In loving memory of Jay Ridinger
When I was a little girl, I couldn’t say “abuelito” (a diminutive term of endearment for grandfather in spanish). Thus he became known as Huito, an ironically cute name for such a tall, imposing man with a booming baritone voice.
He looked like what would happen if Indiana Jones and the Monopoly Man had a baby. Khaki from head to toe with a brown explorers hat and monacle to boot. He wore it every single day… and somehow managed to pull it off.
He came to Guatemala with his three daughters after his wife died of breast cancer. In the process, he became obsessed with finding Guatemalan Jade, which at the time seemed impossible. There were no known jade sources, and even if there were, there was nobody in the market to buy it.
Everyone thought he was crazy. Nobody believed it would be possible. And he could not give a damn.
Forty years later, jade is a major industry in Guatemala, bringing in millions to the economy, and providing thousands of job for local men and women. There are actually t-shirts that say “No, I don’t want a tuk-tuk ride, jade necklace, or any fucking cashews”. Jade has become synonymous with a visit to Guatemala.
Its hard to imagine that this all began with a crazy, seemingly impossible dream. I had the opportunity to witness, firsthand, the courage, hard-work, and determination that realizing a crazy dream entails. I have experienced the roller coaster of emotions that comes along with it: the flailing arms of desperation followed by the thrill of possibility, a sharp turn at uncertainty, the steep descent into hopelessness, and the arduous climb to success.
We all have seemingly impossible dreams. We all struggle with the fear and uncertainty that following a dream entails. I remind myself of my grandfather every day, because it is so easy to let the doubts creep in and give up on those dreams.
In the words of Nelson Madela “It always seems impossible until its done.”
The history of Guatemalan Jade is a spectacularly torrid story of violence, romance and adventure. (If this amazing story is of interest to you, I recommend reading the book Stone of Kings: In Search of The Lost Jade of the Maya by Gerard Helferich).