All Saints Day

I awake at the crack of dawn, as usual not having slept terribly well thanks to the chorus of mice running wild in my makeshift bedroom in the family’s kitchen. Despite my requests that we get a move on in the early morning, we leave for the cemetery later than I had hoped. When we approach the cemetery, I see that it has been stripped of its festive mantle and a final group of mourners is heading down the path. One of my friends shouts from a distance for me to join them.

I hesitate because by now the level of intoxication is such that the chatter will be incessant and I will likely not have a chance to see the cemetery in its pre-festive state. I decide to run to the cemetery for a quick look before joining him and the others. I dash ahead, step through the gate, snap a few quick photographs of the now emptied graveyard, then head back down the path to the group.

As I approach my friend, I grasp and actually gasp at the error of my Western way. I want to kick myself. Of course, the cemetery is a sacred place. I need permission to enter. Damn! The others seem oblivious to my actions, caught up in their own chatter and thoughts. But I overhear my friend and his wife discussing my arrogance. I have betrayed their trust. I apologize profusely, explaining that I had assumed that the permission granted the night before would suffice. But in my split-second decision to satisfy my curiosity, I become just another Gringa researcher, out to get what I needed. I fear that there will be little that I can say or do in the limited time left of this research year to rebuild that trust. For a second time in twenty-four hours, I have lost my bearings and I am forced to appreciate my vulnerability in the world of another.

My friend and I did speak again today. He was polite. But he seemed to want to avoid me. In his now cautious eyes, I am reminded of the precariousness of the insider-outsider relationship and of how easily greed – in this case my desire to get those damn photos – can trump respect.

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