Monguito the Water Carrier and the Bureaucracy

5 Mar

Monguito’s wagon retraces the streets of San Germán, this dusty place where God has brought me, looking for customers, evading the inspectors and also the road home.

An unhealthy place without running water could be the best place for Monguito and his four or five cart drivers dedicated to selling the vital liquid. But, as the saying goes, the drunk thinks one thing and the bartender another.

The water carriers who bring the water to the houses for six pesos a tank, must pay an inspector one peso, in national money, for each trip. But in addition they have to have all their documents in order for that army of voyeurs who peer into the individual lives of every citizen, the State inspectors. The water carriers have to carry a document that attests that they are self-employed, another that swears their cart belongs to them, another assuring their horse (or mule or mare) is in good health, and so on, enough to bulge in the small portfolio bulge which Monguito keeps warily on one side of his waist.

But most amazing is that these humble workers must pay each year to renew accreditation, at a cost of ten pesos,that certifies that the horse is theirs. Yes, that’s what I said and it’s not a play on words. The property owner must renew the ownership of the animal, or else lose it.

San Germán is less than twenty kilometers from the Cauto River, its inhabitants live in poverty and a constant lack of water, and yet the authorities allow themselves the luxury of harassing those who try to alleviate these or the most urgent needs.

I follow with my bucket on my shoulder, until the snitches hide and the bureaucracy takes off, at least for a while.

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