My Friend the Holy Father

When I lived in Rio Blanco, the Maya weren’t the only people of another culture I met.  While the country itself was a British colony, the entire educational system was run by American Jesuits from the Missouri Province in St. Louis.  Father John Paul Cull, the priest in Toledo District, was American—tall, lean, given to abrupt speech and movements, a man who seldom smiled.  He was also the only Roman Catholic priest I’ve ever made friends with.

The interior of the Catholic Church in San Antonio, Toledo District.  A church in St. Louis donated the stained glass.  (Photo by Joan Fry)

The interior of the Catholic Church in San Antonio, Toledo District. A church in St. Louis donated the stained glass. (Photo by Joan Fry)

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Obeah in the 21st Century

When I lived in Rio Blanco, Father Cull transformed the school into a church so he could say mass there.  But since I’m not Catholic, I’m not exactly sure how he did that.  One night—and this story is in my memoir—I saw candlelight coming from inside the school and heard two people talking.  The next morning, I discovered they’d been burning black candles on the table/my desk.  Was somebody making obeah against somebody else?  The village mayordomo didn’t know, didn’t care, and didn’t want to talk about it.

A king buzzard.  In ancient Maya mythology, they carried messages from humans to the gods.  Kriols call all vultures John Crow.  (Photo by Danny Bates)

A king buzzard. In ancient Maya mythology, they carried messages from humans to the gods. Kriols call all vultures John Crow. (Photo by Danny Bales)

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