One glance at the baby makes the diagnosis obvious. “Tiene ictericia,” you tell the Guatemalan mother. Bewilderment covers her face. You carefully explain the causes and treatments for jaundice. All of a sudden, the mother smiles and says, “Pues, es como amarillo, verdad?” Amarillo? Yellow? Of course, that could make sense. That’s when you remember the pocket-sized book you stuffed in your bag a while ago. You find it and look through the English-Spanish section. There it is:
Now it’s your turn to smile. “Sí, es como amarillo,” you confirm. As you answer a couple of the mother’s questions, you make a mental note to look through that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient tonight.
Thread by thread, line upon line somehow turn into a work of art. Strands of color slowly come together under skillful fingers until the tapestry is complete.
Back-strap weaving – who can help but admire the craft and the woman sitting with her loom hanging from the post and connected to the strap around her waist? This is a skill passed down from generations, and it is a hallmark of Guatemala’s highlands.
Along with captivating textiles of various colors, in the mountains of Guatemala you may also discover a vibrant selection of languages. Many of the indigenous people speak a Mayan dialect, and, though they often speak Spanish as well, their indigenous words are woven in just like the hues on their looms. Of course, one can appreciate the beauty of the spoken words without understanding just as one can admire the pattern of a corte (woven fabric made into a traditional wrap-around skirt) without much knowledge of the art behind it. However, just as knowing the hours and skills that went into creating the corte adds depth to the admiration so understanding of the words deepens the appreciation of their beauty. That is one of the reasons we created Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. May all who read it grow in their value of both these words and, most importantly, the people who weave them every day.