July 2009 Archives

Why Artesanias Are Literally Anita's Life

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At Calcutas Walking there Anita Knitting 7.28.09023.JPG

Really interesting conversations with Anita last night (and later Benigno joined us, but I'll focus on that conversation later). I made a mistake in thinking the graduation party was this week--it is next week. And with Benigno out all day and into the evening to make money on market day by using his truck as a taxi/bus, Anita and I were sitting at the supper table alone, so I suggested we use this opportunity to make an interview. She agreed, and we launched into a conversation. I did not have my list of interview questions with me, but I did have my recorder, so we just started while we ate--I didn't want to disrupt the quiet moment by getting up to retrieve my stiff list of questions. I've noticed that whenever Anita is alone, she gets up and gets busy doing something, and I was afraid we'd lose the moment of focus on her story. Below is my rough translation of part of her story as she gave it to me and I recorded it. I may miss a word or verb tense here or there, but believe the substance and style of what she said is here. Will need to check this later with a Spanish-speaking assistant. She told her story pretty spontaneously and naturally, so I want to preserve the feel of her narrative:


Anita: I started to make the collares, when I was without my parents. My father died. My mother abandoned me when I was six years old. She went to live...we didn't know where she went...but now she lives in Ambato. And my father died from his grief at my mother leaving. He got sick, and he died. When he died I was 10 years old. And we were alone. We didn't have anything to eat or anything. So, Maximo [her older brother] studied and I started to work with a woman who lived a little ways down the hill whose name was Angelita. She taught me how to weave (beads). I was her helper. And I spent four years beading with her. I only went to her house to work, and then came back here to our house to eat and do everything else. This very house! Only Maximo and I and a younger brother lived here. But he [the younger brother] left, when he finished school, he went to the Coast, and he has lived in the Coast until now. His name is Marco.

 

Then, a few years passed and Maximo had the opportunity to go to the United States with a musical group. And I was left alone, alone, alone in the house. For three years. I say it was when I was 14 until I was 16. When I was 16, I started being with Benigno. And when I was 18 we got married.

 

Then I was married, and I had fully learned how to bead--by this time I had continued working with the beads. And back then I was able to sell a lot of beadwork, because there were only a few people around who were beading. I was beading a lot, so I had money. Almost nobody was beading. There were very few beaders. This was more or less in 1995. More or less at this time nobody was beading. Now, there are a lot of beaders! Because now it is marketable. They can sell it. They can make money. So, this is the way that the beadwork became popular, so now the whole world beads! The mestizas [are beading]--everybody in the whole world is beading now!

 

David: But who is buying them?

 

Anita: The tourists!

 

David: But there are only a few tourists [here in Saraguro].

 

Anita: Many tourists! People go out to sell to them. There's a group organized to go sell in Loja, in Quito, in Guayaquil--in all of the markets. So the tourists go out to the markets and find beadwork on every side. So, for this reason, it is now very marketable to sell artesanias. And because so many people are beading beautiful things now, one can't sell one's work. So, for this reason I have to be very creative. When I come up with a new design, I make a dozen of them before I take them to the market. Because afterwards, I'm not able to sell them. If I take a design [that is already common in the market], the storekeepers say, "If you'll take $5 for it." [If I take new designs] nobody has copied them. Therefore, I need to take new designs to sell.

 

David: And so now there are lots of designs that are common. Which of these design are ones you made?

 

Anita: Rosas...

 

Anita Sarango

[Brief interruption by Misael who returned from a friend's house with some pieces of a tortilla that he had been eating there, which he had saved for Anita and I to taste.]

 

David: So, you learned to bead [and do other artesanias] because you needed to?

 

Anita: Because I needed to, yes.

 

David: It was your only life. For how many years--for four or six years?

 

Anita: For many years! I learned how to bead when I was eight, and now I am now 32. My life has been lived only in artesanias. Now, for example, I don't make only the collares. I make pulleras [the underlayer skirts that usually have embroidery or beads at the hem, which peek out from under the black overskirt called an anaco], blouses, and the [bead] weavings, I sell them as a set. The pulleras, the blouses and the collares--this is the way I sell now--it's a three-piece suit. The same color--earrings, collar, the blouse, and the pullera.

