I’d prepared 3 tacos for lunch before she asked me with an angelic smile where I’d come from. She didn’t give me time to answer her first question when she interrupted herself with a giggle and added, “You’re the one Mayan from the email.”
She was referring to the email the organization had sent that morning in order to highlight the scholarship winners. My group was late for lunch because our teacher had forgotten to let us go for lunch. You see my teacher is from New York, and she hadn’t paid attention to the time change, or at least that was her excuse.
“You’re Mayan, right?” She asked me as I was trying to formulate an answer to her first question, “and your kind was wiped out, right?”
She looked at me as she wanted me to answer her questions, but perhaps she saw my puzzled face, so she giggled again to avoid her awkward questions. Indeed, I was puzzled by her questions and comments about the subject of the Mayans’ demise.
I was trying to figure out what she meant by “wiped out,” when a second middle-age lady butted in with her own comment to correct the first lady. “Eradicated,” she interrupted, “his kind were eradicated.”
What is the difference I thought silently as I stopped and looked at both ladies? I wanted to correct both ladies with a harsh tone; however, I just looked at them thinking of how much these two ladies knew about us, the Mayans.
I thought for a second bout this disgrace because these two ladies lived about 650 miles away from Yucatan, my home state in Mexico. They should have known that across their bay lays the old Mayan empire full of Mayan natives and expats living in a peninsula called Yucatan.
I had been trained as a teacher not to disregard anyone’s comments or ideas when I teach, so I put on my teacher’s hat and offered an answer that might not offend both ladies.
“Both of you are correct to an extent,” I finally answered, “Indeed, the Mayan people have been wiped out…to an extent as you know. The Mayan people were part of the Spanish colonization, so we have been exposed to genocide and eradication.”
Both of the ladies looked at me guiltily just like if they knew they have messed up. Perhaps, they were ashamed to be informed that the Mayan people are very much alive.
“You see,” I addressed both ladies, “There is a whole country of Mayans in the world, and today I want to let you know the Mayan people are very much alive. I am proof.”