Friday, April 22, 2011

Sometimes a lost culture

This summer taught me a few things. Including what it means to love without boundaries. To trust people completely without fear. And based on my background, both as a refugee to the United States and from living in cities for my entire life, this was a really breath taking experience.

On our first day in Huixcazdha, we met a woman with a face that had wrinkles carved into it from smiles that reached all the way across her face and years of telling people the truth about what it meant to be loved by her and to live with her taking care of you for every moment that she was with you. Everything with cariño. She had a mind of her own and was sharp as a tack, though she had very little if any schooling. But life was led with ganas. Everything, from picking the figs from her trees to bringing us her salsas and frijoles and tortillas was done with love that curled off the top of her heated dishes and into your heart. You could not help but love Doña Pau. No one could.

She would come and hug you deep into her chest until you were swallowed by the warm of her voice, clucking and telling you to come and asking you where you had been that morning. She would tell you honestly, no tenemos mucho, pero estamos feliz. And while this came with a sadness that clung from one corner of her cheek but a glow through her eyes. Life is not easy, and she more than others knew it. As her family spent their days in the milpa, pushing old iron blades through dry earth, hitting rocks again and again and bringing life through green into their worlds, you knew she was right there with them. Each line in the earth another line on their faces. Each line in the earth, another son sent to the United States, to send readmittances to a family that they swore they would never forget and as the years go on and the distance grows you see time slowly pulling at the bonds that made their struggles her struggles.

Love. Warmth. Sadness. And Chile.

So much Chile. When you asked Doña Pau to make it spicy, she would make salsas that made you sit there and sweat. Agony and ecstasy. But doesn’t this explain how Mexican culture works? In pain and suffering, there is beauty and joy through another sort of experience. In knowing that you are alive. And knowing that there is something else through all of this and feeling cleansed in that moment of burning. Burning.

Doña Pau showed me what it meant to find beauty in the darkest of days. And at the end of our stay in this magical world, where people loved because it meant living, and everything you have was something more that you could give to those you loved, she felt tragedy. And this tragedy was enough to see the sunlight leave her rounded cheeks. The lines on her face sunk deeper. And it literally melted my heart that I often fear may be made of ice.

How easy it is to forget, when there is distance. As I write this now, I sit with tears streaming down my face and a heartbeat with each thud that makes me both smile from the bitter taste of missing someone so far away in so many ways and knowing that if I went back there tomorrow, Doña Pau would invite me into her house, sit me down and feed me the frijoles and tortillas she made that morning for her family. And she would remind me what it means to be more than I thought I could be.


  1. I wanted to share this post, after I wrote it for someone's homework assignment, because it brings up something that I find beautiful, and I hope that others are willing to share about their pasts and their countries. or themselves.

  2. Beautiful post, Diana. Doña Pau reminds me of my abuelita, and of Florencia (an elderly Peruvian family-friend who worked with my parents, and spent a lot of time with me when I was younger). Actually, Florencia just passed away, and has been on my mind a lot lately. You really articulate this particular strong, warm, and wise quality so well. Doña Pau must be pretty amazing. & Sounds like you had a really special time in Mexico, on lots of levels.

  3. Hola Diana!!!!

    Precioso el escrito que haces de la vivencia que dejó en ti Huixcazdhá y sobre todo Doña Pao. En Huixcazdhá te quieren y recuerdan mucho, te llevan en sus corazones.

    Saludos, Jossué!!!