One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is when I played with my friends at an abandoned house around my elementary school. It was a marvelous house, the walls were made out of branches tied together and the roof out of palm leaves. It had no electricity nor windows, all the lighting it had came from the few sunlight that passed through the narrow spaces between the branches of the walls. The most amazing thing was that this palapa had two levels. With every step we made we heard the wood cracking, it was going to fall at any time. We didn’t know who build it nor who used to live there, we only knew that it had always been abandoned. One day we found a bee hive and decided to throw it down. We all got stung, however nobody cried because when you are 10 years old you never let your friends see you crying.
Can a 10 years old kid find something better to do than playing at a two levels abandoned palapa? Yes, the excitement of the house was not only for playing in there knowing that at any second it may fall down, but to get a better look at the woman who live next door; Doña Concha, the witch.
Doña Concha had dolls hanging from a tree outside her house and a skull on top of her door, that was all I could see spying from the second floor of the abandoned house, and for a 10-year-old kid that was good enough to prove she was a witch. Not to mention that she had a fake eye, and wore the same dresses all the time. I think she made her clothes herself, it was a piece of fabric sawed with an elastic on top, she put it on just above her breast, I think she never wore a bra. Her dresses looked like a towel.
I remember that on our way home after school, as we passed by Doña Concha’s house we all would shut up, walk faster and never turn our head on the direction to her house which by the way, was filled with her many dogs that were not friendly at all. Probably the dogs were the reason why we broke into the palapa on the first place so we would be “safer” in this fragile construction keeping a better watch on the witch rather than on the level were the dogs could bite us.
When I turned 13 I left my house, and with that I forgot about Doña Concha. Fifteen years later I went back home, one day I saw Doña Concha walking on the street with her many dogs behind her. She looked way older, I was surprised of how much someone can age during that time. Despite the damage that time has made on her, I recognized her immediately. Now I am 28, I don’t believe in witches anymore, but when I saw her I understood why I thought she was one. Her head was a mixture of grey and black hair, I could not tell if her hair was dirty or if that was her natural color. She was wearing the same old dress, her skin was not as bright as bronze like I remember, I think the many days under the sunlight of my town turned her skin darker and redder; like cinnamon, not with the beautiful smell but for the reddish, the opaque and the wrinkled.
One day I saw an attractive young man outside of Doña Concha’s house. He was tall with brown-dark skin, he was strong and it was very easy to see the hard life he has had because of the noticeable scars on his body. He didn’t have a delicate appearance, he was more like a rustic beauty. I was surprised that the dogs that would at anytime chase anyone who was stupid enough to step close to that house, were around him in total sign of respect. There was something in his eyes that reminded me of Doña Concha. When he noticed my presence, I waved with a slight movement of my head. He waved back the same way.
Later that day I asked my parents who that man might be. They said he is Dona Concha’s son. They also told me the story of her eye; Doña Concha is originally from Veracruz, there she used to dance to entertain men, one of whom fell in love with her. This man wanted to marry her, but Doña Concha rejected him. In a fit of rage, he grabbed a knife and hurt her. She survived but lost one eye, she would never be hired as a dancer again. Doña Concha ran away and ended up living in my town, right next to the abandoned house.
I was confused to hear that Doña Concha has a son. But I was happy to know that the witch of my childhood is also a mom. I was glad to hear my parents talking about her being an “entertainer” and also a mother without any judgment, because I know that attacking the sexual morality of a woman is one of the most popular strategies to discredit her. Doña Concha can be a witch, she can be a mom, she can be an entertainer, she can be whatever she wants.