Gratitude, Hospitality, Privilege, and Magical Churches

I sat in another palco the night before attending the sortija (horse races) at Yaguaron. This was at the Teatro Municipal in Asunción where the orchestra was performing Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2. This piece is one of my favorite things ever. The first time I heard it , I felt like I'd found something I'd lost. And since this was a chance to hear it live, not to be missed. (N.B. This piece frickin' rules... Listen at your own peril.)
The two palcos in which I sat illustrate a key issue in this trip: the tensions between privilege, gratitude, and hospitality. It's fundamentally dishonest to act as if I don't have access to power in this country as an American, as a college graduate, and as someone who passes for a European in appearance. So, I'm wrestling with how to use that power (rather than pretend I donít have it or wallow in guilt about it). Wisdom and humility. What I've come to so far is that it's really important for me to accept whatís offered to me-- in food, in housing, in the gift of a pañuelo (the trophy scarf one of the men who successfully snatched it up in the horse race).
Paraguay is an incredibly hospitable place. And not just in terms of food and lodging (though that, too). Every time I meet someone, visit a library or archive, once I express my interest in Paraguay (I'm here to learn some Guaraní, I'm an anthropology doctoral student who'd like to do her research here), people offer whatever it is that they have: experiences, patience, tutorials in Guaraní, their relationships and connections, and tereré or mate (depending on how cold it is).
A few years ago in Mexico, a woman who works with the rural poor said, "to refuse the generosity of the poor is to make them poorer still." Or, as my host here said, "la ingratitud es el peor pecado." And I think he may be right.
Which means that I, at Yaguaron, partook of fattier "meats" than I have ever in my life. I have a cool plan for the molasses (miel de caña), though... and one that'll certainly involve as many of you as are game.
Yag grill Yag beef fatYag pig fat
Also, below this unassuming altar at Yaguaron supposedly lies a well that is so deep that it's quite literally unfathomable. It also apparently contains a tunnel in its depth whose other end is the mountain range kilometers away. This is but one example of mission myths that abound attributing all kinds of savvy tricksy undergoings to the Franciscans and the Jesuits.
Yag magical pozo
Other shots of the church:
Yag pulpit angel Yag franciscan skull Yag confessional Yag church door light

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