Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

Cara Esquivel: Extraordinary Spirit



Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

If we don’t speak up for the people in our society that are not represented, then we do not have a society that is fully engaged and functioning and healthy. And to me it’s very simple, we all have a responsibility for seeing how we can help people in society that are not able to either help themselves or not able to speak up, or don’t have rights…all of the things that my father did were to defend people’s rights, so I guess that just in me. To me, I don’t understand any other way of being.

– Cara Esquivel

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. (God doesn’t know what awaits). So began the eulogy for the extraordinary Cara Esquivel and amidst the tear-streamed faces and hands clutching sodden tissues within the sanctuary, there were smiles from those who knew and loved her, Cara’s among them. Cara of passion, Cara of love, Cara of life, and Cara of energy. Dios no sabe lo que le espera. Last week, an extraordinary woman of incredible love, passion, and joy passed away unexpectedly and far too young from complications that started with the flu. Cara was 47 years old, a fiercely loving mother of her four children and wife to her husband, tireless advocate, lending her voice for those unheard, passionate teacher, and second mother to many of her students.

Cara and her family

Cara and her family

As word spread of her passing, Cara’s spirit shone through in the outpouring of love. 

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Cara on Window

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

So laden was the altar with candles, that in true Cara-style, it caught fire, bringing fire engines to surround the school and dousing the Gathering Room in water, and a new altar created. Of the many words that describe Cara—passionate, fire-filled, irreverent, loving, funny….subtle is not one of them. As was demonstrated by the Celebration of Life held in her honor.

In loving memory

For Cara, a cuatro vientos (Four Winds) ceremony.

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

“In honor of my beautiful hummingbird,” her husband, David, paused and took a deep breath, “¡Que viva la fiesta!” Cara loved to dance and among papel picado, flowers, and piñatas, Cara’s community of friends and family of all ages danced.

Dancing for Cara

Dancing for Cara

David and Cara

David and Cara

We dressed in our finest to honor Cara’s love of color, texture, Oaxaca, and all things vibrant. “I thought maybe this was too much,” one friend said, stunning in her skirt decorated with mirrors and threads, a delicate crocheted shawl over her blouse. “Then, I realized, nothing is too good for our girl.”

Another friend wore her necklace, a hand-painted portrait of a young girl, ‘My own patron saint. For Cara.” The sheer energy of Cara’s spirit did rock the house.

Cara rocked the house.

Cara rocked the house. © Robert Jessen

The woman who told a first-year teacher, “Forget about the text books, get your students to write about their lives!” shines through in the memories of her students and loved ones.

We love you, Cara.

We love you, Cara

Zara's blackboard.

Blackboard 2

Middle of blackboard

Cara with basketCara blew into my own life over a year ago with her determination to create a program for teachers in Oaxaca. “No, but we really have to do this. Oaxaca is amazing! People need to understand the real Mexico, not the Mexico they read about on the news.” As anyone who knew Cara knows, there was simply no saying No. Her passion, dedication, and energy swept you up in their flow. Oaxaca, here we come!

“Cool,” the Head Learner at Monte del Sol High School said when he first met Cara, “Monte has its own Frida Kahlo.”

It is those small moments that one remembers—her radiant smile, her scarves flying around her, how she forgot to brush her hair, her love of Oaxaca, how she drew all into her energy of passion, love, and dedication. Cara cussed like a sailor in two languages, and usually mixed them together with wild abandon. Her eulogy with its reference to el “pinche güero” Trump would have her full approval. “She hated that wall. She spent her whole life trying to tear down that wall.”

Somos WindowA friend expressed beautifully what so many of us feel, “I woke up keen to the uncomfortable feeling that there is a hole in the world this week. An awkward and uncomfortable large empty space in my life, where Cara use to be. For a regular person in a regular body, though, the empty space she leaves behind is phenomenally large, much bigger than her physical form. It leaves me feeling pretty darn discombobilated … and oddly and persistently leaky. Now I am staring into blank space and thinking we had lots of good work to do together… and I miss her. And I don’t like the feeling of this hole. I dont like that I can’t just call her or see her bounding into yet another coffee shop for yet another life convergence (and listo meeting) over chai, missing that flurry of unbounded energy and passion. Its strange now. Like writing or reading a sentence with the main word missing. It’s confusing and disconcerting. I am writing about ……..! So very different that the same sentence that concludes with the word Cara. A word far bigger than itself. A word that defies definition amd limitation. A word that is hard to comprehend the magnitude of, unless you actually knew her. And of course, for most of us with a lust for life, to know her was to instantaneously love her, and somehow love life even more because of her. Its odd that she isn’t here to meet me for chai today. I am not sure now how to deal with this hole in the world now, and my heart. But I am drinking chai with my grandson, who is drinking milk and eating a bagel, and I am treasuring the precious tiny moments we have together, which is all I can manage to do today…”

Cara’s zest for life and sheer love expresses itself in her friends and family, as we find one another, recognize Cara in the other’s eyes, and knit together. A friend wrote, “It’s so good to be connected with you and other friends of Cara’s. She had gathered around her and her family such an incredible group of human beings.”

