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[Yehwin tlahkwilohle noihki welis tiknawaixtlalos. / Este cuento también se puede leer en español.]

There is a lot of earth.

An elderly woman gathers beans below a guava tree. Black beans lie on her dress. It is midday. Her hair is long and white. At her side there is a reddish drinking gourd.

Elderly woman: Tsin ta tak tsin ta tak tsin ta tak …[1]

The elderly woman sings.

A man’s voice is heard far away, yelling into a megaphone: “Whoever wants to buy pork, it’s for sale in the home of Señora Erlinda. She has chicharrón and lard. Come, the pork is delicious. Here we’re calling out to anyone who wants pork …”

The elderly woman listens attentively. She no longer sings. Her hands stopped; she no longer sorts beans. She gets up and the beans fall on the ground. Now we see her feet buried in the ground. She is barefoot.

Elderly woman: Hurry up, don’t you see they are selling chicharrontlatlak?[2] Quick, take me, we are going to buy some.

A young woman arises from beneath the earth, brushes off the earth, and gets ready.

Young woman: Yes, abuelita, let’s go.

Elderly woman: First put out the candles.

The young woman goes behind her grandmother and lights the candles. Ten candles.

Young woman: Abuela,[3] why do you want me to put them out?

She asks her grandmother while lighting the candles one by one.

Elderly woman: Listen carefully. You have to put out the candles before leaving, or else when you return, your house will have burned down. Don’t you know that fire likes to play around? Fire cannot, even if we wanted, be kept still. Fire has a heart, they like to feed themself, they like to live, like you and me, like our language. Quick, hurry up.

The young woman returns to her grandmother’s side.

Young woman: Abuelita, and these beans?

The young woman begins to gather them.

Elderly woman: I stood up and spilled everything! Now for sure we are not going to buy chicharrontlatlak.

The elderly woman kneels down. They both begin to gather the beans. The beans get lost in the earth.

Young woman: Never mind if we don’t buy chicharrontlatlak, it’s burnt anyway. And besides, chicharrón is tough, and I don’t even like it, abuelita. I wonder why we eat swine skin.

In the distance is heard again: “Whoever wants to buy pork, it’s for sale in the home of Señora Erlinda. She has chicharrón and lard. Come, the pork is delicious. Here we’re calling out to anyone who wants pork …”

Elderly woman: You think up all kinds of things. Pig’s skin is delicious.

Young woman: Then why do you call it “chicharrontlatlak?”

Elderly woman: I just like how it sounds.

The two laugh.

Elderly woman: Tell me, Tere, what is Nuevayor like?

Young woman: There are many tall buildings, abuela, and everything is lit up. They call them skyscrapers. New York is very pretty.

Elderly woman: That’s not true, here it is really beautiful.

Young woman: Yes, here you can climb a hill and tickle the sky. There everyone just runs, they are in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s cold, abuelita, very cold. When I had just arrived, I thought the wind would toss me.

Elderly woman: You weren’t afraid?

Young woman: No, I only thought it and laughed. I was in the airport. The wind didn’t toss me.

Elderly woman: Don’t lose a single bean, they are also our flesh. If they are lost, tomorrow we will have nothing to eat. Then the wind will definitely toss you about.

Young woman: Later we got in a taxi. It took us somewhere else, called Brooklyn. We ate there. I liked that we went to eat in a building … an Italian place. You have never seen spaghetti like that, they make it better. We don’t make it that good.

Elderly woman: And what did you eat?

Young woman: I ate … something called minestrone soup, I drank wine, and I ate some sweet Italian thing but I don’t remember what it’s called. I ate really well.

Elderly woman: And didn’t you crave tortillas?

Young woman: Tortillas? I didn’t even remember them! I tell you, the food from those Italians is very tasty.

Neither talks, both gather beans from the earth. Nothing can be heard. Only how the dirt is tossed around. The elderly woman begins to sing again.

Elderly woman: Tsin ta tak tsin ta tak tsin ta tak …

The young woman laughs.

Young woman: Abuela, why do you sing that?

Elderly woman: You don’t like it?

Young woman: It makes me laugh.

Elderly woman: So you like it.

Young woman: I’m telling you it makes me laugh.

Elderly woman: Tsin ta tak tsin ta tak tsin ta tak.

The elderly woman sings again, she sits in her chair, and observes her granddaughter. The young woman only smiles. No one speaks. Again no one speaks. Now only the young woman gathers the beans, and the elderly woman observes as if she herself were not there.

Silence.

Elderly woman: Come, cats, dogs, owls, ants, birds, scorpions, come bear away this young woman’s sickness, her sorrow-sickness, carry it far, and set it free at the top of those mountains. Come, cats, swallows, dogs, birds, pigs, come bear away her illness, carry it far, take this sorrow-sickness far away to where there is pure water …

The young woman begins to sigh, feels herself shudder. She seems fragile, now, like a little bird unable to fly. It has gotten dark.

Young woman: Abuela, why do you sing tsintatak tsintatak?

Elderly woman: Only because I like how it sounds.

The elderly woman responds as though she were another woman.

Elderly woman: Come, cats, dogs, owls, ants, birds, scorpions, come bear away this young woman’s sickness, her sorrow-sickness, carry it far, and set it free at the top of those mountains. Come, cats, swallows, dogs, birds, pigs, come bear away her illness, carry it far, take this sorrow-sickness far away to where there is pure water …

The young woman begins to sink into the earth. The elderly woman covers her with soil.

Young woman: Abuela, light a candle for me, it is getting dark.

Elderly woman: Come, cats, dogs, owls, ants, birds, scorpions, come bear away this young woman’s sickness, her sorrow-sickness, carry it far, and set it free at the top of those mountains. Come, cats, swallows, dogs, birds, pigs, come bear away her illness, carry it far, take this sorrow-sickness far away to where there is pure water …

The young woman cries and hugs herself beneath the earth like a small child.

The elderly woman steps back and begins to put the candles out one by one.


1. Tsintatak literally means itch/buttocks. This onomatopoeia imitates the sounds of wind instruments in the Mexican state of Guerrero. [return]
2. Tlatlak means burned. The use of chicharrontlatlak with its sonority plays with the word chicharrón (fried pork rinds) in Spanish and the sound tsintatak. [return]
3. Abuela and abuelita (grandmother), used in the Nahuatl and Spanish versions of the play, resemble vela and velita (candle). [return]



Gestora cultural Nahua: En el ámbito editorial ha fungido como gestora, coordinadora y editora de los títulos “Yolkalpam” y “Na Savi,” dos libros-objeto en Nahuatl y Tu´un Savi respectivamente. En 2018, Neijmantototsintle, un libro-objeto con un poema de su autoría, fue acreedor del Judges’ Award Choice, otorgado por The Oxford Fine Press Book Fair. Actualmente colabora con el Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales Orales en el área de gestión y es una de las tres coordinadoras de Originaria, una gira y publicación editorial de mujeres poetas en lenguas indígenas. https://aterimiyawatl.wixsite.com/aterimiyawatl

Nahua cultural promoter: In the field of publishing, she has worked as a promoter, coordinator, and editor of the works “Yolkalpam” and “Na Savi,” two book-objects in Nahuatl and Tu’un Savi, respectively. In 2018, Neijmantototsintle, a book-object with a poem she authored, received the Judges’ Award Choice from The Oxford Fine Press Book Fair. Presently, she collaborates with the National Laboratory of Oral Material in the field of promotion and is one of the three coordinators of Originaria, a touring publishing house of women poets in Indigenous languages. https://aterimiyawatl.wixsite.com/aterimiyawatl
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