The original plan was to land in Guatemala City, and head directly for Rio Dulce on the north coast for a river ride to the remote city of Livingston, home of the enclave of African descendants – los Garifuna.
But we’d only slept an hour the night before our flight, fueled by anticipation and procrastination. We decided mid-flight of the second leg to head to Antigua instead.
On that hour-long shuttle ride, we pushed the limits of Just-In-Time travel. By the powers of quick thinking and in-country 4G, courtesy my #GeniusBae, we booked our Airbnb for that night right in the van. Within two hours, we found ourselves in the HQ of Stela 9, the fashion label founded by Jess Bercovici, an ex-archiologist turned tribal fashionista supplying Urban Outfitter, Revolt, and more.
We were greeted at the villa’s gate by dark haired, barefooted, gorgeous Jacki, Jess’s sister. We followed her as she flowed through the flowered gardens of their compound like a love child of Frida Kahlo. She showed us our room, where Drew and I slept for 15 hours, going to bed and waking up to sunlight and our own laughter.
Disoriented by time, I awakened to a (seemingly) abandoned compound. Save for the hummingbirds and cool morning air, the villa was all mine. I sampled hammocks and new flowers, and was lost in the perfect book, when Jacki emerged. Early morning disheveled, and still gorgeous, we chatted. The calm of her eyes was stacattoed by winces at every mention of her sister, Jess, who was nowhere in sight. I’d read Jess’s story via IG, but Jacki gave me all the context.
Jess was in a near fatal car accident a few years ago, but survived (and made me wonder if thus began the love affair with Frida, who adorned a large wall of the villa like a saint). In February 2016, Jacki came from LA to help Jess with the business she’d fallen into and grown successfully.
But unexpectedly, Jess had a seizure. And when she return to the US, it was discovered that young Jess had brain cancer.
A former villa full of roomies/friends had recently left for southern Mexico, and Jacki was left to serve as interim designer, business director, property manager, night bartender, and broken-hearted sister.
And you wouldn’t know it. She’s a bawse babe if I ever saw one.