My wife and I boarded the Manto bus in Juticalpa, and I immediately asked the driver if Doña Mercedes Matute and Don Ramon were still alive.
Thank goodness. I wrote a story about them ten years ago for my hometown newspaper. An excerpt:
And so it is. Doña Mercedes is a healer, a medicine woman, a witchdoctor, if you will. Don Ramon is a quiet man, only offering a few words here and there. They most likely will never fly in a plane or ever make it to Pennsylvania.
Not physically anyway. There’s no doubt, however, that they will be with me, my memories of them serving as a reminder to find the bee pollinating the flower, to listen to the water falling over rocks, to feel the earth beneath my feet. For, it is in their spirits, those inexplicable energies or feelings, that I know them. It is there that I know they are my friends.
I hear some shuffling of feet. Through the curtain that serves as a door in her adobe home, Doña Mercedes walks towards me while fixing her hair, not yet realizing I am at her door.
“Oh my God! Ramon…Ramon…Chago is here. Oh, thank God for this day.”
I did not tell anyone in Manto about my trip back. The look on her face was worth making it a surprise.
The lives of Mercedes and Ramon had not changed a bit. Everything in their house was exactly as it was when I left. They looked the same. I sat on the same cowhide chairs, looked at the same dirt floor, and talked about the same things—weather, beans, life in the States, goings-on in Manto, etc.
And I would not have wanted it any other way. Sitting with them was like going home. If home truly is where the heart is, then a little piece of my heart can be found in a humble house where two of humanity’s purest beings dwell. They want not the material wealth of this world.
My wife noticed tears in the corners of Doña Mercedes eyes. Tears of joy. As I did many times while her neighbor, I wished to be more like her and Don Ramon.
Kind. Giving. Caring. Loving.
The only noticeable changes I saw in Manto added up to three things: 1—cel phones. Everyone had them. Young faces were illuminated in the night air as we walked past central park. Text messaging going on.
Two: the pulperias, little convenient stores on the front of homes, were now selling beer and rum. Everyone laughed at me when I said that they did not sell those things when I was there. I knew of one pulp that sold beer under the radar, but Manto was supposedly a dry town. What this a ploy because the Peace Corps volunteer was living in town? They would not say.
Three: internet. Manto had an internet café, and the one teacher had it hooked up in his house through his cel phone! When I left Manto, the only means of communication was a single telegraph machine.
(part 2 of many…)