Jan 15 2012

Love Among the Ruins

Published by at 8:01 pm under Travel

As much as I love my bloggy, it’ll be a relief to put it to bed for the foreseeable future, once I get home. In the meantime, I’m glad to have a record of my journey. And so it continues…

I walked into town at 8:00 a.m. to get coffee since I was out of tea. My stomach thought that was one of my stupider ideas.

I came upon a band of wee ones at El Arco, and was wildly entertained by the littlest, who was spinning and leaping with gusto. By the time I got my camera out, he’d wound down, but still had spunk. Watch as he becomes drained of his last bit of enthusiasm and tries to find renewed hope by repeatedly checking the level of the donations box. The quality is funky, but it’s still easier to see if you view it large. Click once, twice, thrice to view.

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While out in public, I eavesdrop on passing conversations when I can, to see what I can comprehend. Usually I get most of the important parts: She never [?][?][?] without [?]. But today I understood a whole sentence: Everyone has a complete system for eggs.

Last night I perused the Lonely Planet guidebook for the few standard tourist sights that I haven’t yet seen. Twenty-four hours later, I have exhausted the book, and also had a chance to re-visit one of my two other favorite places (San Francisco; the other is Santo Domingo). My pictures will illuminate your shadowy mind, but you have to listen to me first, or scroll down the page.

Oh, darn. I just looked at the photos. They’re disappointing.

On my last visit here I adopted Hermano Pedro as my amigo. He’s the only beatified person in Central America. If you dug through the cobwebby depths of this blog, you’d find ruminations about him. Since I don’t expect you to do that, I’ll repeat myself here.

He was born in Spain in 1626, worked with his impoverished parents as a shepherd, and came to Guatemala when he was 25. He bombed out on his attempts to become a priest because he couldn’t master Jesuit academics. I love him for that. Then he became a Franciscan. I like Franciscans because they have a rep for helping animals and the poor. That’s what Brother Peter did, founding a hospital and school for the destitute, as well as a homeless shelter. I don’t know his stand on animals. He died in Antigua when he was only 41.

There are two reasons I’m fond of him. One is that he and Dad have the same name. The second is the wall of crutches. Over hundreds of years, people have credited him with healing their maladies, including their inability to walk. That reminds me of Dad in the end; he needed Hermano Pedro, methinks. Those who’ve regained mobility have given their no-longer-needed crutches to Pedro in gratitude. Some of the crutches appear to be a couple hundred years old, made of leather and wood worn smooth. Today I noticed three pairs I hadn’t seen before. That’s because they’re very small: not even a foot tall from ground to armpit, and with room for two-inch-wide hands. Emmy’s size. Photos weren’t allowed there, although I didn’t know that last time I was here, so if you search on this blog you’ll find a picture of some of the crutches.

Pedro’s tomb is here in the church of San Francisco. Each time I’ve visited, there have been indigenous people praying with a vengeance, stroking the stone walls of the tomb, chanting, hanging colored, figurative candles on the iron bars around it, and sometimes sobbing. I shoved ten quetzales in the donation box, wrote a bilingual petition and placed in the basket at the foot of the tomb. The locals looked at me funny. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to do that—a gringa and a non-Catholic to boot—but I’m pretty sure Hermano Pedro wouldn’t have minded, and anyway the petition was for their benefit.

Writing this now I stumbled upon a wonderful book that has cool stuff about Hermano Pedro. (Migration miracle: faith, hope, and the undocumented journey by Jacqueline Maria Hagan, Harvard University Press, 2008.) It says that the guardian of the petition basket at San Francisco used to throw all the paper out at the end of each day, but now a woman methodically enters the information into a database and circulates the people’s pleas among several churches.

Here are my photos. I’m sorry they suck. They include pictures of four different earthquake-ruined churches and convents, plus some on-the-street photos. Ruins are for lovers. You stumble upon dozens of couples cuddling in nooks and niches and crannies. Mostly they’re just being affectionate, but occasionally there’s a pair trying to suck the insides out of the other, unconcerned that they’re making certain tourists Extremely Uncomfortable.

As always, much better when viewed large:

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Love Among the Ruins”

  1. Eleni says:

    Gawd he’s a cute little mini-man. You caught the tail-end of his enthusiasm, I see, and I’m glad. I’d be exhausted even just doing his unenthusiastic dance.
    I went back to your the post you’d written about Hermano Pedro from your last Guatemala trip (February, 2008!) and read it all the way through, so there. Jarring, the rickety old leg braces, and to think of Emmy-sized crutches-the fact that the world is cruel to even the teeniest of us. And of course, it made me miss nuestro Pedro so now I’m sad. Actually, this entire post leaves me heavy-hearted, which is a compliment to your writing.

  2. Ginna says:

    Boingy boingy jump jump jump. I’m a happy little butterflyyyyy. Shine a little light on me. Tyum tyitty tyitty tyum. Puppy dog tails and sweet cows with lashes: these are a few of my favorite things. Up, up with people, ya meet ’em everywhere you go. Skinnamarinka dinka doo, I looooove youuuu.

    THERE! Now are you not sad anymore?

    [raboutt wine]

  3. Eleni says:

    Worked like a charm! Thankeeee!

  4. La Leche says:

    Hi Buttwad. I misses you deep.

  5. Molly says:

    You MAYN’T put your blog to bed. I will go on strike, I will.

    You also like Franciscans because they were quite kind to your daughter. I like Franciscans too.
    What a cool factoid about the plea-database. Are you going to read that whole book?

    I love the dog in a window-frame picture. And all the others. I’m sorry you didn’t make it to Chichi, but I think this is just as fascinating to read about and look at pictures of. De veras.

    “stralidi patients”

  6. Ginna says:

    I’m GOING to put the blog to bed. At least for a while. Yes, you’re right about the Franciscan kindness to my second wee one. That book looks great and I’ve added it to my shopping cart, but I wish it were in paperback and I wish I’d first finish reading one of the other hundred books I’ve bought in the last year.

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