 

David: And how much does it cost for everything?

 

Anita: It depends on the collar. The collar might be worth 20 or 30 dollars, or it's possible to make a small one for 10 dollars. It depends on the collar. But the pullera and the blouse is worth 35 dollars. For only the pullera and blouse.

 

David: With beads, or with embroidery?

 

Anita: With a needle, and my hands! But the pullera I don't make by hand--I use a machine [currently an old treadle sewing machine, with ambitious plans for the future to purchase an expensive, computer-assisted embroidering machine.]

 

[Another brief interruption as Misael tells Prici there is no one down in the cancha--she was about to leave to go down there and he has recently returned.]

 

David: Yes, but does the pullera come with beadwork [on the hem], or with embroidery?

 

Anita: Embroidery with thread. This is right now, the way of my work. This is what is now marketable, combined--the blouse the same color, the pullera the same color, the earrings the same color, and the collar the same color.

 

David: And many women buy the whole set?

 

Anita: Yes. This is the what's in style today--to wear a green blouse, green earrings, a green necklace, and a green pullera. Sashes (fajas), too. I make sashes with beads, too. I have one to show you. The sashes sell for 30 dollars.

 

David: Las Calcutas, what importance do the Calcutas have for you?

 

Anita: For me? Perhaps it's a way to entertain (distraerme) myself first of all. But on the other hand. I like the organization.

 

David: Why?

 

Anita: Because it is also a way we women to work together when we need to ask the mayor or any other institution for help, it's much easier. You can get support for an organization much easier than you can for one person. For this reason I like the organization. I always like to be part of an organization for any kind of thing in the community. In the end, for anything it is very beautiful (bien bonito) to be part of a group. On the other hand doing something alone, without anybody, is really ugly (bien feo). I always love for there to be an organization--for the young people, for dancing are other people, for the women's group it's other people. For the young people's group we go out, we smile, we walk, we do everything that makes us smile and laugh. So, I like to organize things all the time--in everything I like to get involved (meterme).

 

David: So, the idea of community is very important for you.

 

Anita: Uh-huhn, I like to go to [community] meetings...the community. Last year I was the secretary of the community. And it was very complicated for me. It was very hard, because I had...at this moment I'd have to be in the meeting because the meeting begins at 7 in the evening.  So, I'd have to go to Saraguro and arrive there, and there might be no dinner here because I liked to be on time. For anything, if someone says [be there] at three, I am there 5 minutes before, because I like to be punctual, so that yes, I am there on time. I say...for example, the women's group is supposed to meet at 2:30 in the afternoon. We should all be there by then. If you get there at three, then you have to pay 25 cents. If anybody comes at three, they pay 25 cents.


NOTE: The entry made previous to this one, but following it in viewing order, contains a description of the meeting of the Calcutas that Anita refers to here. This is the first of several parts of the transcription of interviews with Anita about her life. Others will come later.

Meeting with a Bunch of Bead Weaving Women--Runas Propias


Las Calcutas Group Photo with Huallcas.JPG

A very productive meeting with the Calcutas Women´s Artesanias Cooperative this afternoon--productive both for them (as a group they completed nearly 10 necklaces), and productive for me as a researcher.

 

Started by giving them the gifts I had brought to assist them in their work--two pounds of beads--one black, the other light blue, and a few strings of faceted beads that I bought in Quito. They were very appreciative. I also gave them the 5 pairs of magnifying spectacles that I bought in various strengths ranging from about 1.75-3.25 magnification. They were excited to try these and several of the women found that they could see close work clearly with one or another of the pairs of glasses. It was a good choice to bring these.

