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Monday, May 26, 2014

RIP Israel 'El Charro' Rivas

At one point when my mom was sixteen, she'd had enough of living the lonely and fake oligarch life and took off for El Sunzal, a then tiny beach community in El Salvador.  In her stories to me, she seemed to imply that she lived off her wits and cunning, and while she did make some money giving tours to tourists (sometimes all the way to Guatemala), most of her income came from her brother and my namesake, Eduardo.

It was during this time she made friends with Isra.  He was a lifeguard at several beaches in El Salvador, namely El Majahual and fed several mouths with his meager earnings as such.  He and my mom lost touch after she left El Sunzal for Maui, then San Diego (where I dropped), then Guatemala.

She married Jaime, her second husband (twenty-one years her senior), in 1983.  Jaime's family was a very wealthy family which had made its fortune in coffee over the last hundred years, then diversified into banking, a car dealership (they held the monopoly on Subarus in El Salvador), et al.  In 1986, she convinced Jaime to rent a house on the beach in San Blas, adjacent to El Majahual.

As is common there, people would wander off the sand to entice weekenders with their various wares.  People would come by offering horseback rides, turtle eggs, parakeets, bread, nuts and so on.

One day a very tan man with sunbleached hair came by with a big black inner tube.  He was selling oysters and conchitas.  My mom recognized him instantly as Israel, whom she hadn't seen in more than a decade.  After a warm greeting and exchange, he came to me and asked me if I knew how to swim yet.  I said I didn't, and my mom hired him to teach me how to swim.

We'd see Isra every other week when he came by to unload some of his seafood.  He'd then jump into the pool with me to teach me to swim.

In 1989 things weren't going well and we stopped going to the beach.  My mom went to rehab in Boca Raton for her on-again/off-again addiction to coke.  She then divorced Jaime and I don't believe I saw Isra again until seven years later.

In December of 1996, I was back in El Salvador for the first time after having moved to the States.  Jaime invited me to spend Sunday at the beach house (he continued to rent it until 2003, God knows how many times over he could've paid for that thing with that rental money).  It just so happened Isra was now the caretaker of the beach house and lived onsite.

I didn't see him again until the next summer, when I came down for two months and spent as much time as I could at San Blas.  I had become extremely good friends with Eliud, Carlos, and Chamba. We all loved the beach and bonded instantly.

When I contracted Dengue fever in 2000, Isra and his wife took me to the doctor and paid for my medicine out of pocket.  My attempts to repay them were rebuffed multiple times, though I was able to pay for a new windshield for his pick-up truck when his previous one had been smashed four years later.

As previously mentioned, Jaime gave up the beach house in 2003.  Israel and his wife, Dinora, moved the family about as close to Punta Roca as you can be. They lived in a house owned by Dinora's family, who worked in Maryland as managers in banks.  I saw Isra and his boys many times on every trip to El Salvador.

The last time I saw him was July of 2012.  Carlos had married the sister of the mayor of the city of La Libertad and Isra was driving a garbage truck.  I found this out when I was taking my board out my rental car at Punta Roca and Isra slammed on the air horn of the garbage truck, then laughed his ass off as my face registered sheer terror. "¡Chele Pfeifer!", he said (chele is a term of endearment given to particularly pale people in El Salvador).

He moonlighted as a Charro aka mariachi singer and he LOVED it.

I was on Facebook today and saw a rectangular graphic commonly used in newspapers bearing his name:

The guy who had posted it was Pando's (nickname given to Eliud) second or third cousin who was also a caretaker in San Blas.  Then I saw that the city of Puerto de La Libertad had paid for it.  I WhatsApp'ed Pando, who now lives and works in Luxembourg, and he confirmed the sad truth.  His dad's heart had stopped.

I'll end this post with a video I took of Isra rocking out on karaoke during his son's wedding.  It starts at the one minute mark:

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