2013 – Remembering María Rosa “Rosita” Saldaña Guarniz
Rosita “Gringa, Gringa,” she called out, slowly shuffling toward me with a bag of candies she was selling. I turned to my new twelve-year-old friend, Betsy, sitting next to me on the sidewalk curb and showed her a quarter. That wasn’t going to work, I needed “moneda,” Peruvian change. I glanced into the old woman’s eyes, shook my head no and turned my look in another direction. She stood there for a while, muttered some things under her breath and continued on. The woman was old. She was so bent over, the only way we could have seen one another’s faces was from my position on the curb. I was embarrassed. Her disfigurement scared me, and my heart was not ready to open to her. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. Luke 13:11 Her name, I learned, was Rosita. She wasn’t originally from Márquez, explained my friends from Luz Divina. A few years earlier she had been abandoned in the local park by people no longer willing to care for her. She had nothing, nobody. She was broken, crippled. She would have died alone. Rosita, instead, was taken in by Luz Divina and given shelter in the church. In time, Rosita went to live with one of the Luz Divina families, with whom she still lives today. How is it that Luz Divina felt fit to take her in? Where did they get the courage to do it? Did they dare to believe that Rosita could become whole again if they honored her? When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. Luke 13:12-13 Rosita was indeed whole that first moment we met on the street, the thing is that I couldn’t see it. I only saw the body. My prejudice and fear kept me from looking deeply into her eyes to see her spirit. There have been three years of visits between that first encounter and today. Now, I see a woman who faithfully worships in God’s house, front row. I see a beloved sister in Christ as she places her hard-earned coins in the offering, and I am reminded of another woman from the Bible. Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ Luke 21:1-4 And now I get to ask myself if I could ever give like Rosita gives. I continue to struggle with this question, and have accepted my place as student at her feet. I have a lot to learn from her. Rosita is my teacher. I’m left wondering if our friends at Luz Divina knew that all along.
-essay written August 29, 2012, Rosita died on September 18, 2013
“A settled body helps the other bodies it encounters to settle as well. This is why a calm, settled presence matters so much whenever we’re around other bodies… —Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands, p. 125
“Seven Years of Wonder” is a daily look back at my creative journaling posts since 2014. I began this journey on Feb. 11, 2021, and hope to continue through Feb. 10, 2022. What am I learning about my art and faith journey thus far? What has remained constant? Where have I been changed? How is this impacting present and future art-making?
A deep bow of gratitude to you for keeping me company on this journey.