The first 15th of September that we were out of Guatemala, we held an acto civico in the house...complete with a flag and the national anthem. I was 9. Our flag had somewhat deteriorated and the sky blue sections of the flag had acquired a purple hue. Nevertheless, my family and I paid homage to a country that was no longer our home.
It is interesting to note that I remember certain things and that perhaps my mind plays favorites as to what memories get front page space. This is not to say that I do not remember the sad, tragic moments in my family, but it is true, since I was kid I probably have come to build an idealized version of Guatemala.
Either way, I do no think the items I remember are that less special.
For example, I remember the incense at Sunday Mass, especially during Holy Week. I remember the smell of wet soil after it has rained. The sweetness of dulces tipicos and the bouncing one experiences in the camionetas. I remember being in charge of putting baby Jesus in the Nativity Scene once the clock struck midnight on December 24th. The songs that were sung with a joyous feeling at La Misa de Gallo and the food that was served at functions seemed never ending. Although I tried to stay up as much as I could for these, I probably had one tamal, gave the traditional hugs at midnight, but was out before sunrise.
Out of all the memories I have in my treasure chest, I especially remember how even when people had little to give, they still gave whatever they had with all of their heart.
Whenever I go back to Guatemala, I look for those details from my childhood. I suspect I get weird looks as I cherish the first bite of a tamal or how in the mornings, I gaze at the volcanoes as if it were the first time I come across them. It is hard to explain to relatives and friends why I like to walk under the rain or why the sound of the rain on the laminas sends me into a deep slumber at night.
It has been years since I have been to a 15th of September function, but the last time I was in one, I was in Antigua and my eyes got misty when a girl carrying a flag passed by. You see, my sisters got the chance to carry the flag, an honor bestowed upon the best students. I never got the chance. As I walked away from the desfile though I realized I had carried the flag once and although I carried it from the Principal's Office to the school's patio, it still counted. Smiling to myself and with the volcanoes as background, I kept walking in the cobblestone streets of Antigua.
- Libre al viento tu hermosa bandera
- a vencer o a morir llamará;
- que tu pueblo con ánima fiera
- antes muerto que esclavo será.