On Monday we travelled to La Soledad, a nice little town in the San Martín Chalchicuautla municipality (I won’t try to explain the pronunciation of this name). The name La Soledad, while not an Indian name, nevertheless has the interesting meaning of “The Lonely Place.” We, however, were by no means lonely as we were greeted by the brethren of the congregation there. Among others, we met Valentín Aquino, one of the preachers who is supported by the Aledo congregation.
Upon arriving, I inquired of Mr. Hernández Félix as to whether the people of this place spoke Nahuatl, as I was not sure if we had perhaps come into Huastec country. He replied that these people were indeed Nahuatl speakers, and I soon found that they saw no reason to speak Spanish when their own tongue would suffice.
We also met Andrés Zuniga, a young man who is attending the preaching school in Huichihuayán, as well as Macario Zuniga, who I believe is in some way related to the former. They explained to us that many of the men of the congregation were not able to be there since they were off working, but we had a short worship service because the saints were assembled.
Andrés led the singing, and began with the Welcome Hymn (El Himno de Bienvenida), which I had never heard before. Jesús (our translator) gave a good lesson on the 103rd Psalm, and then brother Macario Zuniga got up and gave a summary of it in Nahuatl, for the benefit of those there who didn’t know Spanish.
After this, Mr. Dugan got each of us up before the congregation to introduce us, and to allow us to say anything we wanted. The short speeches that the other members of our group gave were translated into Spanish by Jesús, but I was allowed to use the Mexican lingua franca. I pretty much said the same thing at each place we went, but I tried to change it up a bit (there’s nothing like making an impromptu speech in Spanish!). At this place I mentioned that although I was studying Spanish, I didn’t know a bit of Nahuatl, and this brought out a laugh.
The building where that congregation worships is built in the more traditional style, the walls being built of sticks tied together, and having a thatch roof. The small auditorium was not much, having one side open to the weather and with benches to sit on, but it certainly served its purpose.
Afterwards they served us lunch, which was good, as always. At this place they gave us mole, which is a shallow bowl with chicken, beans, and rice, all sitting in chili sauce. Unfortunately I sloshed some on my shirt, and because it was not treated immediately the stain has since refused to come out.
After lunch, Mr. Dugan had some things he wanted to discuss with Andrés, so they (and the rest of the group besides me) went back into the auditorium. However, I was content to stay out with everyone else, and listen to their talk. I did strike up a conversation with brother Macario Zuniga, an elderly man who is a preacher. I’m sorry to say I had trouble understanding his Spanish, but he saw my interest in Nahuatl and told me of some polyglots who lived in the neighbourhood. He told me about a man who (if I remember right) was fluent in Nahuatl, Spanish, and English, and who was giving English classes. Then he knew of another person who knew all these plus Huastec and Otomí! And we Americans can’t seem to even learn Spanish…
Later he went over to talk to brother José, and they had quite a lengthy conversation in Nahuatl, none of which I understood. I was content to listen, however, since before this time I had never heard anyone speak a language native to our continent.
As it was about time to leave, Andrés brought out a five-gallon bucket full of brown-coloured water. Although at first I thought it was dishwater, I was soon informed that it was tamarind water. To be quite honest it never occurred to me where they might have gotten the water in the first place, and I was willing to try it. It had a nice taste, and was sweet. I never got sick, and for that I am grateful, but I think I would have tried it anyway even if it was made from non-purified water. It was a nice change from lemonade!
Soon our time there had expired, and we needed to resume our journey to the next place: Chalchocoyo.