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I Hang My Umbrella Here

As the sky cries an endless river of rain during a gray Monday that began with thick clouds, I take shelter in a library – the Spanish Cooperative library in La Antigua. I run across the courtyard surrounded by ruins, past everyone huddling at the doors like birds waiting for the rain to stop (why Guatemalans never have umbrellas with them during rainy season I still don’t understand), close my umbrella dripping over my clothes and with a light footstep make my way to the back of the building. It’s only 5 PM and I have one hour, I say to myself, but nothing can encapsulate the relief I feel when I see the wooden doors flung wide open from the wide Spanish columns that open up to the cobblestone courtyard lined with park benches under manicured trees. I enter the quiet warm embrace of books, carefully placed lights, necks bent over newspapers as in prayer, hear the soft clicking of people on computers and the languid footstep of someone scanning the stacks. The librarian lets me pass, no one says a thing and it’s our conspiracy. This is where I grew up, among libraries, all over the United States in more than 20 cities and states, just peeking out from the library way back in the corner like those hiding places between the clothes we’d all find, cozy, quiet and ripe with unspoken possibility. The fact that I am in a library in Guatemala is like being the smallest wooden Russian doll, right there in the very center, held by some invisible force of belonging and being left to one’s own recourses.

There aren’t enough of these libraries in Guateamala, much less for children, which is why I value the work that the Riecken Foundation is doing with setting using the simple building block – a community library with free Internet – to build a human being and, ultimately, as a springboard for a community.

Check out some of the libraries they’ve already set up in Guatemala and Honduras:

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