The Day I Crashed a Dominican Wake

The Dominican Republic has electrical problems, there's frequent blackouts. It was the summer before high school, and I was bored because I couldn't watch TV at home, and the old folks were ready to go bed at 10pm. 

I wandered aimlessly through my mountain town, crossed a river, and walked a kilometer up a steep hill, nothing but faint candles illuminating the way. When the hill started leveling out, I heard a faint sound of music. 

I said, "damn, some rich cat must have an inversor!" A lot of wealthy Dominicans have power inverters -- meaning that Tesla home batteries are gonna be big in the Dominican Republic -- so they never have to worry about blackouts. 

I followed the music and when I arrived at the small, wooden house painted in bright blue, I saw nothing but candles lighting the wake. People were outside, drinking rum and mamajuana, and eating food like in a restaurant. 

Güira. Trio Reynoso
The sound of the accordion filled the whole street with perico ripiao, the typical merengue played in the mountains deep in the center of the country, in El Cibao. There was not an S or an L or an R to be heard, the words just flowed out of everyone's tongue with a fluidity that made it difficult to determine when words began and when words ended. 

For a second everything grew quiet, and all the people dressed in white looked to the balcony of the small house, as a man with an accordion stepped out and shouted: "voodoo chiefs... they call them papá bocó! I traveled all through Haiti looking for a condemned man who could say bacalao [cod fish] but they could only say chiquetaille."

The music was captivating, I naturally followed him into the house, where the body of the deceased was on public display. Over him was an obviously drunk man, swiping away at his güira, shouting along in a call-and-response pattern to the accordionist. Someone passed me a shot of rum, and I took it over the dead man. I looked over to the people around me and said, "he was such a good man!"

Clearly none of us knew him, I raised my glass and we all took another shot and shouted in unison, "he was a good man!"