The Mango Tree Incident

                                                                                      The Mango Tree Incident


                On our walk today we passed a mango tree that still had a couple of green mangos on it, despite the season having passed. I was reminded of a story that my father, Oscar, told me many years ago.

                He was a young child, living in Barrio Santo Domingo in the mountain town of Peñuelas. He must have been only about seven or eight years old because he was still in school, and I know that he only studied until the third grade.  The teacher had not shown up to school, so there were no classes that day.  Young Oscar took advantage of the free day to hang out with some of his buddies. They spotted a mango high up in a tree that was just starting to ripen up. “Un mango pinto,” they called it, and the partially rosy fruit was beckoning to them, taunting them. Their mouths were watering as they took turns tossing rocks up to try to dislodge the mango from its stem. Disappointed, the other boys gave up, but Oscar declared that he would climb the tree and get that mango. With his friends watching from below, he climbed way up and then scooted along the branch bearing the mango until he was almost within reach. Suddenly, there was a loud crack. The branch broke and Oscar fell to the ground, landing on his hands and knees. His friends scattered and left him there yelling in pain, but eventually some of them crept back and helped Oscar up. They sat him on un muro – the low wall of a small bridge along the road. A passing motorist stopped and took Oscar to the town clinic.

                 Somehow, word got to my abuelo Flor that his son had been hurt, and he showed up at the clinic. Oscar had broken both wrists. He was expecting a scolding from his stern father, but instead, Flor asked him if he had eaten any lunch. When his little boy shook his head no, Flor went to the corner café and bought a plate of rice and beans. Since Oscar could not use his hands, Flor tenderly and patiently fed him.

                This is the only story that my father ever told me about his dad. From others I heard some not-so-nice stories about Flor, but this memory was so precious to Oscar that it was the only one that he ever shared with me.

                My book, Luisa, and the sequel that I am working on contain family stories that have been slightly revised and recycled. For example, when Luisa was remembering how she had fallen off a horse as a young girl while riding on a mountain trail, and how she had hurt her tailbone so badly that she could barely walk—that actually happened to me in real life. When Juanito and Vicenta were fighting over a battered old toy and Chenta marched out to the batey, snatched the disputed object and threw it over the edge of the batey down towards the ravine…something very similar happened in real life to people that I know. When people hollered from the mountainside across the ravine and Ricardo and Moncho descended to the “meeting place” at the bottom of the ravine to receive some bad news…I personally witnessed that form of communication in the mountains of Utuado some fifty years ago.

                The mango tree story does not appear in Luisa, but I am going to find a way to incorporate it into the sequel. Someday, if you read something similar in my next book, just remember that you read about it here first…the real story of “The Mango Tree Incident.”