The Beautiful People of Latin America

She teetered on her left foot, to the point of almost toppling over, until she found balance on the jeaned knee of an elderly lady sitting beside her. Her big brown eyes looked skyward then, her lopsided toothy grin met a smirk looking back at her. Having regained her balance, she continued down the slim aisle of the doctor’s waiting room, bouncing off one strangers knee and then another, until she found her way to the end and turned around to happily run screeching back to her Mom.

We were all enraptured with her frizzy curls, shooting out in all directions, forever coming free from the elastics that tried to bind them. Her feet often escaped her large sandals too, but she plodded along without notice. It was the last form of escapism though, her bare chest from the top of her pretty pale yellow cotton dress, that caused the most attention.

With each step, the oversized halter fell further, to the amusement of the waiting crowd. And as she moved along, each of the office patrons (and total strangers), took their turns reaching down to pull her dress up and into it’s proper position.

There was no admonishment from mother to child, instructing her to stay in place and stop bothering the nice people. There were no qualms with letting strangers handle the young one. There was no unpleasantness registered on the faces of those disturbed along the aisle, who felt her fingers sticky with juice on their arms or legs.

And when the young one had grown tired of the crowd bouncing, she returned to her mother with a scowl on her face, the evidence of a tantrum brewing. Her brow furrowed, her lips turned down at the corners, and glistening eyes threatened to overflow. Her back straightened as her mother picked her up, and the beginning hints of a wail escaped her lips.

Her mother didn’t scold her. She didn’t force her to sit in a chair and think about her actions. She didn’t retreat to another room in embarrassment of her child, being a child.

Instead, she showered her with unabashed love. She tickled the soft folds of her chubby skin, smothered her neck, chest, arms and stomach with loud kisses. The child’s frown soon disappeared and gave way to squeals of delight and a contagious giggle. Her weariness and will to explode were soon forgotten; she settled into her mother’s arms with a big smile on her face, her wayward curls pressed flat against her mother’s chest.

That ten minutes, spent in a waiting room full of strangers, summed up exactly what we will miss about Latin America now that we have left her borders with no current plans to return.

It’s the community – the perpetual knee for balancing, the hand to pull up the dress.

It’s the trust – the mother who found comfort in the dozen or so attentive people looking out for her daughter, instead of fretting over strangers touching her.

It’s the unashamed displays of love for family and friends, just because.

It’s the easy going nature – multiple hour waits for services are taken in stride, with no resentment or obvious complaining.

It’s the friendliness – the Buenos Dias to everyone in the vicinity. The kiss on the cheek of people you’ve just met.

It’s the beautiful, beautiful people that have taught us the pure meanings of community and hospitality.

To our many good friends in Latin America, we thank you…

Jolien – She welcomed us into her lives and family in Honduras!

 

Alphonso a remarkable Paralympian from Ecuador.

 

Yuri – The Peruvian with the Russian hockey player name, he was our tour guide in Lima after we met him in Bolivia!

 

Lady & Luiz – We shared a cable car together, and they suddenly became our tour guides in Medellin, Colombia.

 

And many, many more…

 

40 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • June 13 2011

    Beautifully written post. Such a simple memory that says so much. I know what you mean about the people here. They are truly, genuinely warm.

    • June 13 2011

      I tried bringing the automatic kiss on the cheek to Canada, but it didn’t quite work. I think I freaked people out. That is probably what I will miss most. πŸ™‚

  • Patricia
    June 13 2011

    I agree…very beautifully written. xoxo

  • June 13 2011

    You’ve captured the heart of Latin America so beautifully! Thank you for sharing how deeply it touched you.

    • June 13 2011

      Thank you so much Peggy! πŸ™‚

  • June 13 2011

    I am headed to Nicaragua on Saturday, so this is a nice post to read right before I go. Thanks for sharing!

    • June 13 2011

      You are undoubtedly going to meet some really beautiful people! Enjoy every minute!

  • June 14 2011

    This is such a lovely tribute πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to meet some new Latin American friends of my own in just a little over a week!

    • June 14 2011

      You will, for sure! Enjoy your time there!

  • What a nice way to say goodbye.

  • I really love the way you began this post. I felt like I was there. One of the reasons I love to travel is to experience moments like this where I feel so connected to complete strangers.

