• January 28th, 2023
  • Saturday, 02:21:37 PM

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Día de los Muertos: A Time to Remember


Ramón Del Castillo, PhD


The headstone with the placa de un saxophone tells the story of Adolfo Constantino Del Castillo, a musician and an ex-Marine, whose music delighted audiences, tooting an instrument that became part of his spiritual being. The despedida written below by one of sons is a tribute to a lonely soldier who never forgot sus raices, growing up in Newton, Kansas at a time when La Raza was not allowed into public swimming pools until the day before the water was changed. Yet, like many others, he gallantly served in the armed forces when called upon. The headstone was purchased from the last remnants of de Los Amigos, La Pachucada, Batos Locos and Homies that knew the true meaning of brotherhood and solidarity and who decided to pay respect to their amigo.


My Pappy’s Despedida: A silent concert

We buried Pappy today

as the silent vibrations of un bolero

filled the Catholic Church.

It was a

silent concert.

Heard only

by those

who really knew him

and his love for music

playing in fancy ballrooms

where Raza took its struggle

sometimes crossing

borders of the times

ironclad railroad tracks

to the dance floors

into Cotillions

entering spaces

where they were once

denied entrance. Pappy

tapped danced on broken down

wooden floors in dance halls

playing las maracas as part

of his repertoire of music.  The sounds

of pappy’s clarinet

floated through the air

in rhythm

with the snapping fingers

of a beatnik

and the stylization

of pachuco mambos y rumbas.

I remember his razor sharp tongue

with no boundaries,

his military cadence diminished

as the night wore on.

Many times, his mask would fall off.

But he was never faceless

as he drew from other facades

to hide his pain. Eventually

tears would fill

his eyes and drip to the floor

as unbearable memories

secluded by strong walls

melted by the

powerful heat

of sizzling liquor

took over.

His ceremony was

a fervent occasion

as old time veteranos and vatos

slouched in the back

of the church

remembering pappy

with a saxophone in one hand

and a shot of hooch

in the other

always drinking

with his street brothers

living for the moment

knowing that

days are always numbered

and when the page turns

with your name on it

silently calling you

to leave this existence

you can’t turn it back.

It was Pappy’s day

to say goodbye

as he lay in the coffin

his fragile body

warped and decrypted

from the life he lived

smoking camel cigarettes

with no filters

nicknamed lemacs

and downing cold brewskies.

Fourth avenue in Newton, Kansas

was never the same

when a musical jazz cat

dressed in coat and tie

spit shined shoes

cuff links and wavy hair

came in to shoot the breeze

with soul brothers

and unsophisticated farmers

that lacked couth.

He usually left imbalanced

with a crooked smile

and a stained starched shirt.

The Marine Corps bugler

played taps.

Bethany, his grand daughter

sang a jazz tune.

A despedida was recited by el güero

as the troops saluted

a torn American flag

saying our final goodbyes.


© 5-25-14 Ramón Del Castillo.