Santiago Zamorra
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August 2004
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.  Santiago Zamora Womens' Collective
George and the women of the collective 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. Filomena talking about history of Santiago Zamora
HIlda talking about the Women's Collective 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 Luc talking about schools
Viky and George talking about land use 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 land.
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. Viky talking about schooling
Women of Santiago Zamora 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. Santiago Zamorra 038.jpg (208466 bytes)
wpeA4.jpg (44029 bytes) 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 camera battery) wpeA7.jpg (32020 bytes)
Santiago Zamorra 018.jpg (248816 bytes) 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. wpe9D.jpg (26612 bytes)
Santiago Zamorra 017.jpg (183611 bytes) 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.

A few words in Kakchiquel

Matiox    Gracias/Thank you
Ja' Si/Yes
Nack No/No
Utz Bueno/Good
Jak'ieg Buenas tardes/
Good afternoon
Matiox xi gua' Buen provencho/Enjoy your meal
Xaj Adios/Goodbye
Na cuent Que le vaya bien/Go well
wpeA9.jpg (36988 bytes)


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Last modified: April 27, 2010