 

As folks were gathering, I got Linda's phone number from Enith Paqui, Aleja's daughter-in-law who lives in Hudson, WI, but is visiting for a while with her two sons. I called Linda and asked her what she thought about which cooperative would be going next year to Santa Fe. The Kiskinchir folks were scheduled to go, but only if they had filed legal papers for their cooperative to exist. I gather from Esperanza that they are not close to being done filing, and Linda set them an August 1 deadline. So, since they are not ready, I got to give the Calcutas the good news that they will be sending work next year to the market. They were pleased to hear this. I also explained that they need to give Linda a color photo of the group, and that they need to select who will be representing the cooperative at the fair. It needs to be someone who is an excellent beader--to work on making necklaces larger for the people who buy them as necessary, and to spend two days demonstrating the beadwork.

 

At Calcutas Group Working at the Table 7.28.09009.JPG

I offered to make the photos necessary for the application, and at first they thought they might do it today, but then decided they'd rather do it on a day when they are decked out in all their traditional finery. Since for next week's meeting they have plans to have a class in painting, they decided to get together tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. to get their photo. I also offered to take portraits of each woman who would like to sit for an individual shot. Next time I come back, I'll bring 8X10s of each woman who does so. I asked for and received permission to take photos and videos during the meeting. At one point someone asked why I was taking photos today since they were going to be dressed for it tomorrow. I said, "Because tomorrow is a fiction, today is your real life," and they laughed and agreed this is true. I said, "You are all very proud/vain," (orgullosa) and they laughed and agreed to that, too. It felt good to be able to be enough in the conversation to make jokes that they laughed at--they kept coming back to that one throughout the 3 hours of the meeting.


I asked for permission to come to each woman's house to make a brief interview with each of them. At first they thought it would be easier to jus do one-on-one interviews during the meeting, but I explained that I wanted to see them in their home contexts to better understand their lives, and they understood that. I explained that I've written two articles about Saraguro, but that they focused on the experiences of the men, and that I want now write about their experiences, especially with the cooperative. Permission to do these interviews was given by unanimous consent, and tomorrow I will arrange times to visit each woman for an individual interview.

 

While they work I moved around and looked at what each woman was working on--several worked on the "rosas" pattern that Anita has invented (a version of which I am making a copy of right now). The oldest woman in the group simply string pink beads in strands--she didn't even try to make stitches, but I think her stringing was then going to be used as vigas (base rows) for necklaces. Several were working on some smaller ones that had margaritas as the base, and short danglies hanging from them.


At Calcutas Huallca with many large beads7.28.09022.JPG

Aleja started using some of the faceted black/blue beads I brought as the accent beads on her danglies, but after she had done about 10 strands (out of the 80 or so that the piece would require), Paulina went to her house to retrieve an example of a similar pattern she had made, but which used far fewer of the expensive accent beads. Everyone looked at it and agreed that it was beautiful, while using far fewer expensive

At Calcutas Huallca with a Few Large Beads 7.28.09021.JPG

beads, so Aleja undid the danglies she was making, and is going to do it in the other manner to use fewer expensive beads, and thus make it a more remunerative piece. I took photos of the two pieces to be able to use to explain this interesting process of cost-benefit analysis practice by the ladies.

More Beading Details, Kids as Guides

Carmen with Caracol.JPG

In other beadwork related notes--Carmen is working on a necklace with the running pattern they call Caracoles.

 

Anita taught me how to make the new style of clasp that I saw on the newer necklaces at Linda's house. It is called martillo (hammer) because of obvious visual similarities in the shape. It is superior to the ball style for several reasons--it slips in and out of the loop at the other end of necklace more smoothly (it's easier for clumsy fingers of US folks who are not accustomed to working with small beads), yet turns and hold snuggly. It also does not require an extra, slightly larger bead to form the center--you simply stitch 8 rows of "brickstitch" then roll them into a tube and stitch the tube closed. (With a slight variation--you do half of it, then string the viga (base row) on the tail of the thread. Then you use the leading edge of the thread to finish the other half of the martillo, and string it through the already threaded viga to reinforce its strength. Then you begin stitching your filas (rows) onto the viga. You add three beads, and stitch it into the viga by looping over the viga and passing back through the last of the three new beads. While you do this, you alternate how many beads you skip on the base row--first 3, then 2, then 3, then 2, etc.). It's pretty dang cool. The idea for the martillo apparently came form some metal "hoop and bar" or toggle clasps that Aleja Medina's son brought for her to use. Apparently both Paulina (Aleja´s daughter) and Anita saw this and said, "I can make that," and each probably independently designed the new finding to be made only out of stitched seed beads. It has caught on, and I think is the dominant finding style now--will need to look to see if this is true when I am in town and interviewing women from other cooperatives.


