Thursday, February 11, 2010

I once danced a Huayno with a man named Melquiades

Do memories sneak up on you? You’re walking down the street and a restaurant emanates with the smell of your grandma’s goulash. They don’t have the goulash, or anything close, but the smell has the power to make you open the door and take you back. Popcorn is popping in the microwave, because that’s how people make it these days, and suddenly you’re transported to a South Floridian dinner theater. Star Wars Episode IV is on the big screen and your dad’s beer sits precariously close to the edge of the table.

Digging through articles about melting glaciers and global warming, pictures of Aymara and Quechua farmers tug strands of memory to the front of my mind. I’m 19 and dressed in a jewel toned velvet skirt with layers and layers of native slips beneath, some cotton, some wool, all beautifully embroidered with patterns as old as the Inkas. Braids and a hat complete the ensemble, my feet tap out a quick beat while my partner turns pink with embarrassment. He never danced a Huayno before, but he would spin one for the gringa. He raises his brow in awe of my ease with his native dance. We turn circles around each other, striking the concrete with heavy clicks as the charango intensifies. The swish of my skirts mimic the shuffling second beat of our feet. His handkerchief brushes my shoulder as we cross the floor. The up-tempo slows when I see it now, pitched voices soften while the two dancers swirl in my memory. Burgundy skirts, yellow shirt, gold-toothed smile, luggage, Cruz del Sol, customs, blink, 14 years pass in the mist of that swirl. But still… I tap my foot, turn on Pandora, and suddenly I’m spinning a Huayno with Melquiades Augustine. I wonder where Tio Augustine is now. Doing missionary work in the Amazonas? Up in the mountains or back home in the sweltering heat of Chepen? Teaching his son to drive? Time ticks away, mountains melt.

“Mommy, you can dance!” My three year old is now turning circles with me on the kitchen floor. I pause and smile at him. I hope he can meet my Tio one day and those mountains that brought my memories back.

More on the mountains next week. Sorry for the neglect. I'm posting more often. Pinky swear.