Delfina’s face wore wrinkles of laborious survival, as weathered as the textured wood surface in front of me. In a sea of tables, tarps, and tin, her crudely built stand is one of few that could be locked in this open market, a symbol of her prosperity. Rocking back and forth on the floorboards, uneven and rough under my stool, I watched as she prepared her specialty. The grain of the rustic table was sticky under my fingers, not unlike everything else in this space, probably the reason a colony of bees seemed to linger; brushed away without a thought, they moved just long enough for sweet juice to flow from spigot to cup, before returning to their feeding frenzy.
What was this wondrous treat she had placed before me? In a large sundae like bowl sat a pile of fresh shaved ice with sliced bananas, berry syrup, sweetened condensed milk and miraculous home-made jelly of pineapple, mango, and apple. Painfully sweet, yet still so easy to indulge in its entirety; the “granizada” made hers the most popular juice stand here.
Sitting down she looked towards me wide eyed and smiled, asking why I had come to Rabinal. As we spoke of my friend marrying a Mayan shaman, I inspected her traditional garb. Intricately woven with a pattern similar to a dense ikat, her corte, worn tight like all of the mountain women, used all 8 yards of the fabric. Wrapped continuously, tied with a band, and folded over at the top, the skirt is a signature of the Guatemalan people. The delicacy of pattern and weave on her lower half was contrasted only by the coarsely woven, simply patterned huipil on top. Impressed with the craftsmanship, I asked if she would help me find one.
Kicking up dust on the street as we walked beyond the paved area of the main square, Delfina pointed out a poor family’s home who has no electricity; though most lack running water. The rugged single story buildings here all felt the same. Crumbling white plaster and mud-brick walls topped with locally made red clay tiles visually proclaimed the people’s connection with the earth.
Piles of colorful fabrics made the small shop glisten with iridescence. Sifting through, it became apparent that Delfina’s mission was to find me the most beautiful corte ever made. The one she decided on was radiant, a deliberate culmination of every saturated color of the rainbow.
She grabbed the bag before I could, and we walked back to her stand, this time through the stalls of the market; past women with baskets full of chickens, piles of produce, spices, home-made soaps, woven placemats, etc. They all seemed to notice as she passed, walking head high, shoulders straight, proud of the purchase she carried.