October 7, 2004

San Simon

Filed under: Guatemala 2004 — Lilli @ 5:13 pm

The last time I saw San Simon he was wearing a fedora and had a kerchief over his mouth like a bandit. Yesterday he was still wearing dark glasses, but he had a red turtleneck pulled up over his mouth, until it was time to take a swig of local booze and have a smoke.

Since he’s a mannequin (at least he looks like one to me), the people requesting his help in exchange for their gifts had to tilt his chair back for him to take a drink. I only chose to observe, but a couple of guys I was with bought red candles and added them to the plethora pouring wax all over the concrete floor in hopes that San Simon would give them good fortune in love. My teacher tells me the reason the church doesn’t like San Simon (as if pagan worship isn’t enough) is that, apparently, he has power to grant cosas buenos y cosas malas – blessings and curses.

Perhaps he wasn’t completely pleased with us, because the heavens opened while we were in this postcard-perfect highland village that is usually shrouded with low clouds and fog in the late afternoon. The cobblestone streets turned into rivers and were impassable without getting one’s feet underwater. But we continued our journey anyway, to visit a women’s cooperative. It is the only place in Guatemala I’ve found bookmarks, which I love to collect and give as gifts. They are woven by hand on a loom with the same patterns used for belts and hair wraps worn by local women. Each 6-inch bookmark takes an entire day to make.

Despite becoming completely soaking wet even though I wore a poncho, I was blessed with foresight. My advice to any traveler is to always bring another pair of shoes. As I was packing for this trip, I considered dumping my sandals. I’m thankful now I didn’t. I knew it would take days for my shoes to dry. Despite the thunderstorm that lasted well into the night, the morning dawned beautifully enough that it was reasonably comfortable to wear my sandals to school. The sun won over the morning and, amazingly, dried out my shoes completely by midday. The mountains and temperatures here (which can reach freezing or below in the winter) make me forget how far south I am, but I got sunburned taking an afternoon walk earlier in the week.

My Spanish classes continue to go well and my teacher is awesome. A perfect match for me. This morning I worked on the preterite past tense by reading and discussing a poem/ song lyrics titled El Unicornio Azul, The Blue Unicorn. It is a beautiful song written by a Cuban about his son who was killed in the war in Nicaragua. He was extraordinary, like no other, and he is now gone. My Spanish must be getting better because I nearly cried when I got to the end, even before we discussed it.

But I have two compositions to write this evening, one about the unicorn, so I’m off for now. Off into this afternoon’s downpour, but my tennis shoes are at home staying dry.

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