What those of us who knew and loved Cara return to again and again is the sheer disbelief that her energy is gone. Then, I realized, as I experienced the wild love that surrounded her, the impact she had on countless lives, those who will remain forever changed by her, that her energy, her spirit lives on—each time we choose to see the best in all, to believe in each person, to work tirelessly to make the world a better place, to dance, to laugh, and to LOVE. 

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. I have no doubt that God has had a real earful by now about the state of immigrant rights here on the mortal plane. I expect things to change imminently. If anybody can do it, Cara can.

I sat during the Mass and focused on the golden gilt surrounding the Saint painted high on the wall, glowing softly as the sun streamed in from the windows and tried to find meaning where there was none. The only way I can walk with something like this that makes no sense is to carry her spirit forward through our lives and our work. 

Cara with FridaLive passionately.  

Listen deeply.

Write your story and encourage others to write theirs.

Lift your voice for those unheard.

Live with intention.

Love deeply.

Ultimately, Cara taught us how to live

You will be forever missed and remembered, querida Cara.
Que Dios te bendiga. Te queremos.


Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

41 thoughts on “Cara Esquivel: Extraordinary Spirit

  1. Dear Dawn Wink, almost 6 years have past since I met you in a workshop at IGA in Quetzaltenango. You can´t imagine how you inspired my life. I just wanted to tall you that I won a little scholarship to participate in a program in Georgetown, Washington DC. If you let me I would love to have a meeting to you in skype because I really want to share to you a project. For me would be amazing that you, that have inspire a lot of my dreams, can listen to me or give me some advice. To tell you about my idea, the objective is to create an “Empowering program for girls to take over their dreams and write their life Project through inspiring stories of women for women”.

    Since I read the Dewdrop above, I realize how much we can do to raise the little girls stories, but also to use the women storied from all around the world to empower women around the world.

    For me is really important to talk to you

    Thank you thousands in advance.

    Cinthya Alvarado

    Sigo aprendiendo a vivir en un mundo que no ha aprendido a amar. ??Qu?? otra cosa puedo hacer que no sea escribir o so??ar?…

    ________________________________ De: Dawn Wink: Dewdrops Enviado: jueves, 17 de marzo de 2016 4:14 p. m. Para: camlamasef@hotmail.com Asunto: [New post] Cara Esquivel: An Extraordinary Spirit

    Dawn Wink posted: ” If we don’t speak up for the people in our society that are not represented, then we do not have a society that is fully engaged and functioning and healthy. And to me it’s very simple, we all have a responsibility for seeing how we can help p”

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  4. Dear Dawn,
    We haven’t met, but I know how glad Cara was to collaborate with you on the LISTO project. I’m David’s stepmother, and Cara was, to me, a daughter and a friend. I am struggling to let her go. Thank you for this lovely tribute post.

    • Dear Sandra,
      Thank you so very much for taking the time to write. What a blessing to connect with you. Please know how much you and Cara’s family are lifted in thought and prayer, surrounded by love.

  5. Connie, yes, a beautiful, meaningful life – the essence of all Cara created with her own. Her family and a circle of us who knew and loved Cara have come together to continue her passion of Oaxaca. Let’s keep talking about your attending sometime!
    Love and hugs,

  6. So sad, Thank you so much. One must ponder why these beautiful, meaningful lives seem to end too,too early. But so profoundly.

    I would love so love to go to Oaxoca ELL program. It is a dream at this time and does not have a semblance of reality. And yet……………………

    This only confirms my desires.

    Thank you!!!! Connie

  7. “Whatsoever things are true, noble, right, pure–whatsoever things are lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy–think on these things.” To lose one’s close friends and sisters of the soul–the only solace is to “think on these things.”

    • Margaret, what simply gorgeous and wise words. Thank you so very much for sharing this. I hadn’t read before and the poignancy and power of the Truth of this goes straight to my heart. Thank you and thank you.

