Rosa Garcia is a phone slinging Mayan, who scrambles to get benefits for her village. Soon after we met, she presented me with twenty bored kids, who would become my so-called- English class. Like any diplomat, she is always on purpose and dialing– as likely to be talking about tweaking a floral motif for local co-op artisans as to be approvingly inspecting some in-home agricultural projects that she fostered. More recently, she seems to be elbow deep in pressing health issues in Patanatic. For more than year, now, the pueblo seemed to be in some magically steady state – lots of healthy births and no deaths. And, ordinarily, Rosa and I are only about pleasant things – discussing fabric arts or planning trips for the kids. So far, our shared worries were never more pressing than, say, finding reliable drivers. Not so anymore, Rosa is about handling cases.
During more halcyon times, our conversations were pretty airy and whatever I missed in translation, I could catch when I download the videos. My soon-to-be-former video camera travels among the branches of Rosa’s family. It is shared among the fashionable and very social women as they pass it around at birthday parties, weddings and even when they are tilling their fields -in full traje-with pick axes. In reviewing the newest hours of videos some troubles seemed to be sandwiched between the shaky footage of mushrooms, clowns and hatchling chickens. There were photos of an astonishingly dour wedding. The pain was so clear I had to ask Odilia if there was some trouble. Was she pregnant or something? No, no. That wasn’t it. The couple had several kids already and one was my student. The bride turns out to be so very, very sick that they decided to take the Sacrament and get married. That is why the celebration looks so dark and brittle. Although this mother did look a bit better at the Independence Day show, she had a post-chemo look. She did twinkle as she sat with friends watching her kids preform that morning
Yesterday, Rosa brought Imelda with her and her two youngest boys. The thirty year old mother wanted to express her appreciation and tell her story – in English – to her friends on the United States. She wanted to give thanks for helping her family when a sudden and frightening infection sickened her six year old son. Using Google Translate I was able to pull up a prognosis in English and display it in Spanish so Rosa could read it to her. No it wasn’t fatal and yes, he would recover with care. The news was all good but, as any parent would be, this mother is still shaken by seeing the quick, hideous power of disease.
Last week, when Oliver’s eyes turned yellow, Imelda brought him, first to see a doctor and then she called Rosa to see if perhaps – just maybe- she could arrange some kind of assistance to buy medicines for him. The diagnosis was urgent and serious: “Hepatitis A.” And, the four week treatment would be way too expensive for her and her husband, a day laborer, to pay out front. Like many people in the pueblo her family moved from Totonicapan before the Civil War. Now, her mother lives hours away in the Capital and neither her aunts nor in-laws had money to loan – even for this.
Rosa phoned Altagracia at Feed the Children and told her about Imelda’s need and the NGO agreed to cover the prescriptions. If Rosa had not spent eighteen years connecting her village to resources, this would have forced some very hard choices on the family. I cannot guess how many tears this small but mighty intervention spared. And, Rosa tells me, there are four more cases.