Esmeralda

A vibrant, colorful celebration of a Guatemalan bus.

Vocabulary:

Esmeralda: the name of a bus company from Antigua to Guatemala City. They are Bluebird school buses from the States painted in bright colors.
Ayudante: the “helper” to the driver of the bus who would sing-song “Guatemala! Guatemala! Guatemala! Guate!” to announce the impending departure of a bus for Guatemala City.
Huipil: a Mayan woman’s brightly colored blouse.
Campesino: a man who lives in the rural countryside.

By Alan Yount - Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala (1985 – 1986)

Guatemala!Guatemala!Guatemala!

Gua-TE!
The ayudante sings his song for
            Esmeralda,
Her Bluebird school bus carriage
Transformed from Cinderella-pumpkin-yellow
To Mayan huipil hues of reds, greens, and blues
            For her trip to Guate.
 
Guatemala!Guatemala!Guatemala!
            Gua-TE!
The city, the ayudante, Esmeralda
            Beckon to the campesino,
His cowboy hat pulled low over
            Coal black eyes
Watching his basket of chickens—his life—hoisted onto
            Esmeralda’s back.
 
Guatemala!Guatemala!Guatemala!
            Gua-TE!
The volunteer hurries through Antigua’s market 
            To Esmeralda,
Smoke stinging her eyes, backpack slung across
            Her shoulder,
With one change of clothes, a toothbrush, and
            Her dreams inside.
 
Guatemala!Guatemala!Guatemala!
            Gua-TE!
The ayudante’s call to
            Adventure
For the campesino, for the volunteer,
            For Esmeralda—
All bound together on the road to
            Guate.

This poem was selected as a finalist in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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