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Saint Who?


Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

I’ve come to know a fair number of saints, both dead and alive, since I moved out here to one of the last stops before you start hearing Portuguese and yet I’m always surprised when there is yet one more to discover and then puzzle at its English translation (try both major and minor St. Jameses on for size).

In fact, these holy men and women have become such a part of my day to day life that I now feel totally comfortable being on a first name basis with them. Just the other day I strolled through Santa Maria on my way to meet someone in San Juan, who lives down in San Blas, in order to talk about what we were going to do on our day off, which was of course thanks to Santo Tomas de Aquino. I never forget my youngest daughter’s birthday because it happened on San Jorge and when I cross San Francisco, he no longer takes offence that I had once thought of him only as an earthquake prone city on the west coast of the United States.

The worship of all of these do-gooders or in some cases done-bad-toers seems to make more sense to me than fawning on the venerable virgins that grace every village, mountain, stream and town from here to the Pyrenees. Monotheism and the first commandment aside, the image of a dapper sword-swinging saint chopping the heads off of your wrong-religion enemies surely lends itself to a fiesta more readily than that of a doe-eyed 13-year-old girl dressed in billowy whites, but that could be a question of taste.

It’s not the first time, however, that I’ve managed to adapt to local mores. While living in South East Asia I became quite familiar with the Bodhisattvas that kept the drinking jars safe all the while keeping snakes at bay. I’ve even managed to chalk up a few celestial points on visits to several different Marabouts all the way from Rabat to Hadhramaut, of course when the fundamentalists were looking the other way.

Who am I to refuse a little extra protection? After all, there are more poisonous snakes in Laos than there are political parties and the nearest hospital was across the Mekong in Thailand. Whether it was the patron saint of this fine city or that particularly hard working midwife working in the San Pedro de Alacantara hospital who helped safely deliver my daughter is for the Minister of the Interior, Fernandez Diaz to uncover. He isn’t shy to let on that his sources inform him exactly which supernatural power is interceding in the lowly day to day affairs on this peninsula.

I might not know whether or not the aforementioned patron is a double agent working for Catalan separatism or if Santiago has anything to do with Real Madrid winning the Champions League but I do know now that it isn’t only the capital of Chile and can now put names to a lot of anguished faces on the walls of the Prado. The strangest thing of all, given that I have all these saints around me, is that I will probably have to read the English press in order to be reminded whose day it is today.




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