“A man without honor…”

Sixteenth century Spanish author Cervantes, from Don Quixote:  ” A man without honor is worse than dead.”

As a small child, Josefina (“Fina”) never knew fear.  Whether riding horses bare-back (at night, especially), climbing the highest coconut trees, crawling through the rough vegetation on the ranch in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico (hunting with her brother and using a sling-shot), Fina developed her warrior skills.  Her father Pedro trained her to wield the sabre (and machete for cutting sugar cane) to kill the hogs needed to feed one hundred ranch workers for lunch.  On a six hundred acre ranch, sugar cane and tobacco were the primary cash corps, and many hands were needed at harvest time.

Fina, 10 yrs. old (or so), became the protector of her older brother Peje (Pedro), who frequently was being picked-on, especially on the school’s playground.  He needed Fina’s help to stop the bullying, especially from bigger boys.  (Fina said he had green eyes, like the monster raven bird.) And, one brutish boy in particular, never seemed to learn the hard lessons of Fina’s fury: if he hit upon Peje,  Fina always, and quickly, arrived to  beat-off el Bestia,  with flying fists and kicks. This proved to be a frequent occurrence.

Her mother Santos called Fina ” el demonio”, a demonic force of nature. Yet her father encouraged his daughter’s unbridled energy, especially when rescuing young Pedro from school beatings.  He called Fina his Princess, and told her many times she was never, ever meant to suffer (nor was her brother intended to suffer).  Fina said (later in her life) that she was descended from royalty, and a higher duty to serve others….but, she met an untimely death, centuries earlier.

But one day, the older boy acted, and exacted his pay-back.  Fina was walking home from school, and was ambushed by el Bestia, who grabbed her from behind, held Fina in a bear-hug, and threw her into a nearby large and prickly thistle bush.  Fina was trapped, and could not extract herself, until a man passing by, happened to see her and carefully removed Fina (torn-up clothes and all) from the thistle,  Fina, at that moment, vowed her revenge with a  planned counter-attack.

The inspiration for the plan became clear when Fina discovered a dead rat along the path taken home from school.  She scooped up the rat and buried it in a secret location, known only to her and Peje.  They only had to catch sight of el Bestia  walking along the path,  frighten him with a show of strength (enough frenzied friends, so he would start running scared), and then chase him down ( near-by where the  rat was buried). Then Peje could dig-up the rat, and Fina would finish the deed.

And, that is what really happened.  As luck would have it,  Fina sometimes would ride her horse to school, with brother Pedro seated behind her. On the way home, they spotted el Bestia, up ahead,  walking in front of them. He was harassing the group of Fina’s friends, and did not notice her horse fast approaching.  Then, turning around, he saw the horse and it startled him. He started to run, but did not get far, when he stumbled and fell.  Very quickly,  furious Fina was off her horse, and with three others, pinned him on the ground, while Pedro rode off to get the rat, nearby.  Returning to the scene, he handed it  over to Fina, who proceeded to stuff the dead rodent into the bully’s mouth.

Later, the boy and his father visited Fina’s father and told him of the incident. Her father was incredulous (with Fina standing by his side). He dismissed the story.  But, admitting even if true,  said his daughter was an obedient child, and was “growing” into more adult-like behavior.

The story does not end there.  Many years later, Fina was walking down the street, in San Juan,  during her  lunch hour from work.  A car,  coming up the street, slowed, and then rapidly accelerated.  Driving his car toward her,  was the Brute (now a man).  He had spotted Fina. She then saw him, and turned away. With that, he drove the car off the street, onto the sidewalk, and nearly missed running her down.  Fina got up from the ground (after recovering quickly), and raged ” you SOB ,  get back here! I beat you up before, I’ll do it again today!”

Fina never saw the man again…


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