My post today is not related to children’s books, except that illustrating children’s books led me to study Spanish. But it is a story, and a true story at that.
At the beginning of February I went to Guatemala with my friend Deborah Mersky to study Spanish at La Cooperativa, a wonderful school in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan. Here is San Pedro himself in the town square.
The teachers at the school instantly recognized the people as being from Santiago because of the fabric in their clothing, and they thought that some of the same families might still be selling their wares at the market.
The town sprawled over the hill. Over 30,000 people live there now. Deborah and I showed the photos to several women at different stalls in the market, some of whom spoke only Tz’utujil, a Mayan language. No luck. So after a while we gave up and went to see the church. In a courtyard behind the church several women were sweeping up leaves. I showed them the pictures. One woman was so excited that she practically grabbed them from me. She held the pictures to her chest. She knew the people in the photos and cared about them. We spent some time explaining who took the pictures and when, and trying to understand her relation to the the people in the pictures. I am still not totally sure if they were friends or family (madre o compadre) because Spanish was a second language for all of us and everyone was excited.
I told the women to keep the old photos – I don’t think they would have given them back to me in any case. Then Deborah took some pictures. Three little boys ran across the courtyard to get into this photo.
I can hardly believe that we found these people so quickly in a town that big with photos from 60 years ago. Maybe in 2073 someone can go back to Santiago and find these boys who will be old men by then, or someone who knew them.