We were invited to go up to Mediagua on Wednesday. Blanca got a phone call from a man named Galileo – he invited us to come up to get some fresh corn off the stalk.
Apparently, when the ‘Art for El Salvador’ (google them and their fabulous work!) delegation was visiting the community, he told the Pastoral Team that he would call when the corn was ready to pick so they could come and get some to make ‘atol’ (a wonderful hot corn drink with cinnamon) and tamales.
Blanca was pleasantly surprised when he actually called. It has been over 3 weeks.
Alejandro, Blanca, Cecilia, Idalia and I piled into the truck and drove on up the hill. It is a relatively short drive – only about 20-25 minutes. Depends upon the ‘traffic’ – cows, pigs, chickens, people – haha. We picked up Galileo, his wife and their little boy named Nector at their home near the community’s school. After a bit of driving, we turned off the main road (a loose term: it is dirt, rock and some cobblestone). We drove quite a way and then turned off THAT small road onto an even smaller road. Much of it was like a tractor rutted road with the weeds in the center taller than the truck! After about 10 minutes by truck from Galileo’s house, we arrived at an old hacienda. There, we were able to park the truck. We got out to walk the rest of the way; down and down a path beyond the hacienda. It reached a point where Blanca said her knees just would not allow the descent. So she and Galileo’s wife (sorry I don’t know her name) stayed at a look out place and talked. I continued on with the rest for another few minutes of walking down. Then we left the ‘main’ path and started walking through a barely see-able path through the weeds. On the other side was the farmland. It was here I decided I didn’t trust my feet to make the trek even further down to where the corn was ready to be harvested.
Drats!! I really wanted to help with this small harvest. But truly – this was STEEP. There was no path, just walking through some 4 inch tall plants from the 2nd planting of corn.
So I let them continue on without me. They chuckled a little but understood my lack of experience in this type of trek. I stayed put for a little while and took some photos of Galileo using his machete to cut the stalks and the rest of them taking the ears off the stalk and sacking them. After a little while, little 5 year old Nector walked up to where I was. Then the two of us walked up to where Blanca and Galileo’s wife were still talking. There we all waited till they were done. Nector and I had some quality conversation. I shot a short video of his explanation of where his family’s farm was. What a cutie! I posted that on my Facebook page. It is too big a file for this blog. It would eat up all my free space!
Pretty soon, Alejandro started walking up with a sack weighing about 75 pounds. From the bottom of the hill all the way back up to the truck. Then about 10 minutes later, up comes IDALIA with another 75 pound sack on her HEAD. She made it up to the point where I bailed out and then Cecilia took over and carried it the rest of the way back up to the truck.
Damn, those ladies are strong!
And just FYI, Galileo did not carry a sack up the hill because he is ill. He is literally not able to lift right now. If he were well, there is no way he would have let the ladies do the carrying!
We chatted all the way back up the hill with this delightful and kind family and drove them back to their house where we expressed our gratitude and said our good-byes.
I’m writing this blog because it demonstrates the kindness and generosity of so many people here. People out in the cantons (dirt floor villages) have so little. Through no fault of their own. They are subsistence farmers – there realistically is no work to be had out in the cantons or even in town. People work extremely hard under a harsh environment: steep farmland that anyone in the States would deem useless, soil depleted of what is needed to raise a crop (hence the nasty chemical fertilizer), farmland that people have to rent (and therefore cannot terrace or take the 4-7 years to convert to organics because it is not their own), farmland that is often very far from their homes requiring a walk of up to 2 hours just to arrive. After this long walk, they begin working under the very hot sun. And with little water – only what they can carry in a 2 liter recycled pop bottle. Many people suffer from renal failure, respiratory illness, cancer, diabetes. All this in part due to the lack of water, lack of proper nutrition, the handling of farming chemical without protection and lack of proper health care.
Boy, this turned sad and frustrating quite quickly!
But perhaps it makes the kindness and generosity of the people here even greater. I’m not sure I would be such a one as to give 150# of my crop away. I’m searching my soul and asking forgiveness.
We can’t express our gratitude enough to these kind people from Mediagua. May they be blessed with better health and bountiful crops.