***


Here are two photos from the same day.


David with his Guias Buenas.JPG


The first is Misael and Sauri and I when they were serving as my guides on a walk. They showed me luma trees that grow fruits they like to eat, but which are too green right now to eat.






Aruni on Bike.JPG


This one is Aruni, Maximo and Esperanza´s nearly three year old son. His nickname is ¨Tuki¨ after a bird in the Oriente, because he is shy like the bird and doesn´t want to talk to strangers (like me, though he´s warmed up enough now that I got several sweet ¨holas¨ this morning).


Sunday there is a graduation party in town, and we are going to attend. There will be a dance and feast and drinking. Anita reminded me of the time we went to the "dead baby dance" when I was first here. I think the graduation party is in the same house. Anita asked if we have parties for graduation in the US and I said that we do, but that they usually just involved eating and talking. I said that most fiestas in the US don't include dancing.

 

She laughed and said, for a party to be considered a good party here, there had to be dancing and so much drinking that there was sleeping in the streets. This became a recurrent joke for the rest of the afternoon. "Sleeping in the streets!" she would say while we were beading and talking about various things.

 


Resuming Beading

Green and Black Tendido.jpg

Sat down to resume beading yesterday--it's really been three years (since the last time I was here) since I seriously did any beadwork. I asked Anita to teach me her favorite model right now, and she said it was a necklace with relatively large multi-petaled flowers interspersed with hearts. I said I like the flowers, but not the hearts, so she's directing me in making one with just flowers. I wanted her to choose the colors, so she did, with some difficulty since for most of the colors I have with me I don't have a sufficient number to complete an entire huallca. We thought of using white as the base color--not enough beads--so we settled on black as a base (very common here) with an orangish-brown and a glossy orange as the flower colors.

 

This leads me to wonder whether they have trouble getting good quality white beads here. I don't recall seeing many (maybe any) collares with white as the base color. I had assumed this was an aesthetic choice, but maybe it is one of access. For example, I bought a bunch of various shades of pink beads in Cuenca to bring to Anita because she has expressed that she likes pink and can't get that color here. Several of the little bags I bought came from China and cost only $.50 a bag--they are low quality beads--I thought because of their inconsistency in size, but Anita showed me that they do not hold their color--paint must be applied after the glass bead is made, and it rubs off quite easily if you roll it on a piece of fabric or between your fingers, leaving you with a clear, colorless bead that ruins whatever pattern was in the made object. I also bought some bags of pink beads that the owner of the shop said come from the Czech Republic, and are supposed to be higher quality--charged me $1/bag for these. I thought these would at least be a hit--and their colors were, especially a metallic pink/purple they call fuchsia. Anita immediately set Carmen (her new beading assistant--about which more below) to work making a collare with these beads and black. About halfway through finishing it, Anita noticed that the color was rubbing off some of the pink beads and we were all chagrined to discover these, too, were inferior quality beads. She went on to finish the necklace, and said she would just sell it in the market, and so what--a "buyer beware" approach. I told her I wouldn't take it with me to the States to sell, because I only want to sell the highest quality collares--most of the people who buy the necklaces I bring are people I know--friends, students, community acquaintances. Anita understood my objection, but it became a running joke throughout the day--"David doesn't want to take this one--he only wants the highest quality!"

