In the interest of full disclosure, my heart is full for Lucia because, honestly, I see so much of myself in her. Mayan women typically marry young, therefore I am old enough to be this radiant girl’s grandmother. Nobody feels as old as they are, so in the defiance of denial, despite our age difference, I feel like her kindred spirit: Lucia’s gentle manner and kind heart, as well as her easy smile are reminiscent of the girl I was at her age.
There is a significant difference between my youthful aspirations and of Lucia’s. I had no doubt that my dreams for my future life could be achieved. I knew a college institution was available to me, located only fifty miles away, if I worked diligently enough to earn the tuition. A polyester blue skirt and blouse from the local McDonald’s restaurant served me well for three years; profits from filling burger orders got me through my first year of nursing school. Student loans were burdensome but I was able to graduate. I was passionate about my career, and nursing became the launching pad to everything I did for the next forty years. My life was a product of a hopeful time in history…dreaming and doing created the change I wished for myself.
Residing in the tiny remote hamlets of Guatemala feels like living in a time warp. Electricity only came to some of these areas ten years ago, and the majority of households where FFF works are too impoverished to afford the monthly service fee. Piped water is available if one is fortunate enough to have a neighbor who will let you use it, after a steep price is paid to the local water committee. Places of employment? None. Secondary schools are only available if a very determined student is willing to risk robbery or rape during the long walk to get there. Food availability is as seasonal as the rains that nourish the crops.
None of the above stops Lucia from aspiring to a future away from the closet-sized room she shares with her widowed mother and three siblings. Hormones and youth conspire to cause her to emotionally drift away from her family and to dwell on a life outside of the constraints of her mother’s demands. But Lucia’s future is as limited as her surroundings, and so too are her dreams of what will craft what lies ahead. Her village activity revolves around community caring of numerous children and creating a means to feed the family. Life in a Guatemalan village is lived close to nature and neighbors.
Lucia’s ancestors have spent decades living on this hard-packed ground, and although she would like her own family someday, she understands that her roots will sprout close to home. Finding a husband who will be faithful and hard-working are the highest aspirations Lucia has for herself. She doesn’t foresee a future involving a professional career. Lucia can’t comprehend what has not been modeled for her. She is brilliant in the things that are of value in the environment in which she lives. This Mayan girl can craft a cooking fire, grind corn, nurture relative’s children and harvest firewood without thinking twice. She weaves fabric that is beautiful as any in a New York City textile house. Lucia’s survival skills in the outdoors would put any American Eagle Scout to shame.
As this young lady steps into adulthood, her life will look profoundly different from my own. But she is happy, and placing our wishes for her, based on Western values, is not our place. We have sheltered her family with a house donation, educated her siblings in school and provided a daily meal when her father died. Launching her family into a more secure future has been achieved.
Who is to say which of us has the better life? Given the opportunity, there is much we could learn from her.