It’s been another fast week in San Miguel but definitely not a dull one. Between teaching English to the first and second graders and working on research for my project, some down time was definitely needed. I just wanted to relax and continue to get out in the community to meet new people.
For the past couple of weeks I have been going to the Catholic Church in San Miguel on a regular basis. This has given me the opportunity to reconnect with my spiritual self and meet new people in the community. It also happened to be a special week, the celebration of Saint Michael the Archangel also known as San Miguel. During this special celebration, there is the praying of the rosary and mass that follows every day for the next nine days. On the ninth day, there is a procession where people gather at one of the highest hills in San Miguel and march down singing and praying, while a couple of men push a mobile altar with San Miguel on it.
At first I was very hesitant to go to a new church. I felt that perhaps I would not be welcomed or that I would simply be ignored and looked at as ‘la gringa.’ It was true that I was referred to as “la gringa,” but it wasn’t meant to belittle me as a person. It was a way of acknowledging me in their community. The people from the church were kind and welcoming. They made it a point to come to me and introduce themselves. As the days passed on, I felt more and more a part of this community. I am able to walk into church and say hello to people and actually call them by their name and vice versa.
It’s a great feeling knowing that your presence is acknowledged and enjoyed. Up until a couple of days ago, I felt as if I was not making any progress with my community outreach. So when other people from the Kalu Yala team told me several stories of being out in the San Miguel community and people actually asking for me by name, I couldn’t help but feel proud. I am no longer just known as ‘la gringa,’ but as Myra.