Mourning daughter, a Guatemalan couple find healing in dance

U.S. & World

Fabio Rodolfo Vasquez and his wife, Maria Moreno, dance at a promotional event outside a coffee shop on the outskirts of Guatemala City, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. The couple met in a Guatemala City club more than 30 years ago when they won a dance contest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Jenifer Vásquez was 32 when she died of renal insufficiency in June, leaving behind grief-stricken parents already struggling with the isolation of the coronavirus lockdown in Guatemala.

Then Fabio Rodolfo Vásquez heard about a dance contest organized on social media, “Covi Dance 2020.” The 50-year-old shoemaker thought it might be a good idea, but he had doubts. For a week he and María Moreno, his wife, mulled it over.

Would it be respectful to the memory of our daughter? they wondered. Was it too soon?

“I wanted us to do it to come out of the depression and the feeling of being caged in that we’ve endured during the pandemic,” Vásquez said. “And to deal with the pain that we’ve suffered.”

The couple met in a Guatemala City club more than 30 years ago when they won a dance contest. Throughout their marriage they have enjoyed dancing together, especially disco but also salsa, merengue and cumbia.

Recalling how their daughter always loved to watch them trip the light fantastic, Vásquez recorded a home video in which he danced to The Flirts’ “Danger.” It became an overnight sensation. Moreno later was featured in a second video, and the couple won the contest’s top prize.

“I think our daughter must be happy to see us happy,” Vásquez said. “She supported us … and would always tell us to do what we love the most.”

Their videos have gone viral, and their moves have cheered up many who have replicated them. And they have inspired generosity: So far, a restaurant has given them a one-year supply of chicken and a supermarket offered them milk and other groceries.

“People have liked it and have realized that we’ve done this to uplift others,” Vásquez said.

“I’m not making money out of this or asking for anything, but if people have it in their hearts to give us something, I accept from the bottom of my heart,” he added. “During this pandemic, you have to accept everything from the heart because these are things that come from God.”

The couple have also been praised for their resilience and for bringing joy to many amid their pain.

“My dad used to say that music uplifted the spirit and made you feel young,” Vásquez said. “You can be old, your skin all wrinkled up, but being young is within you, and music can revive you.”

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While nonstop news about the effects of the coronavirus has become commonplace, so, too, have tales of kindness. “One Good Thing” is a series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of joy and benevolence in a dark time. Read the series here: https://apnews.com/OneGoodThing

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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