© 2010 katrina

The Fantasma

lovely photo credits: jonah goldstein

We see her first like a fantasma, a ghost, drifting along a white wall with her blue kerchief and sky blue shawl. I hold my breath and follow her journey, ancient and tiny and beautiful.

And then at every pottery class she appears in the same blues, worn from years of washing on the traditional stone washboard.

Every class, asking me the same thing, “ya puede?” “Can you do it yet?” And then launches into a well-worn speech on how she hates the wheel, and how she makes everything by hand, pointing to a large water carrying vessel that is chipped and growing moss. My teacher, Patricia, rolls her eyes towards the low ceiling of the little shack.

She was the first to work with barro, clay of San Juan de Oriente, the first of the artesanas.

She started 84 years ago when she was a little girl of 6, and remembers how her father’s job was to walk the 1.5 hours down the steep hill to the laguna, the volcanic lake, and haul up large stones on his back. “Mi madre vive alli,” she says, pointing across the street. And I remember how my own grandmother would call for her mother at night, wandering through the house in her nightgown. She was 90 too, with holes torn in her memory from Alzheimer’s.

Her mother, she says, told her that women shouldn’t work, but that even as a little girl she worked because she loved it and because she didn’t want to see her father doing such hard labor.

Underneath a shelf in my teacher Patricia’s little shop, Jonah finds a little black footed tray, covered in dust and cobwebs. He borrows a rag and wipes it off, as we marvel at the detailed animal heads that act as the feet.

“My mother made that,” Patricia says shyly, and our eyes get big.

The Cenizero


  1. sarahmatsu
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 9:53 am | #

    I love this story Kat and this woman. The “can you do it yet?” question is lovely, yet aggressive, yet not. She obviously knows her stuff. “throwing the pottery” is hard. Great that you met such masters!

  2. katrina
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm | #

    That is exactly exactly how she said it, what a perfect way of saying it. Lovely and aggressive to a T. She wasn’t just a sweet old lady, she was fierce and stately and a fighter.

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