The Prophecies of Zumbado

It gave me a little start to read the collection of papers devoted to Hector Zumbado on Penultimate Days and in the Blog of Enrisco. I fell into the story about how many we had given up for dead – this evil mania of burying people who are still breathing – to who was the most indefatigable partier, jokester, and badmouther of bureaucrats, functionaries, and administrators. Zumbado has given us all the best of his jokes, the most accurate impersonations: we come to believe that we have escaped from this absurdity, when in reality he observes us still from this “state of grace” in which he left a mysterious beating.

In the midst of the buzz of homage, I managed to find a copy of his hilarious Lemonade which, in spite of its yellowed gazette pages, made me laugh for the umpteenth time. The most lacerating of his jokes I found in the pre-logue – a form that the author calls a mix of prologue and epilogue – where, with a tone that he wants to seem serious, he announced:

“Due to the time in which Lemonade was written (1969-1971) – one of the most difficult economic periods we have had which required the introduction of a series of measures and controls in distribution (plus some deficiencies in the organization, plus some overflowing imagination in some administrators in the commercial area), many situations that arise (in the book “Lemonade”) are no longer valid because they have been overcome by the natural progress of the Revolution…”

And there it is, the painful stab of the joke, the prophetic gag masked in negation. Zumbado knew it was not a turning point, that what seemed temporary and accidental in reality was systemic and permanent. Therefore, even today his stories are bitingly real… strikingly forceful. I was especially taken with his text on Chapucio*, that clumsy willful one who, “If administering a playground, why go through all the silliness of fixing the play equipment if the children, certainly, don’t protest, don’t send memorandums, don’t go in front of the assembly to demonstrate? They are always smiling and looking happy.”

I note, then, that we continue to go through the same thing, although the officials have been fattened and call themselves managers. Only now we are without the whip of Zumbado and without the consolation of a refreshing lemonade.

*Translator’s note: A person who says they can do or fix anything but who always makes it worse.

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