The Maya of the Guatemalan Highlands
“If I destroy you, I destroy myself. If I honor you, I honor myself”
I am drawn to these places where the world is still real, where you can feel the past and the connection between things, and the course of events that led everything to this point, where you can look back and see the path upon which you came, a path not so easily paved over by denial nor disillusionment. As I arrive to a home, as strangers we study one another out of the corner of the eye, but Mayan kindness is virtuous, and I am welcomed into a home most would consider nothing more than a barn for livestock. Nonetheless they endure, finding the will to live with dignity upon dirt floors. Although the Maya speak two dozen languages, we speak only with the eyes, and I notice a pair glisten from a darkened room. But, I cannot yet see the dreams hidden deeply behind those dark pupils, and as the earthen feet of the young girl swiftly scurry from the shadows, nor do I sense the dreams that flee with her into the fog and corn stalk. After a few portraits, I bid the family farewell, and I step out of the dark shack into the glowing mist, my shadow cast lightly upon the ground. As I set forth upon the dusty path to set their image free, I feel the sharpness of the other edge of the sword, as the reality of whom these people actually are, I know will be tarnished through the filter of modernity, false judgment and pity. I take a moment to turn back and see golden teeth glistening. And as I continue toward a world they will never know, a world that exists only within their dreams, the young girl emerges from the stalk with a small boy clinched by the hand. She drags his stumbling feet to the edge of her family’s land, and I continue beyond, as I consider she truly does want to be seen, and her fears are of never being seen again. In the world of her own, to walk away, for seeing eyes to never see again, is akin to death. As I reach a bend, I turn back, and there she stands, and through the fog I can see the vanishing silhouette of her waving arm, and a dream as clear as day.