I smell the coffee boiling as I walk up the path to Elena’s house. She comes out smiling and we hold hands, and eyes, too, as we talk. I ask her how her day has been going, and she says it’s been happy (as she always does). Inside, we kneel on straw mats and pat yellow corn tortillas. They cook quickly on the hot clay griddle resting on rocks that surround the crackling fire. I love to hear Elena laugh as we exchange stories and news. She sits so gracefully on the dirt floor, nursing her littlest one as she pats tortillas.
One time we were talking about God and going to church. Elena said, “We believe that God is in all places. There is one spirit in all the people. We look at the trees and God is there. We look at the rocks and God is there. God is in all the people.”
As we wait for the food to cook, I comb and braid her little girls’ hair. The kids put on my sandals and shuffle around — pretending they’re me. They sit in my lap, hang all over me, teasing and laughing, asking me words in English, seeing what I have in my pockets, making me feel like one of the family.
We believe that God is in all places.
There is one Spirit in all the people.
We look at the trees and God is there.
We look at the rocks and God is there.
God is in all the people.
— Elena Xoquic
We wait, sitting in a half-circle around the fire, Elena serving everyone steaming hot black beans from an earthenware pot. We scoop up the beans with hot tortillas from a basket in the middle. The food is so good and simple and nicely served, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Elena keeps saying, “Kishway! Eat, everybody!” And we answer, “Matiosh, ka war rit — Thanks, you eat too.” We finish with big tin cups of coffee, hot and sweet and black. As each person finishes, even the littlest child, they thank the mother, and then each person in the room, going around the circle one-by-one. Each person smiles and answers in turn. We gather up the dishes and take them out to the faucet to wash.
We sit in the sun outside for a while, looking at the big blue lake, watching little white clouds collect around the volcanoes. We call out greetings and jokes to the people passing by on the path down at the bottom of the yard — ladies coming home from the market with baskets of food balanced on their heads, men with big loads of firewood strapped on their backs. The radio is on, playing loud marimba music, while the kids run around playing ball. When I come here I feel so much like part of the family that I can hardly stand to leave. Only after lots of goodbyes and hand squeezing am I finally off down the soft dirt path towards my house. Elena calls out the traditional good-bye of her people, “Tatsu abbey! N’katsak ta! — Look at the road! Don’t fall down!”