Sunday morning, as I stood watching Cu head my way from a hovel I later learned belonged to Cheryl Happy Dog, the caretaker of his two children, a tourist drove up, stopping in front of me, rolling down the window and sticking a video camera in my face. "Are you an Indian? May I take your picture? I've never talked to a squaw in person before."
Cu arrived before I could answer, looked me over critically, then said, "Es una de nuestras maestras." (She's one of our teachers.)
I'd LOVE to see that video! There I stood in a stained t-shirt and sweated through jeans that hug my slender form, as I'd been cleaning the adobe hovel. My short auburn hair had kinked into tight curls around my oval face. My hazel eyes and fair skin had to stand out in sharp contrast from Cu's light eyes surrounded by his golden cast reddish skin, framed by his long, black, totally straight hair in braids fastened in thongs. Coming up slightly behind me, he towered over me at least a head.
"Sonríe," he commanded, draping an arm casually across my shoulders, mugging it up for the camera. Juan came up, standing in front of us, looking up, smiling as though he were our son, then held out his hand, saying, "Cinco dólares."
Instead of the requested $5.00, he was handed a ten dollar bill. The thrilled tourist drove off, probably to tell his friends about this Indian family he talked to.
I feel totally insulted by the whole incident. I have to admit to a bit of the same reaction that Pedro, the Hildalgo of Spanish descent, showed when I mistook him for an Indian. Like him, I felt it was OBVIOUS that I could not have been an Indian.
This unpleasant parallel makes me feel like a hypocrite in retrospect, as in MY mind, I judged him quite harshly for his reaction Saturday night. How can I then excuse my similar response, even suppressed? This is just the FIRST time I have encountered it, not a lifelong battle I've had to fight.
Paul Peter, who was watching from the shade of his doorway, laughing, said, "Tourists are a pain, but they provide such a high proportion of the ready cash the reservation receives that everyone panders to them. You CAN avoid that unpleasantness and the need to be nice, however. Just keep off the road in prime hours. If you have to be there, be "busy" with your back to the road."
"I'll remember that, " I huffed.
Last updated 1/20/02.