Saturday, March 22, 2008

Message from the Hill

As I sit at my desk I'm looking south at the plain where the Pirity winds to join the Tebicuary River. Twenty miles away the Acahay Hill rises from the valley. Most of what I see is dry and beginning to get brown, but the clouds moving in slowly from the west suggest that rain might not be far away.

The community of Mbocayaty is celebrating Easter weekend--Pascua. Family members who had gone to work in the city have returned home to be with the extended family. Mother makes chipa from home-ground manioc flour. Sopa paraguaya, with corn and onions and fat from the pig that was butcherred this morning, baked in the wood-fired tatacuá, comes out smelling of childhood. Visits to the cool chorro, where the water comes cascading over the rocks into the pool under the trees, with its sandy beach. Ice-cold tereré passed around from father to son to brother. Precious days in the "valle" of their childhood, but too short. The same economics that forced them to Asunción to find work will see them back on the bus tomorrow afternoon to clock in early on Monday morning at the grocery stores, laundries, and bottle factories that pay them a living wage.

But for now, this rural community and thousands like it across Paraguay are temporarily full of their children and grandchildren. The urbanization of a nation that still has its roots largely in the country is reversed for one long weekend.

Tomorrow families and communities will once more be fragmented. Social networks, tentatively reestablished for three or four days, will be retorn and the city life will resume. Young rural men with no grandmothers to scold them into conformity will live as they wish in the permissive city and reap the consequences with no comfort of home. Young women will struggle to keep dreams alive among the pressures of insecurity, inequality, and loneliness.

They'll continue to send money home, but most will be spent as higher wages accompany higher costs. And gradually the ties with the valle will grow weaker until one year they don't return and abuelita will mourn in gently lilting Guarani, "ndouvéima che memby, che nieto kuéra. Opytapáma Paraguaýre. Che añónte apyta." My children, my grandchildren no longer come. They all stay in Asunción. I alone remain.


John Lee said...

Dude, it is great to get a slice of Paraguay this way. I hope you and the family are doing super!

robert kingsbury said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the update. I like your blog. Keep it up. I am looking at your WGM card on my world map and I think that you have joined my group of the "hair challenged" since I saw you last at the Avon Park Camp meeting. Carolyn and i are paying for you and yours. Bob Kingsbury

Andy & Lizet Bowen said...

Thanks, Dr. Bob! In my defense, let me say that I am voluntarily hair challenged.