Guate Memorias

It has been over nine years since I visited Guatemala, a time I will never forget…Guate will always remain in my heart. All the sights, sounds and beloved people can never escape my thoughts, like a distant, lingering, bittersweet dream…can’t wait to go back soon! Here is some little snippets of my life in Guate… (excerpts from an essay I wrote in college)

My favorite times were when Lety and I would walk together outside during class. It was hard to adopt Lety’s slow and deliberate style of movement. Although a woman who had known many sorrows, her gait was one of confident acceptance. We would walk along the uneven sidewalks, the perfect balance of hot sunshine and calming breeze cascading down from the massive volcano Agua onto us. Beautiful days in Antigua were almost guaranteed during the dry season.

Lety and I sometimes managed a conversation; other times we remained silent, our sensitive natures held captive by the incessant stimulation of Antiguan daily life: laughter and babbling of casually-dressed ladino youth; rumbles and honks of passing cars; the distorted, piercing jingle of an ice cream truck; the bustling of sun-burnt Europeans clad in white cargo shorts, dangling cameras, and bewildered looks; the off-key strumming and singing of the homeless man with no legs; the persistent voices of colorfully-dressed merchants; the blasting bass of Latin and American pop from a nearby tienda.

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We entered Sumpango, his home town, and Oscar began waving and hollering at everyone he saw. The town was a lot smaller and less developed than tourist-rampant Antigua. The roads were unpaved and children ran around shoeless. We pulled in front of a house and suddenly Oscar was yelling again. A young curly haired man came out, and grinning at us, set to work pushing open the portones—the heavy wooden “garage” doors typical of many Guatemalan homes. When Oscar pulled into the “garage,” I realized we had literally driven into the house.

Stepping out of the truck into a dimly lit room, we were met with smells of chocolate caliente and tamales. Two women sauntered out of the kitchen, both dressed in huipiles—the colorful, embroidered blouses worn by Mayan women. Oscar introduced them as his mother, Alejandra and sister, Ofelia. We talked with the women briefly when Alejandra abruptly looked at me and stated: “Cansada.” Tired. She must have noticed my drooping eyelids. I barely had a chance to utter an embarrassed “Sí” before she continued in her exquisite native tongue, “Well, this is just the place where you can relax.”

my friend Oscar who I met in Guate, at his house in Sumpango

my friend Oscar who I met in Guate, at his house in Sumpango

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Her hands were on my hand, my cheek, my head, my hair. Her fingers were grubby and black with dirt, sticky from the frozen treat she’d just licked off of them. Her skinny brown arms leapt around my neck then; her dark, wind-burned face came up to mine. Our faces were so close together, the lice could have easily crawled from her ebony hair to mine; her smell was one of soil, sweat, and smoke. Her lips brushed my cheek and then I heard her whisper, “Te quiero, Seño. Te quiero.” “I love you, Miss. I love you.” We sat together for a heavenly moment: a little Mayan girl in a vibrant huipil, plastered to a white blond girl in jeans and a sweatshirt. As I cuddled her tiny frame, a thought fluttered into my subconscious: is this what is means to give and receive unconditional love?

Marta Julia y yo, Proximos Pasos School, 2004

Marta Julia y yo, Proximos Pasos School, 2004

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