Caramelo: Everybody Needs A Lot

Mexico 2010 Reading Challenge

I walk over to the basílica. The streets turned into trashy aisles of glow-in-the-dark Guadalupes, Juan Diego paperweights, Blessed Virgin pins, scapulars, bumper stickers, key chains, plastic pyramids. the old cathedral collapsing under its own weight, the air ruined, filthy, corncobs rotting in the curb, the neighbourhood pocked, overpopulated, and boiling in its own stew of juices, corner men hissing psst, psst at me, flies resting on the custard gelatins rubbing their furry forelegs together like I-can’t-wait.

The old church is closed. They’ve built an ugly new building with a moving escalator in front of Juan Diego’s tilma. Poor Virgen de Guadalupe. The most wretched of the earth, and me among them, wearing my grandmother’s rebozo knotted on my head like a pirate, like someone from the cast of Hair.

I didn’t expect this. I mean the faith. I mixed up the Pope with this, with all this, this light, this energy, this love. The religion part can go out the window. But I didn’t realize about the strength and power of la fe. What a goof I’ve been!

A wisp of a woman sweeping herself feverishly with a candle. A mother still in her apron blessing herself and blessing her daughters. A ragged viejita who walked here on her knees. Grown men crying, machos with their lips mumbling prayers, people with so much need. Help me, help me!

Everybody needs a lot. The whole world needs a lot. Everyone, the woman frying lunch putting warm coins in your hand. The market sellers asking,—What else? The taxi drivers racing to make the light. The baby purring on a mother’s fat shoulder. Welders, firemen, grandmothers, bank tellers, shoeshine boys, and diplomats. Everybody, every single one needs a lot. The planet swings on its axis, a drunk trying to do a pirouette. Me, me, me! Every fist with an empty glass in the air. The earth throbbing like a field ready to burst into dandelions.

I look up, and la Virgen looks down at me, and, honest to God, this sounds like a lie, but it’s true. The universe a cloth, and all humanity interwoven. Each and every person connected to me, and me connected to them, like the strands of a rebozo. Pull one string and the whole thing comes undone. Each person who comes into my life affecting the pattern, and me affecting theirs.

—Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo

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