“What little we learned about her early life came to us in bits and pieces. We thought she was from Arequipa, the second largest city in
Peru. But when Glenn planned a trip to Arequipa and asked if she might like for him to take something to her parents, she became nervous and evasive.
A few days later as I passed through the kitchen with an armload of clothes for the washing-machine, she stopped me with “Are you very busy, Senora? I have to talk with you.” A glance at her troubled face made me sit down, dirty clothes and all. She began, with difficulty, “Senora, I am not from
Arequipa. I am from a little village high in the sierra.” And she told me about the little village that is accessible only by horseback or on foot, and about her parents who speak very little Spanish, only Quechua, a language handed down from the Incas.”
I thought she had told me she was from Arequipa because she was ashamed of being from the mountains. But she says she has never been ashamed of her background. How could she have told us about her village the first time we asked her? We knew little Spanish and even less geography of Peru. I was the lady of the house, she the maid. She had named the only city we had heard of that was anywhere near her remote village. Now I do speak her language, and we are older women together. This summer, as we shared a bedroom we also shared long conversations in the night. I’ve tried to retell some of those stories in the chapters that follow.