Guatemala & US/Mexico border
spring 08

Juana

March 24, 2008

Sarah D. responds in her journal to a poem written by Deborah Good (EMU '02) remembering an indigenous woman.

Juana is a very well written poem. Deborah paints a very clear picture of the life of Juana and the difference between her and our lives. I think in order to truly understand the significance of the poem it helps to have seen (indigenous women in Santiago Atitlan and Chichicastenago) and even experienced what this student (Deborah) has. This poem really connects with my experience here especially with the women here.

The picture painted in my head from this poem is a short, but strong women. She has dark features and wears authentic Mayan culture clothing. Her hands once soft and young are now dry, hardened as leather but very strong from years of hard work. Those hands feed many mouths each day and therefore provide life for all those around her. I can picture Juana in a small house with dirt floors. Day after day she spends the day kneading, spinning, and patting out tortillas while we travel the world, go to class, go to work, go out with friends and family, and complain that life is so hard. We have such an easy life compared to her and many others like her. This poem really makes a good contrast between our lives and hers.

This poem connects with my experience here, in that, everyday as I walk to the bus stop I pass several “Juana’s” that spend their days much like “Juana” spends her days. I don’t quite now how to describe what I feel when I see them everyday. Some days I hardly notice them amongst the bustle of in the streets. But, some days I often wish I could sit and talk with them about their stories. I really believe many of these people I pass on the streets everyday have a lot to say but no one to listen.

-Sarah D.

Juana

She is like the mountains—
   dark,
       worn,
                 beautiful.
Beautiful in the deep
inner-spring sort of way,
and strong too,
living her life as big as possible
in the small, dirt-floored kitchen
of an indigenous woman’s world.
She has one-hundred-some
tortillas a day to
spin and pat out—
like a potter with a potter’s wheel—
and she smiles as I try,
the dough lying awkward and lopsided
beneath my education fingers.
There is no one in her society
twenty and single
like me,
and yet she tells us
it would be better never to marry,
and certainly not at fourteen
as she had done so many years ago,
melting hopes of
study and adventure
in places outside
this dirt-floored kitchen
of an indigenous women’s world.

And so this morning,
one week later,
I light a candle for her
because life is so damn unfair
sometimes
and because
on the day I graduate from college
she will spin one-hundred-some tortillas,
wash her husband’s clothes,
and endure his anger when it comes;
she—Juana,
strong and beautiful
as the mountains.

Written in Tzajalchen, Chiapas, Mexico – Spring 2001
Deborah Good, 2002 EMU graduate

Reprinted with permission.