|We visited a Womens'
Collective in Santiago Zamora, a Kakchiquel pueblo. To get there, we
all piled into the bed of a small pickup truck and held on as best we
could for the ride up in the hills behind Volcan Agua. In the
truck were 3 German tourists, 2 Australians, 5 US Americans (including
Gabriel, our guide/translator), and 5 Kakchiquel Guatemalans,
including the driver and the baby in her mother's sling.
||When we got to Santiago
Zamora, we climbed out of the truck and walked through the village
with the women and children. They were so friendly and
welcoming, so pleased to have us visit them.
|We sat on tarps under the
orange tree while Filomena told us the history of Santiago Zamora. Its
a familiar story of indigenous people who sold their ancestral lands
to survive, then were forced to work the same land as sharecroppers so
that their children could survive.
||Hilda told us the story of
how she met a woman from Proyecto Mosaic Guatemala on a bus and
started the Women's' Collective . A group of 16 village women
developed the idea of providing a cultural visit to their village so
that tourists could appreciate their history and traditions. The
profits from the tourist fees and the sale of textiles are used to
provide education and health care in the village.
|We walked slowly back
through the village, listening and talking. Viky is telling Luc
about how proud she is to send all three of her children to school.
||Viky and George are talking
planting crops, three growing seasons. You can see the fields in the
distance. The villagers do not own a single acre of their
ancestral land. It was all sold to a Patron, then left to his
many children when he died. The villagers must work their own land,
and also work the landlord's land in order to pay for the use of the
|Viky is shy about speaking
in public, but quite determined to speak her mind. She talked
about the women of her generation, who were not generally allowed to
go to school. She talked about the village of 5oo people (300
are children). As recently as 5 years ago, only about 75 of
those children had regular schooling. Now about 200 children go
regularly to either the public school, or to the much better catholic
school, paid for in part by the money generated from tourism.
||Some of the women of the
Collective, listening to Viky talk about school. Behind them is
the government-funded public school, which everyone says is very
bad. Teachers are not trained, they come only a few days a week,
kids never know when the teachers are going to come, etc.
|We walked to Filomena's
house for weaving, and food preparation demonstrations, and delicious
Pepian. Here some of the younger women are demonstrating how to
begin a weaving on the hand loom.
||Once the base is laid down,
the piece is moved to the backstrap loom for weaving. This young
woman is weaving a huipil, a traditional indigenous woman's blouse.
|The women showed us how
they make coffee by first husking the shells off in a metate (a
traditional grinding stone), then roasting the beans over this fire on
the flat pans you see to the right. Then they grind the beans on the metate. The women
also showed us how to make torillas, and served us Pepian, a
traditional Guatemalan soup, made with tomatoes, onions, peppers and
chicken. But the camera battery ran out about here, so we only
have those photos in our memories. (Note to self: buy an extra
||This woman is carrying
about 50 pounds of reeds, which are used to weave mats and fans.
|The fields of corn, beans,
squash and coffee around the village. These almost vertical fields are
common in the highlands. The light green fields are food crops.
The dark green is coffee growing under the trees.
||This beautiful woman can
send her three children to school with the help of the collective. The
children will learn to speak, read and write in Spanish. None of
the women on the Collective can read or write, as women of their
generation were never sent to school. Several of the women have
learned to speak Spanish as a second language so that they can lead
the tours. Most speak only Kakchiquel.
words in Kakchiquel
provencho/Enjoy your meal
vaya bien/Go well