Category Archives: Indigenous culture

Amid sweat and tears, Esperanza is born

temezcal wide

Here in the darkness of the temezcal, sweat, steam and mud become one with the throbbing beat of Teresa’s drum. The heat bears down, melting away the boundaries between us. Rhythms from her Mayan heritage rise in the air with the incense-like scent of copal, her voice carrying us to a place beyond time. She asks me to translate, and her songs and prayers flow through me like water.

We fly like eagles, with wings of light/circumnavigating the universe… we are warriors of light.

She calls on the ancients, and on the spirits of the elements and the four directions, asking for a blessing for each of us huddled together in the tiny dome. She teaches us the grito of the warrior, a shout from the depths of our souls that pulls us through round after round of nearly unbearable heat.

Offer your sweat to Mother God, Father God, she advises us. It will help you to endure the suffering.

The heat and the rhythm intensify, and the air is heavy with skin-searing steam. Her words are passing through me now in rhythmic gasps.

Just when we think we can bear no more, she brings out a waxy chunk of white copal and touches it to the red-hot rock in the center of the temezcal. Each of us takes it in turn and whispers the prayer closest to our hearts.

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