|village hat weavers
All of the town's children ran towards us, flocking and buzzing delightfully amongst each other. They seemed to gather together from every which way, multiplying in number, as they followed us along the dirt road. There is nothing quite like a crowd. And a crowd is nothing like a crowd of children. Endearing, bright-eyed, hair in shades of golden brown and black. Their laughter inspired my own. They shared excited, curious glances as they approached hurriedly, yet timidly, on bikes, on shoe and on bare foot. We must have looked strange. A spectacle, arriving on bus, now walking through their village and snapping pictures with expensive-looking cameras. Their apprehension in getting too close, and playful desire to stir closer may have had something to do with the spectacle they saw us as. My camera did not follow my journey through that village, but nothing could capture the feeling of the flock which descended upon us, as we descended into the cave of the hat weavers.
Down steep rock stairs, we ducked into the cool walls of the cave- the office of the hat weavers. Not machines, but delightful women telling stories, anecdotes, and jokes in Mayan occupied these walls. The cold air is optimal for their work: weaving straw at a dizzying pace. The agility of their practiced movements amazed me. The tightly woven products are now masterpieces in my eye, not the Mexican icon available for purchase in tourist shops.
There was this great communication going on between us beyond what was translated by our wonderful guide and friend, Alfonso. The most charismatic of the group incited the other women into laughter. And I had a magnificent suspicion that it was at our expense. I have never felt so delighted over being laughed at.
These women make two hats a day even with the dizzying speed of their skilled hands. This translates into two American dollars. Such dollars are often the center and circumference of existence in the United States. I would laugh at us too. I know nothing of what money means to these women, or the society at large. But I get the impression that their happiness is derived from a much more natural place. We took our American dollars (in the form of pesos) and squandered from them their masterpieces in attempt to bring some of the magic back home with us. The magic has never truly left that cave, or that village. The experience is remnant there even as new experiences take occupancy. Even so I cherish my token of that day, a tightly woven straw hat and the visual snapshot I carry in my head.
Aside: We later heard that the mayor of this village had approached one of our group. He wanted to know what official it was who arrived on our bus. Buses like ours do not normally travel villages so far off the tourist trail. It seems we were spectacles to not only the children.