At lunch today in the cafe of my favorite Guatemala City bookstore, Sophos, I looked up to see Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu standing near my table. She wore a shiny blue huipil -- an Indian blouse -- and traditional long skirt. Her round face seemed to be puzzling over a menu, as if deciding what to order when she sat down.
I took the opportunity to step over and greet her.
I've interviewed Rigoberta before and since the grand Prize, and although I'm sure she has little recollection of my own face, she gave me a friendly embrace and graciously accepted the card I gave her announcing my new book, Maya Roads. (It's not disrespectful here, but quite customary, to refer to personages like Menchu by first name.) Soon another woman entered and swept Rigoberta away.
As I sat across the open air cafe from the two, sipping the last of my hot lemon tea, my mind went back to the first time I met Rigoberta Menchu, in 1982, in the living room of a San Francisco priest where she had come to tell her story. She was about twenty-two then, and her now-famous book, I, Rigoberta Menchu had not yet appeared. That evening, of course, was memorable, an account of violence and mayhem wrought on indigenous families like her own by a brutal army. Rigoberta seemed timid at that time, and even today can appear shy in public. I take it as a lovely coincidence, a good omen for the new year, that Jessica O'Dwyer, author of the brave and intimate adoption memoir, Mamalita, today posted an interview with me in which I happened to have described the day Rigoberta learned she had won the Prize. You can see it here: http://www.mamalitathebook.com/