I never wanted to be from Guatemala. I was an American; a full-blooded born and raised Jersey girl in every sense of the word. I was selfish, self-centered, and sarcastic. I lived at the mall (except for the summers when I lived either on the beach or on a cruise) and I had never pumped my own gas (ew). I refused my crusts, frequently dumping full meals in the garbage, and it was a habit of mine to routinely tell my parents I “hated” them for “ruining my life” over minor transgressions. However, in the summer of 2008 they went too far:
“Avina,” my mother’s voice was gentle; guarded and carful, as if she was handling a particularly dangerous breed of new-age techno-bomb that was liable to explode any second. “Your father and I have decided that instead of grandpa taking us on a cruise this year,” she glanced nervously at my father, “we’re going to visit our family in Guatemala.”
But there was nothing to be done. The decision had been made and whether I was amenable to it or not and I soon found myself being packed-up, picked-up, and flown down farther south than I’d ever been before to a place where, for all I knew, swinging from vines was the primary mode of transportation. It. Was. Depressing.
The first few days I spent swatting away mosquitoes and other random bugs as we toured the Mayan ruins in Quirigua and Copan (which is actually in Honduras but whatever). I’d be lying if I said it was boring- it was actually quite beautiful in its own creepy old way- but it was no cruise ship. By the time we got back to our hotel in Antigua, I needed my fix of the material. So we went to the marketplace (it was the closest thing I found to a mall). As the potential of a purchase overwhelmed me, I somehow managed to overlook a box on top of which was precariously perched a glass piece of merchandise. What happened next is obvious: Bump. Fall. Crash! As I looked down in dismay at the scattered shards of my temporary happiness, a deep melancholy beset me. The point in a potential purchase is the potential part: the ability to choose. Now I would have to pay for my clumsiness. However, to my complete astonishment, I was not charged for the broken item. In fact, the calamity, instead of exiling me to Mortification Central, brought attention to the fact that I wasn’t being attended to. Within the blink of an eye the mess was being cleaned up by a seven year old boy and I was being catered to personally by the shop owner herself. I couldn’t mistake the sincerity in their eyes. The boy looked so determined that the job be done right. And yet he looked content. The shop owner wanted to help me because she wanted to help me. That’s when I realized: this was all they expected from life and nothing beyond this.
I have never been so grateful that I live in America. My eyes were fully opened that day to how lucky I am to be where I am. I have been offered countless opportunities for a future no one down there could dream of even if they deserved it more than many of my peers in America. Although I may live in America, I will always be from Guatemala.
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