La Mariposa en la Pared

The everyday experiences of latino immigrants through the eyes of an outsider. Las vidas típicas de unos inmigrantes latinos a través de los ojos de una forastera.

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Location: Upstate NY, United States

"To me it’s always interesting when you get accepted somewhere you don’t really belong. It’s interesting when people open up and let you in their world." - Gilles Mingasson

Monday, September 10, 2007

"The poorest people in the world"

As I sat working this morning, a coworker came over to me and said, "I just found out about the poorest people in the world." He paused, and in an attempt to guess who he was referring to, my mind scanned the world, resting on Central America and Africa.
The seventy year old retiree continued. "My daughter does mission work in Guatemala." This time, my mind envisioned children in the Guatemala City garbage dump, the Maya in the mountains, the poor ladinos in the oriente.

"They live in huts of saplings woven together, with thatched roofs. If they're really well-off, their houses are adobe. They don't have plumbing, they have communal restrooms. They cook on rocks, do their laundry on rocks."
It was clear that he was amazed that people still live this way in our hemisphere.

I told him about being in the laundromat last week with mi amor. There were some friends there, including a woman who's also from Jaime's hometown in Chiquimula. She sat back and laughed at how easy, "qué fácil," it is to wash her clothes in a laundromat. That made me think about how Jaime's mother cried when she received a washing machine from him for her birthday in June.

The shaky home video showed Doña Tina's birthday fiesta, the frail little 55 year old woman (the same age as my 55 year-young mom!) surrounded by her three grown daughters and two of her six sons, weeping as the washer, complete with a huge pink satin bow, was lifted by her equally-frail husband and another man also in a straw cowboy hat, off the pickup truck and onto her porch, accompanied by snapping firecrackers set off in the dusty street. As she held one hand to her heart and with the other, dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief, she thanked her boys working in the U.S.; I heard her say Jaime's name over and over. Her youngest child, he contributed overwhelmingly the most money toward the purchase of the washer, a gift he was sure his mother would love.

To me, the irony of the gift was startling. After a life spent washing her family's laundry by hand in a stone basin, what would she do now with all that spare time? Now that so many of her children are gone, she has far less laundry to wash than she did when they were little, before they left. Were her tears bittersweet? Was she thinking about the awful trade-offs in having luxuries she never imagined possible, at the cost spending each passing year growing older without her sons and grandchildren by her side?

And I could tell, she would give anything, she would trade that new washing machine in a heartbeat, just to have her boys home again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for this. It makes me pause and think. You are able to embrace so much with your heart, soul, and searching mind - keep writing for us.

All the best,

9/14/2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger AntiguaDailyPhoto.Com said...

@Janna, you really have a way with words. You capture perfectly bittersweet experience. Thanks for all your writings... me nace la conciencia cada vez que te leo.

8/13/2009 1:26 PM  

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