I was thinking that my client was extremely lucky when he died during his sleep after sharing his last night with his dearest friends. I was thinking that he was even more fortunate to have passed away almost at the end of a restful spa weekend in such a beautiful hacienda resort in Campeche, Mexico. I was thinking I would also like to be caught by death right in the middle of the mystic Mayan region of the Puuc, where every place you turn your head there is a sacred temple. I was thinking what a blessing it must be to release your spirit in such a sacred land. I was thinking about the least painful steps to help his family return his beloved grandfather’s corpse back home in the US when I realized that I was lost not only in my thoughts but also in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Yucatan.
I know Puuc’s roads better than anyone. And I have driven the roads so many times. I was angry at myself; I had no time to lose. I must have missed the right turn and then the jungle started to look just the same for about 20 minutes, the road also looked just the same and I could not find any familiar landmark to guide me. After about 20 kilometers without finding an intersection or a soul I decided I was too far away to go back. This road must lead me somewhere.
With no time and no gas, little by little the jungle ceased its attack and let a humble stone fence appear as the road became narrower and poorer. Those stony albarradas let me see little shy Mayan homes trying to hide from the road, placing themselves under the shadows of magnificent flamboyances, as if the trees needed to defend their fragile content. As if they regretted the existence of brief gaps in their stoned fences, they guarded the entrance marked by a drunken aisle crossing the front yard.
I drove past three rows of homes until I got in the middle of the main plaza, looked at both sides as my disappointment grew, when I realize I was the only human in the entire town. I turned around the plaza looking at a closed little church and a closed little comisaria, and not even the dog enjoying the shadows of a centrally located tree seemed to care he was the only witness of my visit. There was not even a rotten sign with the name of the town.
Aware of the time I am wasting I drove out to find the only Mayan casita with an open door, a light behind the tunnel, to ask for directions, I thought. I parked next where a family of turkey babies had decided to cross the road. As I walked through the aisle and pass the humble Mayan gate I entered the only round room to find no one except a handful of saint’s images standing on tiny altars with hardly shimmering candles. An impressive wood cross laid in the middle of the altar as I looked at the floor and immediately think the stone aisle I just walked past was better paved than the open dirt floor of this circular room.
On the wall the cross was hanging next to a ceiling of never ending spider webs, and an ancient colorless photo of a Mayan family posing. The portrait is poorly framed with a wood similar of that of the cross officiating the moment. Thousands of fingerprints have left layers of dirt all around the frame. I assume many hands have handled that photo after a hard day of work in the country. Despite the couple of desperate “buenos dias” I mourned I have no answer.
There is a jar full of watermelon juice attacked by hundreds of flies. Then I wonder if what is flouting on that water surface is actually seeds or some insects in disgrace. Finally, as I trespass more, I see a woman at the farthest side of the patio. She does not respond to my greetings. Without another choice, I walked 15 steps between endless hurdles of flower pots that artificially wanted the jungle to proceed. As I stand right next to her she begins to feel my presence. Her absolute attention is caught in her craft.
When she finally responds it is now me whose focus changes to a magnificent wall with shelves stuffed with a myriad of colorful hammocks. She is imprisoned behind two wooden bars linked by an intertwined wall of turquoise threads. She has a flat wooden needle in her hands that she uses nonstop to weave up her prison even more. When I recovered from the astonishment I could not tell the reason why I was there. I only said, “Madam, good afternoon. How much are your hammocks?”
With the sweetest 80 year old voice she answered, “80 peso.”
Thinking immediately in how to multiply my limited gas money, my impulse decides to buy one. As I am choosing between oceans of colors I ask the lady, “How can I get to Merida?”
Once again her sweet voice gives me this time a bitter answer, “I do not know.”
I continued my interrogation and she tells me the name of the town is Xcaloc. Her helpless words still mean nothing to me. Then I picked the most perfect hammock and I demand to know the size. She stops for the first time what she is doing and as she turns up her silver hair, perfectly woven with colorful ribbons, just like her hammocks, her eyes confessed to me she is completely blind. She tells me with her hands to get closer so she can touch the hammock. A simple touch was enough to tell me the size. In that moment I simply responded with, “How can you tell between the colors?”
She justifies herself by saying, ”I have done this since I was a child.”
“Let me get the money from the car,” I responded as I walked out.
I overlooked how she started to follow me out, slowly but with perfect awareness of her space. When I come back to her door she is patiently already awaiting for me. I described the value of every coin and bill I am giving her hoping she would trust me, but that seemed unimportant to her.
Before I proceed with my getting lost I cannot help to ask, “Who are those people on the photo?”
She says, “It is mom and dad, and me. When I could also see with my eyes.”
Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.