|Missionaries with Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo, LC, of the Cancun-Chetumal Prelature.|
By Erin Rockenhaus
A dusty stretch of road
lay before us—road that we hadn’t covered yet. The midday
sun’s rays felt like acid on my pale skin. As
I stopped under the shade of a tree, I noticed
a little hut off the road, one concrete room and
a grass thatched roof. I heard a swish from behind
the tree, and a little girl’s dusty arms clamped around
my waist before I could see her face.
“Hello, what is
“Is this your house?”
A sweaty head nods.
take me inside? I want to meet your family.”
grabs me by the hand and pulls me along the
little rocky path up to the house. “Mama, the hermanas
A weak voice from the room calls me in.
As I step up into the hut onto the concrete
floor, I see a spare room with three hammocks hanging
from the walls to serve as both beds and chairs.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six…little kids encircle us excitedly,
talking all at the same time. In the corner, a
shadowy figure is hiding behind a hammock. That must be
the father, I thought, it’s strange that he doesn’t want
to be seen. I wondered if he was drunk or
if he was just ashamed to present his family to
|Men and women from the town wait outside the new church for the bishop to arrive.|
The mom started breastfeeding the toddler as I tried
to strike up a conversation.
“Is everything going well for
“The kids are invited to play games at
the Church this afternoon at five.”
“Do you need any
help around the house? Help with washing or cooking or
She shakes her head.
It was like talking to a person
who was half-dead; her eyes stared blankly at the wall.
The kids seemed happy and lively, but I couldn’t make
sense of this strange reception. What is going on here?
In the coming weeks, it would all start to make
sense. There is pattern in the lives of families in this
little town in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula.
In this little village
there is not much for the men to do, and
men without work means trouble. And there is trouble…drinking, abuse,
boredom, and just giving up. And the women don’t know how
to demand more from their men.
The situation of another
couple shows this clearly. Marta and Pablo live two houses
down from the church, a happy couple to all appearances,
but Marta has a deep pain inside. After 12 years
and two beautiful little girls, Pablo will not marry her.
She knows the reason. He said it himself one night when
a few of us were trying to persuade him to
marry, “Hermana, if I marry her, that means I would
have to be faithful, and I’m not ready for that.”
Pablo, like many men in this town and everywhere, doesn’t
see the point in getting married. He has all of
the benefits of marriage and none of the strings. He can
remain a perpetual bachelor, yet can also have the stability
of a home and family. Marta doesn’t know how to
change his mind, yet she doesn’t want to leave him
after so many years…and then, what about the kids?
of this, I wondered where these husbands and wives went
astray. The marriage preparation classes I was giving to a 19-year-old
couple made my search for an answer even more urgent. I
turned over all of my experiences and observations to find
the root of the problem, but it was this simple
Mayan couple who showed me the way.
In our last
class, we were discussing what Carlos and Beatriz carried with
them into the marriage from their families and their culture.
These young people surprised me with their candid answers.
love my family, but I want mine to be different,”
Carlos said, “I mean there has to be unity, and
we have to be committed to each other.”
“We’ve talked about
it, and we want our family to be different. Not
divided by alcohol or drugs, not using each other, and
working together,” Beatriz said.
They talked about the machismo in their
culture in which the man asserts himself and controls the
woman. They talked about sexual abuse in marriage. They talked about
alcoholism, unemployment, infidelity, and bad habits.
A little spark of hope
started to burn in my heart from talking with this
couple—so young, so many challenges to face, such a long
road ahead—yet having discovered their freedom to be different.
relationship had started as a friendship in which the couple,
led by Beatriz, made a bold decision. They were going to
save sex for marriage. In the year before the wedding, they
got to know each other on many levels, and Carlos
began to commit more and more until he proposed marriage. It
was love, a love that chastity had preserved, and that
held a hope of happiness.
There may be no Camelot
here, but there is the simple advantage of starting off
right and taking stock of the terrain. Here, I discovered the
answer that applies to all cultures and times: change lies
in the hearts of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers,
who decide from the start to be different.
Author’s note: This June and July, I spent a month
on a humanitarian and evangelizing mission to the Mayan part
of Mexico with the Mission Youth Corps International Volunteer
Program. The events written above are true, but names are
changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.