The Way of the Machete
The Way of the Machete, written by Martin A. Ramos, is one of the stories in the anthology of short stories called ‘One World” published by New Internationalist. There are twenty short stories of twenty different authors and they are inspired by real-life incidents.The Way of the Machete is the last story in the anthology.
Martin A. Ramos is from Puerto Rico but grew up in Chicago. He has many poems and short stories. His stories have appeared in Latino Stuff Review. His poems have been published in Writer’s Digest, Latino Stuff Review, Dragonfly and Rattle. His work has been published online in Red River Review, The Cortland Review and Gold Dust Magazine. The Way of The Machete is a story about honour over death.
Synopsis of plot
Junaito is the son of Josue who is a cane cutter. Junaito is taught to be a brave young man very early in life by his father. Scipio Amenteros is the town bully who had already killed a man. Juanito encounters this bully in the local store. He asks Junaito to tell his father that he is called for a machete duel. If Josue does not turn up for the duel he will be called a coward by other people who work in the sugar cane fields, says Scipio. As soon as hears it Josue picks up the machete and heads off to fight Scipio. He tells Junaito to take care of the house and takes up the challenge knowing very well, that he would be killed and that his family will have no one to take care of them. But refusing a challenge thrown up by the ruffian had to be taken up. Not taking it would worse than death. So he heads in the direction of Scipio and the duel ensues in the sugarcane field. The result was a little more than expected. It resulted in the death of Josue and Scipio. Death is a leveller but in this case Josue won the duel because he took less damage than Scipio. The villagers were happy because the dreaded bully was dead. Junaito, the young boy saw his father’s death as a victory of honour. When he approaches his father’s dead body he does not cry or is not overwhelmed with sorrow. He is composed and confident as his father had prepared him for this moment and he becomes a cane cutter, all ready to take of his family.
The main characters are Junaito, Josue and Scipio. The story is set in Puerto Rico and their culture and life was very different. The society wanted the men to be brave and honour was more important than death. Josue was no different. He teaches his son to take on the responsibilities of the family from a young age. Only that Josue chose a very tough way to hand over the responsibility. He says, “While I’m away, I charge you with care if the house. Look after your mother and sister. You have much courage for someone so young. I know I can depend on you”
Junaito, being the progeny of that culture learns to take responsibilities at a young age. The environment in which they grew up was very harsh and children had to become tough. The offer for the duel is thrown to Junaito and he carries the message to his father. When his father takes up the challenge he knew the odds were against his father but he was prepared for it. Seeing his father’s dead body did not shake Junaito. He was calm and took pride that his father died an honourable death.
Scipio is bully who the village was scared of. He throws up a challenge to little Junaito. This shows that he had scant respect for family ties.
The theme that strikes the eye is the importance given to pride. A challenge was thrown to Josue and he took it up without hesitation knowing fully well that he would not win the challenge and that he would die. For Josue, being known as someone brave was very important and death did not deter him. The thought that his family would suffer also did not deter him. His wife and daughter also do not stop him from accepting the challenge even when they knew that they would be hit hard with his death. In his death he becomes popular for he died with lesser wounds. Masculinity is another theme. Responsibility, in that culture, was passed on to the oldest male child of the family. So having a male child was absolutely essential in that culture.
The story is set in La cuchilla in Puerto Rico. The people are the are tough and the toughness is instilled into the children at a very young age. The story happens in the local store and the action and the climax in the sugar cane field. This is a story of son’s obedience to father and the faith the father reposes on the son which is rarely seen in the western world. Juan starts working at the sugar cane fields at the age of 13.