Highland Mayans, particularly seniors, are prone to eye problems. If they work the fields, the sun often causes a rinding like cataracts and older women develop difficulties doing their close work. And, although there are many ways that used glasses are donated and recycled say by the Lions Club, Lighthouse for the Blind, chain opticians, etc. – donors cannot be everywhere. Some places like Santa Catarina Palopo fall through the cracks.
So I was delighted to meet an anonymous donor over eggnog at Guatemala Bed and Breakfast. Mrs. N. Gringo (not her real name) told me a story and invited me to attend one of their giveaways in a local tienda. Over several years they had purchased and given away about 1,500 pairs of readers and as many sunglasses.
We were early but by chance four members of the Gringo family including two twin grandkids were waiting on the curb. While we waited, he Gringo’s daughter explained, “My parents had been doing this (glasses give away) for a while when this nine year old came in with her mother. It was clear that she had a serious condition and that she needed special care. Since then, my mom traveled to Guatemala City with Anna Christina and her mom and she was fitted with special ‘magical’ glasses. Eventually, when she is fully grown, she can have corrective eye surgery.”
Mrs. N. Gringa exalted about the young woman. “She is always at my side and makes a real point of correcting my Spanish. We share a dog – along with its real owners. (The Gringos had the dog neutered and treated for mange before they realized he belonged to another family.) So, now, I pay Anna Christina to feed him. That way she has a job and the dog eats. When we are together the dog is dancing.” Then Mrs. G. told me that Anna Christina loves to work with them fitting the glasses and that she will be patiently explaining everything in Cackaquel.
Just then a slim woman approached; she was instantly identifiable by her thick but stylish glasses and the hound’s ferocious wagging. She would stand close to her Abuelita (grandma) coaxing and consulting about their “patients” for the next two hours. After this the Gringos would be celebrating three years with Anna Christina and her thirteenth birthday with presents and a feast at a beautiful house.
Before hopping on the truck back to Pana, I asked the Gringo’s daughter if Anna Christina wanted to go to the university. “Right now she doesn’t seem to be very interested in that. But, I am sure that if she is, she will have my parent’s full support.”