The Girl in Cuetzálan

By Lupita Peimbert.

(Puebla, Mexico) – When I met Sofía in Cuetzálan, she was 4 years old. A charming, inquisitive and very friendly little girl who accompanied her mother Cecilia to sell necklaces made from seeds of colorín, café, and ojo de aguila to tourists and visitors. Every day during the summer, mother and daughter would travel from their village called San Miguel Zinacapan to the town of Cuetzálan, Puebla, in México. Selling their crafts to tourists is what many locals do to improve their income, but it often does not leave them much revenue.

Cuetzálan is a magical town up in the mountains where most people speak Nahuatl as well as Español. It is well-known –and not, while it has all the qualities of a great place to visit: unique culture, history, natural beauty, traditions, tasty food, locally produced cafe and wine.

The men walk around town elegantly. The women work and own their business with pride and serenity. Both take pride in celebrating religious traditions, and participate in regional celebrations such as the “Flying Men” (Voladores de Cuetzálan). The economy could be better, although there is commercial activity through a farmers’ market, gift stores, and restaurants.

Sofia became my friend the first day of my stay, while I was wandering around, taking pictures and writing. She approached me:

“Qué haces, cómo te llamas tu? – She said with this beautiful smile, and her mother behind her.

Before I could answer, she continued:

“¿Qué es? – ¡Aaahhh!” –And promptly sat next to me, looking at everything.

I showed her my laptop and my iPhone, and let her take pictures. After a little while I told her that I needed to write, that she could stay by me but be quiet Por favor.

When I saw her face and smile, and her mother’s friendly manners, I changed my mind.

“Want to have ice cream? Let’s go!” – I said and smiled even more, when I saw her and her mother smiling broadly. Everyday in the afternoon we had ice cream and elotes con chile y limón, sitting outside this restaurant in the corner, in the main plaza. We would talk about their life and mine.

I stayed at a simple place for $15 per day, close to the Zócalo and the main church. Every morning I was pleasantly awakened by the sound of birds and the music that took place outside the church, sometimes at dawn, honoring this and that saint on that particular day. Loved it!

The summers in Cuetzálan are sunny and bright during the day, while foggy and rainy during the afternoon; Quite a change in weather all in one day!

Days later, the time came for me to leave, and so one late afternoon, after fog and rain had settled in, we said good-bye and I felt that I was leaving my sisters. My bus would leave early in the morning and most likely I would not be able to see them, hence, the proper goodbye the day before. I wished I could take them with me, or that I could come back often and become part of their life.

The morning arrived, and I walked up to the bus station, feeling a little sad and I did not know why. Got inside the bus, sat by the window. Two little hands were waving at me. Sofía’s little voice was calling my name, and Cecilia was smiling. Got out of the bus, so surprised!. We hugged. We had to say goodbye so quickly, but this time, I felt happy and grateful. They had come earlier just to see me again, before I left town! –This is how friendships start.The little surprises. The little details. Cecilia and Sofia whom I met in Cuetzálan.

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