 

I gave Anita her earnings from the 25 necklaces I carried with me last time--she seemed pleased with the $525 that I gave her and wants me to take more this time. I said I would--am a little nervous about helping only one family and therefore building resentment among others in the community. I can certainly see why Linda has agreed only to take work from cooperatives, and she requires they be legally recognized, and that every item that sells must pay a tax toward the cooperative's benefit--I'll need to explain how this works in the article. I wonder what Linda did before Santa Fe--I know she brought beads to sell before the cooperatives were really organized. She had them for sale at the Tweed Museum on UMD's campus, as well as other places. Linda's situation is different, too--she has known many people for many years here and has an entire community of friends to balance in terms of assisting. I really only know this family well--anyone else is a distant acquaintance at best.

Thumbnail image for Adobe and Wires.JPGNote: I guess I exceeded the limits for an entry with this post, so am having to post this entry in three parts--see previous entry for the first two parts of the description of my arrival in Saraguro.

The beam is a eucalyptus log (See picture at end of previous entry). The roof itself is made with a type of cane or bamboo that used to be a common building material locally, but which has disappeared as people used a lot of it, and then stopped tending stands of it near the rivers and lakes because other building materials became available. Note the mud and grass of the adobe construction AND the bare wiring--junctions simply twisted together (no insulating tape added), and then the wires nailed or draped wherever they are wanted. Benigno worked on rewiring a light and simply attached bare wires to the bulb fixture and let it hang from a beam. He did do me the courtesy of pulling it slightly higher than it was hanging so I wouldn't bump my head.

 

We ate dinner--boiled plantains, yucca, a hash brown mixture of grated potatoes, carrots and cabbage--and crumbled homemade cheese. The hash mixture is a new dish, they said, and not common in Saraguro--"comida rara"--Benigno said. It was all tasty--even the yucca (sweet manioc), a food Benigno and Anita laughingly said is something you get at every meal in Ecuador.

 

After supper we looked at photos of the Santa Fe Market (photos I got from Linda when I visited before I headed down here), and they were very interested to see the context where Saraguro artesanias are sold for so much money. They loved seeing the other vendors from the market--folks from all over the world. Anita's apprentice, Carmen, and her husband and kids crowded in to see, too. Several gasps when I showed the photos of the Maasai beaded necklaces.

 

Showed them the few pictures I have of Spiral Earth (the land cooperative/farm that several of us in MN/WI have been working on creating). Mostly I have pictures of plants from the early season in the garden, and every time a plant came on the screen, every one in the room excitedly tried to identify it. At the photo of some young peas plants they were surprised--arvejas or peas are one of the most common home-grown foods here--they let them mature until the peas are almost dry.  At the photo of some young fava bean plants they were also surprised, "Abas!" they exclaimed, almost in unison. I told them I wanted to grow abas to remember them by, and of course, so I could eat some of the same dishes I eat when I'm here.

 

Thumbnail image for Anita Admiring Mitra's Socks.JPG

Somehow we got talking about knitting and weaving, so I retrieved from my suitcase the pair of hand-knitted socks that Mitra rushed to complete before I left on this trip. Anita and her cousin were excited to see them--they don't know how to knit socks like these.


Anita wants to borrow them to see if she can figure out how to make them--Mitra's work is a hit. Maybe I'll finally get her to come down so she can give a sock-knitting workshop!

 

After we finished looking at the Santa Fe photos and the socks, Anita, Carmen and Prici and a few others went down to the cancha (playing field--a lighted paved plaza that serves as the community square) to practice folk dancing--they are going to a dance competition/fiesta in Cuenca next Wednesday. Only three of the five "couples" were there for the practice, so they went through one dance with lots of swirling skirts and action a few times, then devolved into a hang-out session talking about clothing to wear for the fiesta, and such mundane things as the 80 functions of one guy's cell phone, and other such minutiae. I got some video of them practicing, but it's too dark to really see much--I'll take some video in better light another time.

 

The kids spun themselves dizzy on the pavement, and I decided to head up to the house to sleep--it was 10 o'clock.

 

Note: I guess I exceeded the limits for an entry with my previous post, so am having to post this entry in two parts--see previous entry for the first half of the description of my arrival in Saraguro.

