Being on this land, seeing its people, digging for artifacts, going off his meds—all of it was spitting Joseph out into a new sense of clarity. Following is Elizabeth Kadetsky’s story behind the story, “It Was Only Clay” from the Summer, 2014 issue of The Antioch Review.
He’d arrived on the isthmus after the earthquake struck—in Yucatán. Short wave radio reported a million homeless over the border in Guatemala, the crumbling of dozens of highland villages. For his own purposes, Yucatán was yielding nothing. He became anxious, impatient. The land was spitting him out of it like a language it didn’t like speaking.
On “It Was Only Clay”
by Elizabeth Kadetsky
In 1994, The Village Voice sent me to cover a story set in a small highlands village in the Cuchumatantes mountains of Guatemala called San Cristóbal Verapaz. By the time I got to Guatemala City and checked into my hotel, however, a travel advisory had been issued. The advisory was intended for female travelers like myself—solo and American—so I dutifully avoided travel to the countryside and spent the next several days exploring and digging up facts for my story in the capital city.
There was a feeling of menace pervading everything. Once, as I was walking by myself at sunset near the grand municipal halls of the city center, a young soldier carrying a rifle and bayonet gave me an up and down. His eyes read fear, death, and other things it seemed I could not comprehend. Another time a man stared and heckled sexual harassments at me in a crowd that had gathered to watch some street performers. Another man—an American—came up to not so helpfully inform me I was in danger. The story I was covering related directly to the travel advisory: an American woman had been attacked by a mob in San Cristobal. The crowd, made up of young indigenous men, believed she had kidnapped a baby and was carrying it in her backpack to be absconded to the developed world and harvested for kidneys. Continue reading