From deep within a pocket, Qachuu pulls a baggie fully of golden seeds. Round and perfect, they look like childs’ beads. She exposes only a corner and scans the streets of 14th and Rabini. “They caught me once with six times as much. I thought they were going to cut the thumbs from my hands.”
Magaly Salaar nodes sagely. “You’d think it was coca or that other stuff…”
“Yeah, opium.” Magaly sighs and shakes the memory away. She looks sideways at her friend and confederate. “But, Qachuu dear, it’s better now. I will buy everything you can grow.”
“Shh.” Qachuu stuffs the seeds back down hard. “I don’t grow anything.”
It’s past noon in San José, Guatemala and the two women stand in the hot sun surrounded by street vendors, business folk, busy people grunting annoyance at having to dodge around the stationary pair blocking the corner.
“Here, let me show you.” Magaly tugs Qachuu into the cool alcove of a stone building that used to house foreign emissaries. She retrieves her phone and pulls up a website. “Just Foods is where we sell seeds like amaranth. We have others too. Squash, beans, heirloom maize and quinoa and…”
Her friend shrugs heavily in her coat. It’s far too warm for such a thing but she’s just come down from this hills. “Maggie, they got to you, their lies. The Catholic priest is hunting me. He will hunt you, too.”
Magaly has known Qachuu for most of her life. They grew up in difficult times, struggling to avoid the rebels, striving to attend mountain schools, absorbing the lore of their ancient Mayan heritage. For Magaly the transition out had been escape to Mexico and the States. Qachuu had remained behind, trapped in an ancient past of persecution and subjugation. Her personal salvation had come in the form of agricultural dissent—growing amaranth.
“Give me that bag, I’ll show you. Give it to me.”
Magaly’s tone rocks Qachuu back against the wall. She complies, surrendering the contraband in a solemn, two handed offering.
Maggie takes the bag, holds it above her head and steps into the sun. “Amaranth. I’ve got amaranth for sale. Who wants to buy amaranth seed? Tasty, full of protein, legal in all the world.”
As she rotates, seeking no one’s offer, a skater-punk, studs that run like dragon scales over the top of his head, careens into her, throwing her to the sidewalk. The kilo bag of ripe, yellow seeds explodes like a shower of confetti. The punk skates away, smirking, “Chinga Dios” in neon pink on the back of his black jacket.
Qachuu helps her friend from the ground and pulls her back into the granite cave. She mutters beneath her breath, “Poor Maya Achì. Poor Mother Earth”.