Source: Joan Hanawi

Margarita + Tamia

By Joan Hanawi | July 1, 2015
Margarita* resides in a small town in the Amazon where she is the oldest of eight siblings.  She regularly wakes up at dawn to get started on the morning’s list of chores, which includes preparing breakfast for the seven children and adults that reside in the house. After successfully sweeping her room, cooking, doing the dishes, tidying up the kitchen, and getting her daughter dressed for school, Margarita hurries to then prepare for her job as a teacher at a preschool across town.

When she was younger, societal constructs kept her from achieving her dreams of becoming a biochemist. Her father told her that her place as a woman was not in higher education, but in the home taking care of her siblings and their children. With tears in her eyes, Margarita accepted this reality while at the same time promising to give her daughter the future that had eluded her. In order to do this, she decided to begin with a name.

"Tamia is Kichwa for ‘rain,’ and rain is powerful," Margarita said. "Without rain, the rivers would dry up. Without rain, the plants would die. Without rain, the earth would be unbalanced. Without rain, we could not survive."

And Tamia was the name Margarita chose for her daughter, in hopes of bestowing the same power that falls from the skies onto the young girl’s life.

Tamia is now 10 years old. She exhibits the same strength portrayed by her mother, waking up early to finish schoolwork and going out of her way to care for her younger cousins. Similarly, Margarita continues to give everything of herself to others, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that her steps have slowed and her voice is weaker.

Last October, Margarita was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In order to receive treatment, Margarita has to travel to a town about four hours away by bus.

“It’s really hard to make this trip every month for the doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy. I just feel so tired and we barely have enough money to pay for the medicine, let alone the trips themselves and places to stay,” Margarita said.

But Margarita hasn’t lost faith. She shared a memory from her last trip for chemotherapy, in which she didn’t have enough money for food. During this time, she started searching for empty plastic bottles on the side of the street. If she found enough, she would be able to sell them for a few cents in order to buy a small snack for her dinner.

Coincidentally, a woman passing by stopped her and asked what she was doing, and after Margarita briefly explained her situation, the woman gave her ten dollars.

"With that money, I was able to eat that night," Margarita said. "God is good, no?"

*A pseudonym was used in order to protect the identity of the storyteller