En cuanto a la otra fúnebre ceremonia que llaman velorio, es indudable que proporciona en medio de su duelo tantos placeres, epigramas, amores y aun matrimonios, como vuestros bailes y vuestras reuniones europeas. No solamente los amigos de un muerto, sino también las personas que sin haberlo conocido quieren hacerle este honor, se reúnen alrededor del cadáver y lo velan durante la noche. Hay personas que no faltan por nada de este mundo a ningún velorio, entre otras aquel don Saturio que os presenté el otro día […] caricatura verdadera de nuestra vida insustancial y voluptuosa.
Al cabo de algunos minutos expusieron al muerto, y cada cual de los que allí estaban lo roció con agua bendita […] Este melancólico espectáculo no era muy a gusto del doctor don Saturio que me acompañaba: creyóse pues, en el deber de llevarme hacia otro lado, con el pretexto de presentarme a la viuda y a los parientes que ocupaban una casa inmediata.
Nada más triste en verdad que la situación de aquella pobre mujer, obligada a reprimir su dolor, y a mantenerse inmóvil en medio de aquel círculo de personas que cuchicheaban y hablaban en voz baja de las novedades del día y de asuntos domésticos. Todos los presentes se volvían de vez en cuando hacia la viuda, haciendo dar a su fisonomía una seriedad propia de las circunstancias; pero dejando ver entre los gestos de la tristeza las recientes señales de la alegría.
Por mi parte me desprendí bien pronto de la etiqueta que me había impuesto […] Dejé a la viuda y me fui a otra sala.
Allí se me ofreció el espectáculo menos análogo a la tristeza y al silencio de las ceremonias mortuorias. Cerca de cuarenta personas de ambos sexos formaban allí grupos animados; los más jóvenes jugaban juegos de prendas; otros hablaban en voz alta y alternaban la conversación con grandes carcajadas; otros rodeaban a una vieja que era justamente la que había decidido sobre la mortaja del muerto, y que contaba con una prolijidad escrupulosa su juventud, sus virtudes, sus riquezas y todas las particularidades de la enfermedad que padeció.
El ruido de las carcajadas y las conversaciones se fue aumentando de momento en momento; y a eso de las doce de la noche la algazara general, las carreras de los que atravesaban los corredores, las voces vibrantes de las muchachas, el acento chillón y cascado de las viejas, las voces resonantes de los hombres, el roce de los vestidos y el trasiego de las sillas formaban un concierto que hubiera debido resucitar al muerto. Pero el muerto se estuvo quieto y los vivos se fueron a cenar.
–Gran momento debió ser aquel para don Saturio –dije yo a mi primo.
–Efectivamente lo fue –continuó este–; tendida la servilleta de un hombro a otro, con un tenedor en la mano derecha y blandiendo un cuchillo con la izquierda, después de haberse dado prisa a destrozar un jamón, decía sus gracias entre bocado y bocado y hacía desaparecer lo mejor de cuanto allí había en las profundidades del estómago.
He aquí, querida amiga, lo que se llama una velada de muerto en nuestro país. Es una particularidad de nuestras costumbres de clase media, que no se debe mirar ciertamente como regla general, y que nada tiene que ver las clases aristocráticas; pero estad segura de que nada os he exagerado, antes he debilitado el cuadro real y positivo de esta fiesta fúnebre […] Conque, ¿qué os parece el velorio?
La gran etiqueta española en la sala del muerto; la indiferencia criolla en las demás habitaciones de la casa; un aturdimiento salvaje unido al recuerdo de una civilización pomposamente religiosa, ¿no es este un conjunto único, compuesto de inesperados contrastes?, y ¿no sería un gran asunto para un cuadro especial de costumbres? Ω
Tomado de Condesa de Merlin: Viaje a La Habana, Editorial Arte y Literatura, La Habana, 1974.
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