“The General will see you at six o’clock,” the secretary said, as she replaced the phone. We had requested to see the General; Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia, brother of a past President of Guatemala. He had a played a part in the rescue of a child some 20 years ago who was later adopted by the Bartholomews and who had just finished college. They wanted to meet the man who had saved their daughter.
Promptly at six, we rang the bell at the gate leading into the small compound around his home. The ring was immediately followed by the low deep barking of large dogs converging on the gate. I hoped the general’s dogs were well trained. The general opened the gate placing his body between us and the dogs. There were seven of them we learned, and they looked disappointed that they could not bite us. We passed into the foyer of his home within the high-walled compound. The room was quite bare, and the walls hung with at least to 100 certificates and awards and such. He greeted us cordially but with reserve.
The general was not a large man, but you could tell he had once had a powerful physique. He carried himself with the air of man who is used to being obeyed. It was easy to imagine if he were in power, and you irritated him, he would swat you out of his way and have no other thought about it. You would just disappear. Many people during his brother’s regime met that fate. There are dark periods of oppression in Guatemala’s history and his brother’s regime is one of them.
We told him why we had come and as we talked he warmed a little nodding his head as the interpreter passed pictures and told him of her happy life. He told us how he always had a love for children and broadened his topic to include his love for his country and his devotion to it’s protection and people. He told of how in the beginning years he had helped get the first trucks safely from the border to the orphanage site, and the many children he had taken to the orphanage. We knew those things to be true and thanked him for his help and then told him what we were doing with the well drilling project.
The general was very receptive to our presence in the area and happy to see that we were helping his people. He offered to help us if he could but said he was just an old man and not anyone of influence. We asked if we could see him again and report our progress and he seemed pleased and invited us to see the rest of his home. We did and took our leave.