    • June 14 2011

      Thanks Christy! That is what we love about travel too – it’s so much more then seeing landmarks, etc. for us. πŸ™‚

  • June 14 2011

    What you described here embodies what I love about the latin community. You spelled it out exactly as I see it in my mind, from the viewpoint of a guerito coming into a latin family/culture.

    I say you keep doing the cheek kiss in Canada. Make it happen.

    • June 14 2011

      I LOVE the cheek kiss. It disarms you right from the start and does seem to make an instant connection with someone who was a stranger just seconds before.

  • Andrew - The Unframed World
    June 14 2011

    I love that you took time to recognize the awesome individuals you met. It’s great to meet to new people and even better when you make sure to remember them.

    • June 14 2011

      These people each made an important impact on our lives, even if we knew them for just a few hours. And when Pete and I decided that we wanted to do a post about what we would miss about Latin America – this was the number one thing we both suggested. The people really made our journey!

  • June 14 2011

    Living in a foreign country is challenging and our experiences have always been made or broken by the people around us. So wonderful that you had a great community to sustain you =)

    • Pete
      June 15 2011

      Totally agree. The people are a huge part of what makes a place. We were pretty lucky to have met the people we did, these friendships will last a lifetime.

  • June 14 2011

    Totally agree- meeting people (and nice people at that) make a place come to life and usually leave more memories than just sight-seeing!

    • Pete
      June 15 2011

      This is one of the main reasons why we travel (and travel slow). We love to get involved with the community. It definitely is more than just sight-seeing. Plus they usually have their own sights that not too many others will get to experience.

  • June 14 2011

    ahh, I love all your recent posts!!!!

    • Pete
      June 15 2011

      Cheers Phil, likewise :), I’ve been sharing your experiences with quite a few of my friends.

  • June 15 2011

    What a beautifully written post. Having awesome, caring, genuinely beautiful people to share in your experiences is the best type of gift the world can give.

    • Pete
      June 16 2011

      Thanks Sheryll! We feel very fortunate to have made the friends we did throughout Latin America – some really beautiful people!

  • June 16 2011

    Great story, and one that sums of the character of the people of Latin America. I have only been to Brazil, but my time there and with my Brazilian family have shown me that they really know how to love. They also allow children to be children, so different from how kids were usually treated here in the U.S. when I was growing up.

    • June 16 2011

      Yes Jenna, exactly. Their environment is so refreshing – so welcoming, loving and carefree. We are really going to miss it a lot.

  • June 16 2011

    Lovely! Makes me miss South America now πŸ™‚

    • June 16 2011

      Me too. I’ve been feeling awfully nostalgic lately….

  • June 17 2011

    Beautifully written, Dalene; descriptive and provoking. It made me feel very endeared towards the people of Latin America. I’ve always believed that, usually, the best part of travel are the people you meet along your way. And certainly this post proves that to be true.

    • June 17 2011

      Thanks so much Sherry! It was pretty sad to get on the plane away from Latin America, and leave the beauty of these people for who-knows-how-long.

  • Aric Visser
    June 17 2011

    I couldn’t agree with this post more. For the past three years I have been staying with the same family in the Peruvian Andes. Even though I am only there for a week at a time, they treat me as part of their family.

    When I leave to go home, my family surrounds me with hugs and weavings for me to take home. Typically the teenage son has a tear in his eye. It is very emotional. I just said goodby to them for the last time, as we will now be moving to Spain.

    So I join you in your salute…. Nice work.

    • June 17 2011

      Awesome Aric, thanks! What a wonderful experience in Peru for you – that is one thing we never did on our travels (stay with a family), and I wish we would have. Good luck to you in Spain!

  • What a vivid image of the community dynamic! It seems so loving and warm… I imagine it was hard to leave (well, for so many different reasons). πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to visit this region someday.

    • June 18 2011

      It was SO hard to leave. We were ready to go in some ways, but at the same time, it was heart wrenching. You would love it there. Just be prepared for some heart break. πŸ™‚

  • June 18 2011

    This is beautifully done. Normally these sort of posts feel cheesy, but this one feels honest and real. Wow! Europe’s going to be a change for you…

    • June 19 2011

      Thanks so much Theodora! I feel like I have been a big ball of nostalgic cheese lately. πŸ™‚ A little worried about that with Europe myself…

  • June 27 2011

    Oh, you must be so sad – but also excited for what is to come. Lovely article; so well written, as usual.

    • June 28 2011

      Thanks again Barbara. It was VERY sad to leave, but like you said, it’s been an exciting time for us in our new adventures!

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