While on a propane run to town, I dropped Paul off at Cynta’s.

Cynta de Narvaez is an extraordinary woman who is probably the most loved person in our community. More than twenty years ago, she fled her debutante life as a Cuban doctor’s daughter in Manhattan, came here as a river guide (an itinerant existence), and stayed.

Over these many years she built an artful complex consisting of a main house and several casitas which has become The Place to Go for anyone with any kind of need, great or small.

On any given day, you will see dogs and children left there for safe-keeping; local neighbors stopping by for a shower or a meal or advice; couch-surfers from far-flung places partaking of Cynta’s free hospitality; Mexican workers and their families, handcrafting stones for walls or stuccoing new construction, who are there as much for the nurturing Cynta provides as the meager wages she is able to pay. She lives on a small monthly disability payment and often pays her workers by feeding their families and buying their cigarettes.

Cynta provides hospice for those who are dying. She shuttles the sick to their doctors’ appointments a hundred or two or three miles away. She supports an orphanage in Mexico. She provides a safety net for those who are not as strong and inspired and clever as she.

Cynta makes sure the families in tiny Mexican border towns hard-hit by Homeland Security’s closing of informal border crossings have tools and materials for their cottage industries, food for their tables, and children’s books and toys at Christmas. Among the many people who care and help, Cynta alone had the respect and stature to reach a working understanding with authorities of the U.S. Border Patrol.

People on both sides of the border know her to be a holy person. She performed Abe’s and Josie’s wedding here in our house when it was just a post-and-beam structure with a roof and no walls. She loves the Mexican people with a palpable tenderness I find very charming; long after Cynta is gone, she will be remembered and venerated by these people she loves so much and who love her in return. I can almost see the village shrines decorated with gaudy plastic flowers.

She is all this and more despite living with the constant pain and creeping paralysis of her limbs due to to a chronic condition that almost killed her. Doctors had been improperly treating her for years. As a result, whereas she’s ten years younger than me she looks a decade older. Nevertheless, she has a radiant beauty that nothing can obscure.

Paul is upset that Cynta gives so much but receives so little help in return. I keep telling him that this is as she wishes it, but he will not hear it. “One of her girlfriends should be there every day to brush her hair,” he says.

Paul makes a point of visiting Cynta two or three times a week to massage her feet, hands and limbs, consult with her about nutritional healing, and perform small jobs around the property. She always tries to pay Paul something and he always refuses.

He has moved his hyperbaric chamber down to her house and is growing wheatgrass there, too. When the chamber is operational, he will begin spending even more time at Cynta’s than he already does.

When I returned to pick him up, Paul was still completing the hook-up of appliances in a casita Cynta will rent to a young couple for a monthly cost that’s less than two nights at a local motel. Cynta and I had a chance to sit and visit for a few minutes between the comings-and-goings of many visitors.

“It seems like you adopt every stray that comes along,” I commented. “Both dogs and people.”

“When I was a little girl,” she said, “when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d say I wanted to run an orphanage.”

Taking care of others has always been Cynta’s calling. Now she seems to have adopted the whole town and lots of little villages along the river.

Cynta has gotten her childhood wish and more.

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