We’re on our way back to Ireland…for our grandson’s first birthday.
It was probably a good time to leave.
‘A police report has been filed against you’, our lawyer told us last night.
‘You’ve been charged with robbery and gender violence.’
Lawyer: ‘Yes…well…I filed a complaint against Carlos’ widow, Janina. And against the municipality (the local government). And then I asked the farmhands to take away the building supplies they had delivered to the house. So, we just moved them to another part of the farm.
‘But she charged us both with robbery. I already went to the prosecutor and explained. He was angry because he said we should have asked permission before moving anything. But we know we can’t leave them there. Because by the time we get an order allowing us to move them, they’d already have finished the house…and they’d be living it in. And then we’d never get them out.’
The strange Originario War goes on. In the courts. Out in the mountains. So far, there has been arson, property damage, and a pushing match between one of our cowboys and the Originarios…but no serious violence.
And until now, the tiny valley where we grow grapes has been spared any trouble. There are no families there…and no Originarios, except Janina.
And as long as Carlos was alive, Janina was kept in check. But he was found drowned in our reservoir two months ago.
‘But what about “gender violence”?’ we asked.
Our lawyer laughed.
‘It’s the latest thing. They just throw it into everything. It means whatever they want it to mean. Of course, there was no real violence. You were there. Elizabeth was there too. We were very polite.’
We had tried to reason with Janina. She came into our little office at the ranch. We exchanged kisses on the cheek. Very friendly.
We explained that we needed the house for someone else who would take Carlos’ place at the vineyard. We offered to rent a house for her in town…and give her money every month.
‘That house is where my children were born’, she whimpered. ‘I just want to stay there for another year.’
Enter, Big Brother
It is hard to judge people from a different culture. You never quite know what to make of them. But we sensed something was not exactly what it seemed. She wrung her hands. She looked down. Tears filled her eyes. And then, when she was contradicted, she looked up fiercely…as if she were about to attack.
‘You’ll have to carry me out of there’, she challenged us.
‘But Janina’, countered our lawyer:
‘It’s not your house. It’s part of the farm. We want to help you, but we still need to operate the farm. We’re willing to give you money. We can help you find another place. You just can’t live there, because that’s a place we need for the vineyard caretaker.’
It didn’t make sense for her to stay there. Or to want to. She would be all alone, far from anyone else. Her children need to go to school. The school is a long way from the vineyard. Carlos used to drive them, but she doesn’t drive. And it takes two hours on horseback.
‘I’ll stay near the school during the week and just go to the vineyard on the weekends’, she proposed.
‘But there will be another family there. You certainly can visit…but someone else will have to live in the house’, we explained.
‘It’s a house that is for an employee. Always has been. That’s why you were there. Because someone has to live next to the vineyard to take care of the watering and everything. Now that Carlos is no longer with us, sadly, someone else will have to do it.’
We didn’t mention it. But the person who is supposed to live in the house now — and take Carlos’s place in the vineyard — is his brother.
Omar is a big man, with a handsome smile. He had been ‘married’ to Janina’s sister. When that didn’t work out, he took up with the daughter of one of our employees, a pretty woman named Lucretia. But Lucretia had a daughter by a previous paramour; the girl is now a teenager. Omar says he gave the girl a gentle slap to put her in her place. Lucretia called the police and Omar is now forbidden to see his family.
‘You’ve got to get her out of there’, Omar said to us, referring to his twice sister-in-law.
‘She is a wicked person. She’s trying to take my grandmother’s property. I can’t work with her around.’
The whole family hates Janina and suspects that she’s responsible for Carlos’ death. Earlier in the day, we visited Carlos’ grandmother, Eleena.
Eleena is a wiry woman, her face deeply crevassed by wrinkles and slightly bent from age. She lived her whole life up in the mountains at a ‘puesto’. You get there on horseback, following the river up the valley. After a while, you see a patch of green off to the left. Then, you find a path leading up the side of a hill to the flat top above. It is a beautiful spot, with fruit trees, ancient grape vines, and stunning views of Indian ruins on both sides. The stone pre-Incan terraces are still there. But the Earth has long since been washed or blown away. Protected by steep hills on three sides, the spot must have been inhabited for a long time. It has ‘morteros’ — holes made for grinding corn and other grains — in the large rock next to Eleena’s mud hut.
The Inca conquered this area less than 100 years before the Spanish arrived. But the Inca were smart. They took a few hostages, demanded regular tribute, and left the locals alone. The Conquistadors were harder to please. It took them at least 100 years to subdue the many tribes of the area. Then, they cleaned out the valley — sending some to work on large farms…and others were exiled to far-away regions where they would cause no more trouble.
Today, there are no people here who are ‘indigenous’ to the area. All are immigrants. Your editor is merely the most recent arrival.
Eleena would still be in her mountain fastness, but her family insisted she move in with her daughter in town. At 80 years old, it was too risky for her to stay on her own, hours away from our farmhouse.
‘She was never nice to me’, said Eleena of her grandson’s spouse.
‘She wanted me to sign something saying I was leaving my farm to her…but I refused. And then she stole things from my kitchen…like my cheese and knives.’
Valley of Death
One of the curiosities of the valley is that you don’t know who actually ‘owns’ what. Eleena spoke of ‘her farm’. But her farm is actually part of our farm. She has the right to stay there, legally, only because we allow it. But ‘legally’ doesn’t get you very far here.
We own things. But we can’t control them. The police don’t help. You have to negotiate, bribe, threaten — whatever you can do to keep a bad situation from getting out of hand, which is why it is so important to keep Janina away from the vineyard. Her brother is an Originario activist. If she were allowed to stay, it wouldn’t be long before others were there too. Then, under the protection of the ‘Originario’ law (if a person claims to be ‘Originario’, he cannot be expelled from your property), the group could not be dislodged.
Soon after, the valley — where there haven’t been any real Indians for at least 400 years — would be proclaimed ‘tribal land’.
‘This is a good thing’, our lawyer concluded.
‘What’s a good thing?’ we wanted to know. We’ve never been accused of robbery before. It didn’t feel particularly good, but maybe we’ll get used to it. ‘Gender violence’ wouldn’t look so good on our resume either. Perhaps the neighbours would be warned if we moved in nearby.
‘I mean, that they went to the prosecutor, rather than burning down another of our houses…or breaking our gates. I’d much rather fight it out in the courts, than on the ground.’
‘It’s already been a week since we moved her building supplies’, he continued, sounding a little like Caesar to the Soothsayer.
‘And we haven’t had any more problems.’
‘Yet’, we added.
For The Daily Reckoning Australia