  8. Your inspirational writing makes her live on. What could be better in this embattled world?

  9. This was beautiful Dawn. Thank you for sharing it. She is one of the teachers that I observed during my training, and it saddens me deeply to think that she passed on so young. She and I are only a year apart, so it is also frightening… May her memory and light continue on through all of us!

    • Dear Heather, thank you so much for lifting Cara’s spirit with your memories of her. I hadn’t realized that you had observed her class. Thank you so very much for taking the time to connect and yes – may her memory and light continue on through all of us!

  10. Dawn,
    the aperture of your words has captured beautifully those moments of rest found inbetween the humm of vibrancy and the urgency of truth: like the rarest of photos that captures a hummingbirds movement through stills of balanced color and light. Mil gracias!

    • Dear David, I am so deeply grateful to know that this reflection of Cara resonates with truth for you. You and your family were with me by candlelight, as I wrote. What a phenomenal woman, your Cara, such an honor to share our life paths. She will forever inspire me. My thoughts and prayers continue with you and yours. Abrazos!

  11. Thank you Dawn for your big heart, your stunning words and your hugs as we shared our grief. Your writing is a blessing. Thank you.

  12. An admirable homage to a person who affected so many in her short life. My heart goes out to Cara’s family and to her many friends. I can say I knew her through you, Dawn…

    • Dear Alice, I am so grateful to share the energy, passion, power, and magic of Cara with you. Her legacy and love continue to inspire and make the world a better place…

  13. What a beautiful tribune to a beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing about her life.

  14. Dear Dawn, I’m so sorry for your loss of a friend and colleague. Cara was such a vibrant soul, I’m sure there are holes in many hearts now that she is gone. Love and hugs, Dan

    • Dear Dan, thank you so very much for taking the time to connect. Yes, Cara was a vibrant soul and there are holes in many hearts. Thank you for lifting her life and spirit. Love and hugs to you, Dawn

  15. Thanks for doing this…I needed it…can’t wrap my head and heart around it all, but you shaped something beautiful and so simply telling…yes…thank you

  16. Oh Dawn…..I am so sorry….she looks beautiful inside and out!!! What a beautiful celebration of her life……….thinking if you.



    • Mary Main, yes, beautiful inside and out, the incredible Cara. A woman who will be forever remembered and missed. Thank you so very much taking the time to connect. Love and hugs to you, Dawn

  17. Bravo, Dawn! Thanks for writing this–a beautiful piece, and perfect photos. Abrazos

    • Hey dear Seth, thank YOU for the perfect eulogy for the incredible Cara. Your words continue to come to me and bring both tears and smiles, such a gift you gave all those who loved her with your words, memories, experiences and who beautifully you expressed all. Abrazotes a tí.

  18. This is perfect, Dawn. Such a perfect tribute to a woman who vibrated at a level most of us never experience!

    • Anne, Oh, I love this—”vibrated on a level most of us never experience!” What a perfect description of Cara, the hummingbird. Thanks so very much for taking the time to connect. Big hugs next time we see each other.

  19. Heart-wrenching. I am so sorry.

  20. Yes, a beautiful tribute and the song is so touching. Sorry for everyone’s loss. She is our age….

  21. Dawn,This is a lovely tribute. Even though I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Cara, I was deeply moved.Anne

    Anne Hillerman http://www.annehillerman.com http://www.wordharvest.com Author of Rock with Wings and Spider Woman’s Daughter published by HarperCollins

    • Dear Anne, such a gift to share lunch today. Thanks so much for lifting Cara’s life and legacy here and taking the time to connect. She was our kind of woman and her spirit lives on. Gratitude, Dawn

  22. Oh. So very sorry, Dawn. She sounds just magnificent, a blessing to the world. 😦

    Sent from my iPhone


  23. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. And I learned more about the culture of your area. I do believe in celebrations of life and Karl, Margaret and a couple of Jerry’s friends put together a celebration for him. And his final flight was with his paragliding friend who spread his ashes in flight near Lake Berryessa.



    • Dear Kay, I thought of you as I wrote this, with thought of Jerry’s passing and the beautiful Celebration of Life held in his honor. Margaret shared many photos and made us feel as if we were there. She also shared the incredible photo of “Dad’s final flight.” So beautiful and such a perfect final flight. Please know how much you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers. I am so grateful that the prayer shawl arrived to you. Here’s to Celebrations of Life and the incredible people they honor. Love, Dawn

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