Manuel

photo by madison perrins

"You just have to speak slow."

Manuel’s voice comes out of the darkness as I wandered around the palapa campsite we just stopped at for the night in San Ignacio. The previous 3-4 hours had been spent trying to travel 20 kilometers after an impromptu river (arrolos?), as wide across a two semi trucks are long and as deep as a man’s chest flooded the road. A crowd had gathered, lines of traffic snaking away in either direction, and everyone was chatting, cheering, watching, taking pictures, running in the water—hardly anything except sitting in their cars. As the water petered out, the semis went first. Smaller and smaller cars started taking their chances. We finally decided to cross with full (re: 70%) confidence that water wouldn’t come seeping in under the doors and ruin our things.

Manuel asks me if I am someone else—a German girl camping next to us. He explains that he works here. Manuel’s slow, conversational Spanish has a calming effect, and we talk about many things: the river we just saw, the desert, the oasis of San Ignacio, people, communicating. We don’t talk about the project because he doesn’t ask for the reason for my travel and I find it a relief to not have to explain. He says he knows a little English but doesn’t try to speak it. When I handed him his portrait the next day, he ventured a few words: “Very good.”