Thumbnail image for Benigno Painting.JPG

Benigno started working on this kitchen about a week ago and was painting the walls when I arrived. He said that they are putting in the kitchen to have a place to easily cook and wash dishes. Currently the sink is mounted on a wall in a narrow alley between two buildings. He acknowledged that this kind of kitchen, with a ceramic counter and sink, isn't "propia," "proper" to their traditional lives here--he often points out things that he thinks are or are not propia--propia clothes, propia food, propia behavior, etc--but he is not an absolutist and makes his accommodations as he sees fit. B. said that if they wanted to try to cook for people who are "community tourists," they need to have a kitchen that appeals more to them. I jumped in and helped him paint--I can reach the high spots easily, while he has to stand either on an overturned plastic crate or the kitchen counter.


Thumbnail image for Adobe and Wires.JPG

He said he's not painting up to the roof because he intends to take off the old roof and put a second floor sleeping room in above the kitchen. "So you'll have a room to sleep in my house!" he said.


Here's a close up of the construction details of the house near the roof.


Note: This blog might turn into something a little different than earlier now that I am ¨in the field.¨ Anthropological fieldwork is about 89% just living with folks while they go about their daily lives, and maybe 10% excitement--aside from the image of Indiana Jones and Wade Davis. So, sorry if this blog devolves into fieldnotes for me, and subsequently is less interesting to read.


An uneventful bus ride to Saraguro--aside from the Ecuadorian guy who first told me he was from Colombia, then wanted to try to read the Ursula LeGuin collection of essays I picked up at the hostal in Cuenca (incidentally, LeGuin was the most common author in the lending library of the Hostal). He said he's taken some English classes at CEDEI and managed (with help) to work his way through the individual words of the four lines that the editor selected from one of the essays to open the book, but I don't think he really made any sense of what the words meant:

 

Those who refuse to listen to dragons are probably doomed to spend their lives acting out the nightmares of politicians. We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark; and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night.

--Ursula K. LeGuin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, p. 11

 

As he was leaving the bus he wanted me to sell him the book--but I asked him why, since he wasn't probably interested in the subject matter. He just shrugged and said, "So I can practice my English." Since the book belongs to the hostal, I didn't give it to him and he got off the bus.

 

Arrived in Saraguro around ten to 3 p.m. They are reconstructing the church and today were working on a new techo (roof) yesterday when I arrived. I looked for a bus to Tuncarta (about 2 miles or so outside the town center), and soon one pulled up next to Mama Cuchara's (a local restaurant kitty-corner from the church). The driver, Miguel, said the bus would leave at 3:30 for the trip out to Tuncarta, Onacapac, and Namarin. He asked me if I wanted to hire a car to drive me out there, and said it would cost $4. "How much for the bus?" I asked. "Thirty centavos." So that was a no-brainer. I bought a soda and sat in the square watching people until it was time for the bus to go.

 

Not a lot of apparent change since I was here three years ago. It does look like they've widened the walkways around the square and made limited parking available. (I'll need to check past photos to see if this is accurate.) They've also put up some abstract metal pole sculptures around the square--the top part is made to resemble the head of a tupo, and the bottom seems to be an abstraction of the black and white pattern that is usually painted on the underside of the white felt hats that are considered "traditional." Jim Belote tells me that the history of those hats is a bit complicated, and their classification as "traditional" is yet another of the fuzzy realities of ethnicity in the Andes. (More about this another time.)

 

While I sat in the square, one woman and her daughter(?) walked by several times--the woman was spinning the whole time with a drop spindle (see photo). This is a common sight whenever you see women older than 35 or so walking or standing around. They are either spinning or knitting or crocheting. Haven't noticed younger women doing this much, though--and the scene here is pretty common--older woman in more traditional dress, spinning or doing handwork, with younger women dressed in modern style clothing and not doing handwork.


Miguel came back to the bus around 3:30, but only myself and a woman who had a long piece of gray PVC pipe to haul with her were waiting for the bus. "Only you two?" Miguel said incredulously. "I don't know," I said and shrugged.

