To the roots of our humanity: Hasta la raíz de nuestra humanidad

After eating one whole candy bar (a Mantecol, 110 grams of buttery goodness and favorite Argentine treat from when I was a child), four home-made golden raisin cookies chock-full of butter, and making various phone calls to the San Francisco airport, Board of Supervisors, and signing a handful of petitions to offset the ridiculousness, totalitarian, and xenophobic mess we find ourselves in as a nation, I think it best I set down and contribute to the world in a more creative way by writing a post.

One of my favorite singers for the year of 2016 was Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer songwriter that you should definitely check out. One of her songs, “Hasta la Raiz” or “To the Root” describes a scene that I felt during the duration of last year and acutely now:

Pienso que cada instante sobrevivido al caminar
Y cada segundo de incertidumbre
Cada momento de no saber
Son la clave exacta de este tejido
Que ando cargando bajo la piel
Así te protejo
Aquí sigues dentro

roughly translated as:

I think that every instant I’ve survived by walking
And every second of uncertainty
Every moment of not knowing
Is the key that fits perfectly into this weaving
That I wear under my skin
This is how I protect you
Here you remain within

I’ll come back around to this particular verse of the song later…but first some context…

In general, I feel that anything I write about Machu Picchu will be lacking. I have to say it was probably my favorite part of visiting Peru, at least this first time around en el país andino.

Before daybreak we got up early, hurriedly dressed, and stumbled outside in the darkness to wait in line for the buses. Our hostal host said people would start lining up as soon as 4 am. Once we got in line there were probably already 100 people ahead of us. We waited for about an hour, sandwiched in between a trio of Portuguese speakers (a couple from Brazil and an over-fifty, eager and rather annoyingly opinionated man from Portugal) and a family from Argentina (the parents of which expressed the ridiculousness of the price of entering Machu Picchu, mentioning at least a couple of times the fact that this wonder of the world was far more expensive than the pyramids and, ni hablar, that the last two times they had come were less crowded and had done less damage to their pocket books). It never ceases to amaze me, the conversations, mannerisms, and just raison d’etre people exude, even at 4:30 de la madrugada.

At 5:30am, after I had eavesdropped to my heart’s content, eaten a couple of bananas, and drank my five dollar espresso with water (this is what I insisted on because the Americano was $1.50 more: quejas de una gringa menonita en un país en vías de desarrollo no más/ complaints of a white Mennonite girl in a developing world and my raison d’etre at this early hour), we started boarding the buses. As soon as we all crammed on we started our short journey out of the valley and up the windy mountain.

We went around and around the mountain and with each bend we turned the more mountains we saw in the distance yet the foggier the whole landscape seemed to get. About 20 minutes later we got to the top and from the buses spilled expectant tourists from all corners of the earth. We walked to the lines leading into the ruins, which only took a couple of minutes. Once in, it was about 6am and I didn’t really know where to go so I just went straight ahead. We had gotten tickets to go up the mountain just behind the ruins but that entry wasn’t until 7am so we could just wander around until then. While I was wandering in the foggy ruins, hardly able to see even just a few feet in front of me and worried that I was never going to see the ruins in all their splendid glory, I heard someone sobbing. It sounded like a girl and it was coming from the mirador, or lookout, just ahead. I followed the sobs and came across a young Argentine girl who had tears running down her cheeks and was crying quite a bit. Mid sob she said “¡Todo el mundo dice, guau, Machu Picchu y yo pensé que iba a ser cualquier cosa pero realmente es una maravilla! Y la verdad es que soy tan privilegiada de estar acá.” And her sobbing continued.

One of the park guides looked on and inquired concerned yet with a smile on her face about the young woman. At the same time, I put my hand on the back of her shoulder-blade and I let her just cry for some time. I wanted to have some kind of contact with her so that she could fee the closeness of another human being in the moment of such an emotional time. And little by little, the sighs and sobs grew further and further apart until she got out a tissue to wipe her runny nose and her eyes, having finally dripped the last of tears of this particular cry. Eventually I asked her if I could hug her and she graciously accepted my arms around her small frame. I felt the warmth of her emotions and her body heat emanating out, even though it was technically trapped inside the confines of her plastic impermeable; we hugged each other and held each other as tightly and as long as we could.

Moments like these are the threads that make up the cloth of my life and the weaving that Natalia talks about in her lyrics. We are indeed in uncertain and trying times, but becoming closer to our brothers and sisters is how we wear each other close and don’t let go.

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