Last Day in Cuesta Arena

Today was my last day in Cuesta Arena. Yesterday we drove to Cuesta Arena and there was a parade of las reinas. Every pueblo has their own saint and each saint has their own day. Each pueblo then has their own festival to celebrate their santo on their saint’s day. Each festival has queens or reinas and today was the parade through the pueblos to show off las reinas. All of the people were in the street to see the parade. This made us visiting the homes of the people of Cuesta Arena very difficult yesterday.
Today we headed to Cuesta Arena with the task of documenting the residence of Cuesta Arena. It started with a stop at the pharmacy, to buy prescriptions for Mariel, Angel’s sister. She came one of the last days the group was at Cuesta Arena asking if the Americans could fill her prescription. Not wanting to teach the community to ask the Americans for money, I had Estella talk with her and told her we would talk with the Pastor. Sairy decided it would be good to fill the prescriptions, but when we filled them we found out the prescription was from May. She had literally waited for the Americans to come to ask them to fill it in July. We desire to help the community, but do not have any intentions of hindering them. With this in mind, we try our best to empower the church to help them and not teach them to ask the missionaries. It is difficult for those who come once wanting to help in all the ways that they can. But like the saying “the squeeky wheel gets the grease” so many times the one asking for help is not the one that needs it the most. The only way to know for sure who needs help the most is to be in the community and present at all times. Even though I know many of the people’s stories, I still don’t know their whole story and I don’t know everyone’s stories.
One the way out to Cuesta Arena, I desired to see Maria’s grave, Juansito’s mom. In April of this past year, I received the horrifying news that Maria had died, believed to be from cholera. I was unable to be here with the family and when I arrived two months after, Maria’s mother greeted me on Sunday morning with a huge hug and lots of tears. It has been a rough journey for the family, especially Juansito. I knew she was buried in Cuesta Arena but did not know where. While driving with Freddy, he showed me the cemetery but I desired to see her grave and pay my respects. With tears in her eyes, Sairy agreed. We drove through La Canela and stopped outside the cemetery. We walked through passing by the huge concrete graves, innately decorated tombs, and beautiful flowers. We then walked into a field of small crosses. Much like in life, the cemetery was dived between the rich and the poor. Maria’s grave was located in the field of crosses. Newly buried, the dirt was still piled high and flowers that once decorated the pile were dried up. There was a beautiful plant behind a cross with her name and dates to mark her grave. It seemed so surreal.
From there we headed to Cuesta Arena and began our “census” of sorts. We asked who the parents were of each household, how many children they had and their ages. The idea is to be able to track the number of households and children in those households so we can better serve them. It will also become important to track what we distribute to the homes. (All this we learned for CONANI)
We then asked what they thought the biggest needs of the community were. Some people seemed surprised by the question as if they had never had anyone care enough to ask, or as if the needs were so great they couldn’t narrow it down. Most of the families, including those that did not have small children, said the school was too far for the young ones to walk and they needed on in their community. Many mentioned the newly paved road but how up the hill was still needed. It seemed dependent on their income level if the water was a necessity. Some said water was cheap to buy, others said they had water from the canal acknowledging it was bad but grateful for it anyway, and others listed it as a top need. Once the water is completed, the school will become the next important piece of the community, beginning with the youngest children and tutoring to the oldest.
We only entered 12 houses today but hope to be able to have Guillermo and Estella finish the rest of the houses in the coming months.

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