Written by: Larry Pitman
It was to be the happiest day of her life. One she had worked hard for sacrificed for and awaited eagerly. She loved Hilario and looked forward to the life they would share. Maybe they would even get married. That would be better for their three children.
She was a country girl. Her people were from the mountains and spoke only Quechua, but they were relatively prosperous. Hilario was different, his family was from Ayacucho, and spoke only Spanish.
Her family sent her to Ayacucho to attend school. That is where she met Hilario. They fell in love. Then, they decided to live together in silvina cui* following the traditional custom of the mountains.
Juana and Hilario lived in his modest family home along with his mother. Three children followed in rapid succession. Juana, a natural care giver, also took care of Hilario’s mother until she died.
It had been a long hard struggle, she reflected, but they had decided to invest in their future by selling his family’s land. Hilario could then study for his Engineering degree, and she would stay at home and take care of the children. Because the university was in Arequipa, Hilario was often gone, usually only coming home during vacation times. The absences had gotten longer as he studied at the University and the fifth, and last, year she barely saw him at all.
Finally, he had his degree, and she thought they would be together again.
Hilario , when he arrived home on that eagerly awaited day, was distant and preoccupied. Just as Juana started to talk about their future life together, he looked at her and said,
“You are an ignorant and uneducated person. I can’t introduce you to my friends from the University because you would embarrass me. Actually, I now have someone else, a real lady, who will be more suitable. Since this is my house, you and the children must move immediately. “
With these words, Juana’s hopes and dreams broke into a thousand pieces. Still, it wasn’t in her to plead with him. She had to submit. His word must be obeyed, and she had no choice, but to leave.
She told the children that they were going to visit family in Lima. That was all; they didn’t need to know that they were never coming back.
The relatives she had in Lima weren’t eager to welcome a woman with three small children. That meant that the little family had to move frequently over the next few years. But they did stay together.
Finally they found a makeshift home, modest and ramshackle, in Comas, one of the settlements around Lima.
Juana was a hard worker and a wonderful cook. She earned enough to support the family and make sure that the children got an education.The years went by. She had had a couple of lovers; unfortunately they only wanted to live off of her hard work.
Even though her children now had an education and jobs, one was an engineer, another nurse and the third, a teacher, Juana kept working. Still the care giver, her mother, very ill, now lived with her.
One day Juana opened the door, and there was Hilario. He was badly dressed, horribly thin and looking thoroughly defeated by life.
He said, “Juana, forgive me. I need you.”
She stood there in the door way looking at him for a long time. Then she slowly, gently closed the door.
*Silvina cui – a trial marriage where a couple lives together for a time before deciding to make it permanent.