Honesty: I had been getting kind of frustrated with being a non-Spanish speaker working in Mexico. I want so badly to be a part of everything we encounter but it is kind of hard when most of the time, I have no idea what is going on or being said. It is rewarding to know that we are helping these people to share their stories (and of course that is the most important aspect), but it is still frustrating to feel out of the loop. Then, last Sunday, we came to Merida.
Monday morning we met with Clara Guzman at her son, Ivan’s, school, where she was picking him up for the day. Ivan was waiting by the front gate of the big green elementary school building for his mother and the camera crew that was coming to see him. We followed Clara into the school, where she stopped to speak with a teacher and a principal, while Ricardo and Chris followed with cameras to get some footage of the Guzman’s in their every day life.
We hadn’t gone inside the building until quite a while after school ended, so most of the children had already gone home at this point, but a few were still hanging around. The kids were giggling, peaking their heads around corners to watch the big people with the big cameras and whispering. But Ivan stayed by the front door, sitting in his chair in his uniform, patiently waiting and watching and being a little bit shy.
After the talking was done, we piled all of our equipment up on our shoulders and made the trek behind the Guzman’s on their family walk home. Once everyone was at the house, Clara immediately brought all of us glasses of cold water, which we have learned to cherish in the Mexican heat, and made sure that everyone was comfortable. We then commandeered her living room with light panels, reflectors, and cameras, and began her interview.
Clara’s daughter, Karen, was one of the survivors who spoke for and worked with Comparte tu Historia in Merida. Karen was a beautiful 19-year-old girl who had cervical cancer. About six months ago she passed away. Since then, Clara has continued volunteering with Comparte tu Historia and is also working on getting her own nonprofit organization off the ground to promote cancer awareness and screening throughout the young people of Yucatan.
At this point, I don’t remember the questions that Dyar was asking during Clara’s interview, and once again, I had no idea what she was saying as she answered. But this time it didn’t matter because it was enough just to be in the room with Clara and Ivan. Clara, wearing a button with a picture of her daughter that said, “Stand by Me”, began crying almost immediately as she began to talk. As soon as I saw tears on her face, there were tears on mine. Trying to look away from Clara to avoid outright sobbing, I looked down at Ivan. He was sitting in the corner on the floor, where the living room met the kitchen. His knees were pulled up to his chest and his thumbnail was in his mouth. He had changed out of his uniform and had on a yellow t-shirt and jean shorts. He was watching his mother cry while she talked about how amazing his sister was and the look on his face was an expression I am never going to forget. I’m crying again writing this because I just felt so much for this little boy and his family. Eventually Ivan got up and into the kitchen because he was crying too.
When the interview was done, Clara gave all of us big hugs and then kept us at her house so that she could cook for us. The whole extended family came over and every single one of them was just a beautiful person. I can’t remember the last time I have been hugged so much and so hard. The SOW boys taught the little kids some American games and they all played basketball. There was so much smiling and laughing and loving; it still warms my heart to think about it. At one point, I walked outside and a little boy immediately brought me a chair to sit in and then asked if he could get me anything to drink. They cooked us soup, enchiladas huevos, and steak and then even drove us to our next interview.
More honesty: It doesn’t matter anymore that I don’t always understand what is being said. We don’t have to have language to connect. This country (and especially Merida) is amazing because the people are amazing. I’m not sure I can even describe the love I felt from this family and how in awe I am of their warm souls. I feel so humbled and grateful for the few days that we were able to spend in Merida and the time we spent with the Guzman family.