I regularly joke that this is my favourite photo ever, because it’s the only one in which I look tall (at 5-foot 2, I towered over most everyone in my village). But that isn’t really why I love this photo. I love it because of who is in it.
These women were all part of the Membrillo Amas de Casa (housewives) group. These women welcomed me into their group, and taught me so much. Together we created a tree and medicinal plant nursery. We created a demonstration garden using soil conservation techniques. We made bollo for Carnival. We laughed, we drank coffee, we shared our lives.
Two of the women were particularly special to me.
Onofre Gonzalez, the woman to my right, taught me that when it comes to using a machete, it’s attitude that matters, not size. Onofre could take down a tree in seconds with her little, wickedly sharp blade. She once snicked a palm viper’s head off right in front of me with her machete before I even saw the snake. She carried loads on her head, feeling the path with her bare feet like a cat.
To my left is Francisca Chirú. She and her husband, Cándido, adopted me and my husband into their family, though we did not live with them. They embraced us as though we were long lost friends, and we became a regular fixture at their house. They taught us to weed, included us in their family celebrations, and shared their lives with us.
All these women were incredibly strong, creative, and loving. Even 22 years later, I am still honoured and humbled by their acceptance of the tall white stranger among them.