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Finding Home in Two Worlds

Part: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

While we're at the cemetery, Dan and the kids play in the hotel pool. Dolores's son speaks Tzutujil and English and Dan can hear him translating for Diego and his siblings. When we get back from the cemetery, Diego tells us he's found out the real cause of Julia's death, and it wasn't a stomach illness.

"One of my sisters died," Diego says. "I know how she died. ... She was sick and she stole a mango and her dad got really out of control and he kicked her in the stomach and she died."

"How did you find that out?" I ask. "Because when we asked Isabel about it, Isabel told us that Julia had been sick and died? … Is it because you asked? Did you say what sickness did Julia have or something?"

"Yeah," says Diego. "I said that kind of stuff."

"The way I remember it," says Dan, "you said, 'What sickness did Julia have?' … And they said she didn't have a sickness, her papa … killed her. That's what they said. … And then you said, 'Well what did he use?'"

"His foot, he used his foot," says Diego.

Then Diego asks, "What was her grave like?"

"Oh, well, we have pictures of it," I tell him. "It was just a mound of dirt that was covered with weeds. So the first thing we did when we got there, especially Isabel, was to pull up all the weeds to make the dirt look nice. … Isabel was crying and maybe saying a little prayer. It was hard to understand. ... And what she said was about how Julia was always so interested in you and excited when she heard you were coming to visit. And that ... even though Julia's in another place, we're here at the grave to tell you Diego is here to visit and we're thinking about you. And we know you were thinking about him."

"She said that?" Diego asks.

"That's what Isabel said," I answer.

Diego starts sniffling.

"It's OK to be sad," I tell him. Diego bursts into tears.

We do wonder if this is too much for Diego. Dan worries about it more than I do.

"My view is that he, at the very core of his being, is [sad] because he knows he was separated from the place that he was born into," says Dan.

I feel like, "Yeah, there's sadness in Diego and there's joy and that makes him just like everybody else." Where Dan and I agree is that we feel looking this hard stuff in the face has helped Diego be articulate about his own feelings and that he should know all there is to know about his circumstances.

Also, by being in Santiago Atitlán, Diego knows what it means to be Tzutujil. He feels it. The people in his village taught him his Tzutujil name, "Atico." They tell him, "Never forget. You are Atico. Wherever you go in the world, know that you are Tzutujil and it's something to be proud of."



Next: part 5