 

So we waited for a while for more passengers. "What's in the suitcase?" he asked, eyeing the rather large, and very heavy bag. "My clothes," I said. "And gifts for my friends." We already had established that I'd been to Tuncarta before. He paused a moment, then said, "Well, maybe if we get to know each other next time you come back I'll be one of your friends to bring gifts to!" and he chuckled. "Quizas (perhaps)," I said and laughed, too.

 

A moment of joking, but it does underscore the remnants of colonialism implicit in the kind of work I am doing here. I am acutely aware that I am an outsider, and arriving with a few gifts--ironically beads included--I hope that the folks of this community will accept or at least tolerate my presence. I don't think this is a very serious burden--don't mean to overplay the idea of colonialism--the folks of this community have many ways that they access ideas and goods and attitudes from US and global culture--trucks, plastic plates, media consumption, etc. all have a much greater impact than I do with my few gifts, questions, and even with the small way I'm contributing to the local economy, both by carrying beadwork back to the US to sell and by paying for my room and board. But it is a fact, nonetheless, that I am enmeshed and empowered by the global realities that make it easy for me to travel to this place whenever I really want to (or can get grant funding to support), while folks from here can only travel, legally, to my country under rare circumstances, such as by getting an invitation to attend the Santa Fe International Folk Market to "represent" their culture. Either this kind of thing can happen, or they--usually men--can put themselves at extreme risk and use a coyote to smuggle them into the US to find work. Mark (Int'l Programs Director at CEDEI) said he talked to one Cuencano goy who used a coyote--the whole time he was traveling from Ecuador (with others) through South and Central America they had to spend time learning the Mexican National Anthem and other things about Mexico so that if they were stopped while passing through that country they could fake being citizens. Apparently the pressure gets intense only as you reach the last Spanish speaking country before the US border.

 

So, the bus dropped me in Tuncarta and greetings happened--Misael saw me first and was tentative, then ran over and called my name and hugged me. We all went into the room where I will be staying (same as last time) and sat on the bed to look at the photos I brought from last time I visited. There was a moment of some disappointment that Selene was not with me, but I explained that she is very busy this summer, so couldn't come. They wanted to know if she had grown since she was here, and I said she was almost as tall as me now.

 

I gave Anita the needles I was able to find, several packets of various kinds--she was grateful, but pointed out that the longer ones (which are labeled for doll making or for crewel work) are the right length, but too fat for her embroidery. She said that she has asked Maximo to see if he could find the right needles (like one that Linda Belote gave her years ago), but that he, too, reports that he can't find any like that anywhere in the US. I'll have to look on a specialty web site or something to find the right one next time.

 

Gave Benigno the book I bought for him in Quito--Spanish translation of the book "The Secret Life of Water." He'd asked for a book on hydroptherapy, and this books was what was recommended to me by the bookseller in Quito. He seemed genuinely excited about the book, kissed its cover and sat down immediately to pour over its contents and the photos of ice crystals the author includes as part of his argument that water has what might be seen as "magical properties." If you say words into water in a glass, then freeze it, the intent of the words causes more or less harmonious freezing patterns in the crystals, claims the author, depending on the positive or negative content of the words. Also works with music, so says the author. Back apparently makes water freeze in ornate, organized patterns. Heavy metal, not so much.

 

Benigno sat enthralled for awhile, and Anita said he was "enchanted"--encantada--with it. I love that word in Spanish for when you really like something or are interested in it.

 

Benigno is in the process of building a new kitchen for them in the room that had been their bedroom. He has gutted the room and put in a ceramic counter and sink. The house is an adobe structure built about 30 years ago by Anita's father. She was born in this house. They lived away for while in her youth--moved to San Lucas--and she moved back here about 15 years ago. One room of this part of the house also serves as the little tienda that Anita runs--the local equivalent of a convenience store stocked with toilet paper, matches, cookies, pop, suckers, and such that she buys in town and marks up a bit--providing a convenience to the upper end of the village of Tuncarta. There are several of these little tiendas in the village--it appears that anyone who has a little extra capital and some space (maybe also access to a truck) will do this kind of thing for a little extra income.