Before we talk, we eat.
Aurelia has laid out lunch on the long skinny table. She’s prepared dishes that give homage to maíz, corn – the food that defines Mayan-Mam cultural heritage of the Comitancillo highlands of northwestern Guatemala.
There’s sopa de res y maíz, beef and corn soup, and heavy maíz tamales steaming hot from inside banana leaves. There are corn tortillas and a pot of red pinto beans and several halved squash revealing their green and yellow flesh. And lining the four walls of her home, under her low wooden ceiling, there are hundreds of cobs of corn, dried and tied along a rope.
It’s Aurelia’s lifeline, and the food that will sustain her during the coming months of drought and dust. It’s a kind of beautiful home décor, and somewhat surprising for a North American accustomed to yellow monocrop corn all her life to see the true shades of the Mam’s maíz: golden as a late afternoon sun, red as a fire sun, purple-pink as the sky before the sun goes down, and purple that drains into indigo when dusk is swallowed by the night.