A Gringa Finds Home in a Maya Family, Catholic News Service
Irma Hernandez says Our Lady of Guadalupe brought me to Guatemala 25 years ago. We met by chance when I was a lonely 34-year-old journalist from Boston who had come to look at the weaving in a Maya pueblo at the foot of three volcanos and famous for intricate huipils (women's blouses) in vibrant reds, yellows and blues. I had missed the bus back to the colonial city of Antigua where I was staying, and Irma, a short, slender woman with long black hair and high cheekbones who looked to be in her early 20s, found me wandering aimlessly.
During the next two decades, I became known in San Antonio Aguas Calientes as the gringa "who came back." I was drawn to Guatemala like the butterflies that seemed to follow me as I walked along the dirt road to Irma's one-room house without running water.
In time, she would ask me to be the madrina (godmother) to her five young children, including Henry, a boy with spina bifida who needed a wheelchair. The church would not accept a Jewish woman in the role, I told her. But Irma did not care much what the local priests thought. The right godmother, she reasoned, was the one Guadalupe sent to help with doctors and school.
In a predominantly Catholic and evangelical town, her family had never met a Jew. They vaguely remembered a couple of sermons saying the Jews had killed Christ. And when a nearby volcano erupted, the story went, the devil was spitting out Jews. But Irma had no use for such tales of hatred.
"Guadalupe loves everyone," she told me. And whether I believed in her, Guadalupe loved me too.