The hesitant interpreter

At one point, the Archbishop said to me that we had come at the right time. So much fighting was going on; there was no peace, no peace. He was deeply appreciating our arrival.

The building is so old. The rooms are very austere — austerity to the extreme. Perhaps modern churches are not so austere. I have no idea.

Purnahuti was our translator. Spanish is his mother tongue. Sometimes hesitation descended upon him. He ran short of his own vocabulary. I looked at him, and he was unable to translate. Either nervousness was torturing him, or he has not been an interpreter before.

Sometimes I said quite a few things, at least eight or nine lines. Poor Purnahuti said only three lines to the Archbishop in Spanish. Agraha would only look at him. Agraha has super-excellent Spanish. He kept looking at Purnahuti as if to ask why he is not translating this or that. He was showing Purnahuti tremendous respect, but Purnahuti was missing quite a few things. I did not understand anything. Only I was seeing the length of time he was spending and he was not spending the same amount of time. Again, since I do not know anything about Spanish, I thought that perhaps it was all right. Twice I asked him if he had translated everything and he said he had translated it.

The funniest thing is that the Archbishop knows English well. Sometimes, when Purnahuti was not translating properly, the Archbishop would give a little smile because he had understood what I had said. He understood English, sometimes he said two or three lines to me in perfect English, but most of the time he deliberately did not want to speak it.

—- 22 December 1997, Guatemala City