Tere and I have just finished delivering two copies of Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives to each of the artisans, plus a specially made version that Tere did for each one with her or his own story in Spanish. (It looks just like the big book but thinner and spiral bound, with just their own pictures and story.) Every one of these deliveries filled our hearts, gave us stories I will share with you in future blog posts. Right now, for my own pleasure, I want to bask in the beauty of the shared reactions of the artisans.
The single most important response, expressed with smiles and/or tears, is that they are grateful to have a way to share their stories with their children and grandchildren, that when they are gone their families will have a tangible way to remember them. The value of that could not be over-stated.
We were surprised at how few looked for their own pictures first. (In the culture I know best, most of us would have looked for ourselves first.)Most started at the beginning and paged through the entire book, savoring all of the pictures, admiring the work of other artisans and communities. A surprising number knew someone else in the book, which was fun. Some who are more business-savvy jumped on the chance to use this to promote their work; others barely have any concept of what a book even is, so looked at it as a new kind of animal. They were impressed with the quality of the book and some said that now they understand why it took so long, and it was worth it. We were very touched that in one way or another, they all expressed the hope that we would come back. Now that the work is over, can we keep the friendship going?
Sadly, two of the artisans – Antonio Ramirez Sosof and Catarina Aguilar Cruz, died before they got to see the book. That only added to the gratitude their families have for this remembrance. Domingo Asicona said that since he is now 91 he is glad we made it before he died, and was sad thinking we might never see each other again. But throughout we got reminded how many had parents who lived past 100. In the case of Vicente Lainez, he had told us his father died at 106; it never occurred to us to ask about his mother until she walked in! She is now 97, he told us. It’s hard to make sense of a world where so many children die, most people are old by the time they reach 58, and yet so many live past 100.
And finally, one of the new stories we heard was from Ana Ceto’s daughter. She said that when her mother was young they were mostly barefoot, even in the cold, so they cut the bark off a tree the size of their foot, stuck a stick into it, and made what we would call flip flops, their protection from the frosty ground.
Stay tuned … There are 20 artisans, plus the historic political activity going on in Guatemala right now, and so much more. This is fun.