The Virgin Guadalupe and I
8/11/2006 9:13:38 AM
It was a rather ordinary August afternoon in San Marcos, Guatemala. The sky was beginning to fill with the usual afternoon clouds that would soon make for scattered showers that are so common this time of year. I was going about town with Lucia, my seven-year-old daughter, doing some errands – a spool of white thread, socks, stop at the supermarket for the usual. Suddenly I saw her. She saw me. Our eyes met and I knew at that moment I had to have her. Her hands were together as though in prayer, and out from the crowded street, she called my name.
“Pablo, how are you these days? I need to speak with you. The matter is urgent.”
I quickly looked around, wondering whom it was that had spoken, when I suddenly realized it was she – the poster of The Virgin Guadalupe. Among the other tacky posters around, two puppy dogs with some corny slogan in beveled font, Don Johnson next to a Mustang looking so cool, she stood out as something of exquisite beauty and value.
“I am fine Guadalupe. And why do you inquire?”
“In the last five hundred years, after my meeting with Juan, we have built thousands of fine temples, and given peace and joy to the down trodden and suffering.”
“I know, there are many fine churches throughout the land now. They ring their bells early and late. Is this something that you can help me with? It often wakes me early in the morning, especially on the weekends. I believe it is recorded bells too, which I find cheap and disingenuous.”
“I hear you clearly my dear Pablo. I find it strange that the bells never make a mistake as well. If they are recorded, the least they could do is play in tune. I will do what I can.”
“But I am speaking to you now as merely a friend. I need your help. I have listened to the weeping, the sadness, the troubles and miseries of the people of this downtrodden land for five hundred years, and to be perfectly honest, I am a bit tired and depressed. Take me home with you.”
“You seem to be a person of great quality but I have never brought someone of your stature home. I think it would also make my wife a bit uncomfortable… you know another woman in the house and all.”
“My dear friend Pablo, I am a virgin and I intend to stay that way. Your wife should not worry. Besides I promise that I will just blend into the wall as best as I can.”
“But what of that little cherubic kid at your feet? Does he have to come along too?”
“Yes, he is my son. The Son of God. I fear waiting here in the bus station any longer will not be good for his health. You see he is not breathing too well the last few days. The fumes from all the buses are affecting his asthma. To be quite frank, because of all the noise, he has missed his nap all week and has been a real pill. He bugs me constantly for suckers and candy from all the venders who pass by. I do not think I can last much longer. Besides that, this Don Johnson guy next to me is really getting on my nerves. He thinks he’s soooooo cool. What an ego!”
“But I thought you were a virgin? Is your son adopted?”
“No he is not adopted. It is a long story and something that Joe, my former husband and I, have had to try to explain so many times… it is complicated. But do not fear. I am a woman of great quality and believe me, a virgin.”
Lucia and I stood on the narrow sidewalk and were truly captivated by the beauty of Guadalupe. We tried to ignore her pleas and walked away more than once, only to be called back by some sort of magical force. She had cast a spell on us. We had to have her. She seemed to be a work of art, unlike no other, in this culture-starved city.
We asked her master what was her price, thinking that perhaps she was holding our dear Guadalupe hostage, and would suggest an outrageous ransom. “Ten quetzals” she replied. I was astonished. A little over a dollar and I could free my new friend and her child from their misery.
As we walked home with Guadalupe rolled up, she continued to speak to me. “Pablo, thank you so much. I promise to look after you and your family. You know that nasty stomach infection you had. It was the water. Always brush your teeth with the bottled stuff. I promise, it won’t happen again.”
When we got home, we let Guadalupe have some space by herself at the end of the hall. She now looks after us daily. Her little kid who always hangs out at her feet no longer whines and is reading Mark Twain for a change. We all feel the arrangement is just grand.
From The Pelican Café Essays from Guatemala