In Tupungato, province of Mendoza, Argentina, birthplace of the Uco Valley wines, at the feet of the mountains range, seeing it from the window, the group “Esperanza” (Hope) get together to transform pain in Love. They started meeting spontaneously in the Parrish of Socorro united by a common pain: the loss of a loved one. At the beginning they would talk, hug each other and cry many tears until this was not enough and they needed to transform the anguish into something more productive. This is how they started doing handmade fabric dolls to exchange them for diapers and clothes for the hospital. Fathers Horacio and Raúl gave them the first push and the group was born, with a renewed spirit and driving force.
Mari is the soul of the group, she is always present; she is a seamstress, gets pieces of cloth and thinks how to create different dolls according to the demands for them which are growing up: souvenirs for a Baptism, graduations from school and university, birthdays, etc. Everything they collect is transformed into food, clothes and medications so the Sisters will take them to the hospital or the neighbourhood that may need them; or may be exchanged for diapers, wool and fabrics to keep on producing more dolls. Each stitch, padding, little hand or shoe reflects the special dedication; they even talk to the dolls, laughing at the faces they could create, showing them off. Each doll went from hand to hand in its creation, among conversations, memories, tears and mates; as a result we have a happy doll, warm, huggable, unique and full of Love. That Love is breathable while they talk, share memories of the kids and husbands lost and laugh at the funny stories of Anita, with translation between Mendoza/Buenos Aires term “potito” (bottom) included.
It is not an easy path, the loss of a son is the worst pain that a mother can go through and they will never be able to remove or forget that pain; “only if we lost our memory” says Mari. Every day she repeats to her son who is already with God: “one day more and one day less”, one more here, and one less to get together…
And we ask ourselves: How they do it, with so much pain, being so happy and having so much energy? Everybody agrees in this: transforming that pain into service to others, and that service into Love, gives them strength and Peace; like the wise Mother Theresa of Calcuta used to say. They do not doubt that transforming this pain in service helping others, abandoning themselves in God, offering their pain, and accepting that everyone has their own cross to bear, is the Only way available. Liliana told us that when she heard of someone in Tupungato who lost a loved one, couldn’t wait to go and offer a hug, share all the pain and that he/she is not alone, that is possible to go forward. It’s true that every person has their own pace; like Anita’s life example, who told us that after 4 years of going to therapy, in just one month after meeting the group Esperanza her life has changed in a 100%. Now she understood many things, she wasn’t looking for her husband at home anymore and has finally recovered her interior Peace.
Everyone leaves their jobs or everything ready at home, so they will not miss the Tuesday and Thursday of work. Eduardo was the only man present this time, and had fun making the blonde curls for the dolls, competing with us, the apprentices. Elba, Anita and Tina made lots of dark curls that looked like permanent waves, while they talked about their families; Liliana would sew legs and arms very focused until Margarita made us laugh with a story of her birthday costume disguised as an ant with a big behind and her husband disguised accordingly. We even were delighted by the song “Don’t cry for me Argentina” from Mari’s 60th birthday: “ … I give thanks to life for everything I have received, much more than I imagined…” A song to life, we ended up moved and singing along with her.
We said goodbye to them with a compromise, we took a doll dressed up as a clown to give to a child who may need it in our path; we will show that happy face when receiving this doll that we are already imagining. And we don’t want to leave; Tupungato is surprising us with so many people of good heart who tempt us to stay a little longer, we received hugs to share along our journey. They want to keep us with thousands of excuses, chop meat, onion and dough to prepare empanadas, salads, or desserts for 1,500 people for the patron saint’s day celebrations, visit the neighborhoods in the mountains with the Virgin of the Socorro, Mass for the Saints and Deceased, and many other events. We were about to leave when we couldn’t say no to the invitation to have lunch with Chiquita, a grandmother of 85 years old with an incredible peace, who we are meeting today. But that is another story.