we entered onto an unpaved road, bumpy and crude, yet the driver kept up his uninterrupted pace consuming every curve, rising
into the air a cloud of dust behind us. In the meantime the cold air of the morning beat against the crowded group in the rear part of the vehicle. Some men were standing up in the front, grasping the cross bar behind the cab. And on the roof of the cab, one of the men pounded down his fist several times until he got the driver's attention; he shout at him:
---Slow down! It's
not a bunch of bananas what you're carrying back here!
The driver only slowed down when we caught up with the minibus. Without stopping, both vehicles continued along this deserted road. The minibus was also overfull; some passengers were hanging out of the door. In addition to the human cargo, this vehicle was carrying two motors for the boats and several plastic
tanks filled with gasoline.
The night was as yet serene and clear; the sky was crowded
with stars. Above us, we could just make out the moon hidden behind white clouds. Before us, we had the deserted road. We
could see no vehicles ---besides ours---, no people, no animals; every once in a while a house; and, on both sides of the
road, low bushes covered the flat land.
After an hour and a half of traveling, we stopped on the edge
of the dusty road. Not too far from there was the beginning of a hamlet with
tall and leafy trees. The village slept under the motionlessness of the night. Its wooden houses, covered up with zinc, "yagua" and "cana" were in front of us. Most of them were located on the right hand side of the road.
When we got off, the two groups came together in the middle
of the road. Pedro, Frank and José were answering people's questions.
---Why don't we go on up to the beach? ---inquired one of the
---Señores, everybody listen to what I'm going to say ---said
Frank, with his rested voice-:
---The beach is very close, but we have to wait for Augusto
here so we can all go in at one time. Augusto is working on bringing a yola from
La Romana. He'll be here any moment.
In the meantime, we ought to keep quiet so we don't wake up the neighbors.
---You see that small entrance on the left? ---said Pedro hurriedly- It leads into a private farm beyond which we'll find the beach, just four kilometers
Pedro was the third and last of Leo's assistants. He was a short black skinned guy with brown eyes. His physical
structure was that of a very strong man with a tough demeanor. He had a
visible scar which went from his forehead towards the back of his skull and got lost in his straw hair. Different from Frank, Pedro always spoke quickly, with an
air of grand authority. His dynamism revealed his wealth of experience in matters
of passage in yola.
Half an hour went by and still we were waiting for Leo. Many of the travelers had thrown away some of the food that got spoiled on the way. The crackers that Juan and I had brought were crumbled and, unfortunately, he dumped
them all on the floor when trying to take them out his bag. He commented:
---Raul, it looks like we're going to go hungry, any ways.
----I think so, Juan ---I whispered, cold and excited.
It was cold and the passengers were worried because of the
delay. But after a forty minute wait, there were certain expectations. It was already four o'clock. In the distance, we perceived
the lights of a vehicle that was coming quickly. We could guess it was a car,
but we tried in vain to distinguish another vehicle behind it. Leo arrived in
the car. As soon as he got out, he was surrounded by the crowd of people who
filled him with their many questions. He kept silent for a few seconds.
---Where is the yola? ---insisted Pedro.
Leo had a sad and tired face.
He became very serious and said:
"We have been greatly inconvenienced ---he started talking
slowly with a disconsolate óbice---, the driver that was to bring us the yolas
didn't show up. Señores, since yesterday there have been rumors about our making
this trip. We have been doing business with a truck driver who, last night, brought
us a yola and today was supposed to bring us the other one. But this morning
the driver informed us that the truck's owner found out that he was doing this kind of business, and he prohibited him from
continuing to carry yolas for illegal trips, arguing that his truck could be confiscated.
Nevertheless, the driver assured us that he was going to live up to his word of bringing us the last yola, anyway. But the guy didn't show up...- to get another driver with a truck who would
risk bringing us that yola is something that will take time.
The news brought a wave of discouragement. A woman lamented:
---What a shame, how awful!
These fucking trips! If they don't have one problem they have another; but they never turn out to be OK.
---You're right! -complained another woman---, I've been trying
to leave for six months and something always happens. I thought that everything
was going to be different with these organizers.
---Everything was going OK. ---said José, trying to smooth
over the situation---; but no matter how hard you try, you can never control everything.
But I can assure you that I'm going to get even with that driver. He should
not have led us to believe one thing and at the last minute hide himself like a scared child.
---In the meantime -said one angry man---, it's us who are
screwed. It had better not be a trick to cheat us out of our money, because I
kill anyone for my money.
Pedro, who was not too far away from the man, upon hearing
him speak like that, approached him; he showed him his right fist, it was a fat and strong fist, and while balancing it very
close to the man's face, he spat on him this threat:
---If you don't want to die ahead of time, don't talk shit,
you son of a bitch!
A serious fight was about to take place. But José and Leo intervened. Jose broke Pedro away from the
other man, while Leo said:
---Be quite, be quite!
There are houses close by. I hope to God they haven't heard this racket.
And quickly clapping
his hands together, Leo said:
---Let's get out of here!
Every one get into the vehicles again! We have a yola waiting for us. Let's get to the beach and those who are most in a hurry to leave, let them leave
and those who can wait, let them wait.
Once on the vehicles again, we started onto the small road
that led to the beach. At the beginning there was a flooded ditch that was hard
to cross. The density of the trees made it more difficult -the low branches got in the way and the vehicles had to be forced
to get them through-. In the back of the pickup truck, we had to defend ourselves
by lifting some of the branches with our hands. One of the men, happily shouted:
---We should quit speaking nonsense! These are great organizers! Look at the faraway and hidden places that they have found to get us into.
---It's true...- ---approved others.
And so, as tightly packed together as we were, we managed to
make knight of the journey and take pleasure in the upcoming voyage and the excited
atmosphere. After crossing the ditch, the vegetation became less dense. We saw
the starry sky again and the moon, which was now completely undressed enhancing the restlessness of that clear dawn. The road was dry but almost impassable: it had
deep cattle tracks and we could clearly see the trenches left behind, undoubtedly, by a big tractor truck that frequented
Some one got off the minibus and opened a large gate of barbed
wire that blocked our path. The road became more tortuous. And at just one hundred meters from the large door, Leo was asking for help. His vehicle could advance no more. The car was abandoned
on the road and its passengers got into the other two vehicles. They got in,
one on top of other, literally. But the beach was just two kilometers away, two
kilometers where barbed wires limited both sides of the road. To the right, there
were dense bushes, to the left was a vast flat field covered with grass for the