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everybody is as merry as a cricket. On that day the culinary art comes back into its own. One of the most delicious dishes is the highly scented romeritos, a very special rosemary vegetable resembling spinach in its delicate leafage. Natives from far-away pueblos come to Mexico City, trotting from far Guanajuato and Tehuacan along the mountain trails, loaded with incredibly large and heavy loads _of the choicest fruits, rare plants, pottery, goat cheese, and resin firewood. The perfumed torches of resin wood are all important to light their long journeys at night, and also to light their puestos, the places where they spread their wares in the market place. On the backs of men and donkeys one can see the choicest flowers artistically arranged outside the bamboo crates they carry on their backs: gardenias, roses, and heliotrope in magnificent confusion with fruits and herbs and thin barley cakes as large as the moon saturated with honey. Ever since the time of the Conquistadores this life and memory of a Mexican Easter Week has been kept alive from generation to generationthe one lawful occasion of the year on which to indulge in public revenge on persons whom the populace would never dare to whisper even a word against for fear of going to prison. ON ONE SMALL Mexican child, a certain Easter Week made a never-to-beforgotten impression. I was twelve years old and it was my last. Easter Week in the country of my birth before we came to live in the United States. My mother presented me with a beautiful Judas with light brown braids and exactly my height. From the balcony of our house this lovely girl-Judas was burnt before the servants and friends with solemnity and prayers. I shall always vividly remember that ceremony. All my sins were supposed to have been burned away on that Easter Saturday of Glory, back in Mexico years and years ago. THE LONG WAIT OF ANASTACIO VARGAS San Antonio In 1927 Texas almost electrocuted Anastacio Vargas for a murder he did not commit. Decades later he sued the state for damages; a jury gave him $25,000, but to this day he hasn’t collected a penny. He lives in a small frame house on an unpaved street on San Antonio’s West Side. He has only one good eye; the left one went bad when he was a cotton picker fifty years ago. That started his run of bad luck. Today Vargas lives , on hope, the only thing that kept him from breaking on Death Row nearly forty years ago. He has been in ill health for the past several years and draws $75 a month from the state oldaged pension fund. His only luxury is an occasional cigar, but he has to be careful, for his heart bothers him and he gets out of breath easily. “I don’t drink or play,” he said, and it seems unlikely he could afford it anyway. Out of his state check and any other assistance he might receive he pays $40 monthly for his home. For solace he prays before his home altar in his little combination living-bedroom. The nightmare of Vargas’ life began on August 26, 1925, when he was arrested for beating and robbing Gabriel and Luisa Garcia on a ranch near Elmendorf, in Bexar County. Days later, Mrs. Garcia died. Vargas, who had once worked for Garcia, was charged with murder. Garcia identified Vargas as one of two men who assaulted him and his wife. Despite Garcia’s poor vision, despite the crime’s occurring at midnight when it would be hard to identify anyone, despite Vargas’ substantiated alibi that he was asleep ten miles away, a jury found Vargas guilty. In The writer, formerly a reporter in Texarkana and San Antonio, has had his work published in various magazines and journals. He is a contributing editor of the Observer. 4 The Texas Observer James Presley November, 1925, Judge W. W. McCrory sentenced him to 99 years in the penitentiary. Vargas won a new trial, because of technical error, and for a while he thought he would go free. In the second trial Garcia, then in his seventies, couldn’t point out Vargas in the courtroom; he had, he admitted, originally identified Vargas by his voice and not by his looks. A Melvin Belli or a Percy Foreman wouldn’t have missed the possibilities for the defense, but Vargas’ two lawyers somehow overlooked Garcia’s failings. Compounding Vargas’ plight, the attorneys never submitted his alibi’s testimony, which might have been sufficient to save him. On top of all, they asked for a suspended sentence. While Vargas’ attorneys thus handled his defense in the second trial, Bexar Cty. District Attorney C. M. Chambers asked for the death penalty, afterwards telling newsmen, “Such verdicts are useful for their example to others, who might commit similar crimes. That is the only reason I asked for a death penalty.” The twelve male jurors went along with the D.A.’s reasoning, and in October, 1926, found Vargas guilty of murdering Mrs. Luisa Garcia, with death his penalty. ALTHOUGH THE D.A. and the jurors were satisfied that justice was served, Judge McCrory, who had presided at both trials, wasn’t. Each time he studied the case his doubts rose. He postponed sentencing for a year, to the dismay of everyone but Vargas, family, and friends. Finally, under pressure, McCrory set the execution for Dec. 16, 1927, and Bexar deputies took Vargas to Huntsville’s Death Row. The convict had less than a month to live. Vargas was scared, but he wouldn’t let anybody know it. Friends sent him his Christmas gifts early, but he kept saying the state would never execute him, that he was innocent. He believed justice would win. That justice did triumph can be credited to McCrory, who conveyed a personal urgency to his investigation of Vargas’ case. It was McCrory who finally saved Vargas from the electric chair and led the fight that eventually freed him. First, McCrory brought Garcia before the Board of Pardon Advisers on Nov. 28, about three weeks before the execution date. The old man stuck to his original statement of Vargas’ guilt, but his testimony was so fuzzy and so contradictory that board members grew doubtful. In the meantime, McCrory bombarded the board with letters certifying Vargas’ good character. The board, now officially dubious of Vargas’ guilt, recommended commutation of life pending a complete investigation. Vargas was so certain he would not be electrocuted that he refused to make a final confession, to the dismay of the chaplain. Sure enough; on Dec. 14, after Vargas had already paraded through a mock execution to fit the straps and headpiece of the chair to his body, Gov. Dan Moody granted a 30-day reprieve. The reprieve, followed by another, 60day stay, was all the time. McCrory needed to establish Vargas’ innocence. The judge who had sentenced Vargas to 99 years appeared before the pardons board to argue his case. In February, 1928, during the second reprieve, McCrory held his own hearing in San Antonio. Testimony at McCrory’s hearing was sufficient to free Vargas. Evidence showed that Garcia did not know, at the time of the beatings, who struck him, nor did he know either of the two assailants. Nor had Mrs. Garcia identified either of them. Ap