The old, beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city of Antigua was at one time the capital of Guatemala until it was decimated in the 1700s by a massive earthquake. Now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, Antigua Guatemala, or Old Guatemala, sometimes called La Antigua, features countless charming shops in aged buildings that line the cobbled streets, reminiscent of Madrid, where open-air markets of textiles and other crafts abound.
In Parque Central, the town square, a green and floral park with paths like spokes of a wheel, surrounded by notable structures, vendors milled about or sat on the ground, with their woven wares. At the park’s center, a stone fountain flowed, water sensuously spewing from the nipples of stone women with mermaid gazes, their breasts held high in their hands. The varied colors of the building fronts added warmth to the rows of cement walls.
One of my favorite photos is the textile woman, walking under the arches that line one side of Parque Central, the town square.
The first time I visited the historic city, a trip with teachers before school started in 2003, a Guatemalan man sat in front of an ancient church reading a newspaper. I waited for the people walking the street to thin a bit so I could capture this moment. The second day I was in Guatemala City, there was a political demonstration in the streets with tires burning. It kept me from returning to my hotel, and the school’s director briefed our group, expecting that we may have to be evacuated and sent back to our home countries. Although I hadn’t planned this, the photo and headline on the newspaper’s front page reported the event.
Two young girls with heaps of scarves, purses, and trinkets sat in front of a café, insistent that I stop and look at their goods. I haggled with them for a small woven change purse. After agreeing on a lesser price, I offered to pay their original price if they would let me take their picture. They glanced at each other and giggled, surely convinced they had gotten the better end of the deal.
a flash of small teeth in a fleeting grin
a giggle tinkling like a splash of water over random rocks
a quick sideways glance to my cousin
our eyes meet and whisper to each other
we share a secret now
a magic moment of joy
in an otherwise endless day
the gringa, she doesn’t know we put one over on her
her coins feel like jewels held tightly in the palm of my hand
hard and smooth, something to hold on to
shiny like the sun’s light reflecting on a car window
round as a polished stone from the river
I will show mama and she will give me the warm smile
that I seldom see
and hold my face close to her breasts in a smothering hug
that I will feel around me in the night
after she is asleep and has forgotten
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Email me at: Ruth@RuthRosenfeld.com