ADIVIMA and the Maya Achí

Throughout our visit with ADIVIMA, we encountered the strength, resilience, and hospitality of the Maya Achí.  Staff members all personally lost family in the massacres; students come from families impoverished after suffering displacement and trauma.  But everywhere, we found deep connections to history and culture, pride in the traditional arts that are part of Achí heritage, and a vision for a sustainable, egalitarian future.  And friendship!


Visit to Pacux:  Clara’s new home site with adobe bricks made by her husband; Pablo, the tutor for scholarship students, and our all-knowing guide, in the middle of a community garden where young people learn about raising traditional crops and seeds are saved to preserve horticultural diversity; roof tile manufacturing on the outskirts of town; Florentina in front of house she and her husband built with reparations; young children everywhere!


Visit with Yosselyn and Francisca in Pacux:  Phyllis eating sandía; preparing pinol (a delicious soup with toasted dried corn, chicken, and flavorings); Phyllis and Anne with Yosselyn, ready to leave for school.


Guillermo, head of ADIVIMA’s Department of Cultural Identity, we discovered is also a leader in a cofradía.  With Pablo, we “happened” upon preparations for a procession for the first Friday in Lent.  Our hosts, Guillermo and his wife, Maria, extended their hospitality and treated us to sweetened coffee, tamales, and a ritual shot of alcohol.


Students at ADIVIMA during our day of intercultural exchange:  a dance celebrating the 4 cuisines of the Achí; demonstrations of weaving a hiuipil and a falda; a play organized by Guillermo and Santos, based upon the creation story in the Popul Vuh.



Our Tour with Becky

The first two days of our trip we were guided by Beck Kaump, Guatemala Programs Coordinator for NISGUA.  We drove to Casillas, Santa Rosa, and met with peaceful protestors from Mataquescuintla, one of many communities in the region trying to stop the Escobal Mine from harming the water and land in their densely populated agricultural region.


From there, we went to Mataquescuintla, where we met members of JODVID, young people dedicated to protecting the environment and speaking out against exploitation harmful to their community.  They took us on a beautiful hike.


The next day, we returned to the Casillas protest encampment, now covered by members of the Santa Rosa de Lima community.  We had a wonderful time sharing our reasons for visiting, and their reasons for organizing to stop the operation of Escobal Mine.

We returned to Guatemala City for a visit to the Casa de la Memoria.   There we were given a tour by a young woman who told a compelling story about human rights abuses of the past and ongoing in Guatemala.  Our time with Becky ended with a dinner where we met two young women who are accompaniers for NISGUA.  Becky was a fabulous guide, and we felt privileged to be there.

It’s just a lot

It is Saturday and it has been loooooong.  Yesterday we left at 6am to drive and see Rio Negro, a community that lives in the hills above the expanded river created by the Chixoy Dam.  The people there are subsistence farmers, and that just barely.  We had to reach the community by boat, but apparently there is also a 5 hour hike through the mountains.  Pretty sure after the last hike we took which was supposed to be 15 minutes and was a few hours, that a 5 hour hike for a Mayan would be at least a 10 hour hike for those of us unused to mountain trekking.  While the drive through protected rainforests of Guatemala was beautiful, it was also a reminder of how stratisfied the economic classes are here.  Some few people are very wealthy, some are doing well, many are just getting by but some, like the communities we have seen, do not have their basic needs met.  It is still hard to believe that so many people live in unfinished, tiny adobe houses, some without electricity or means to pay for it, many without gas or means to pay for it, many without a secure clean water source and most without basic social services like prenatal healthcare, cared for roads (paved or graded dirt roads), trustworthy police and security forces, etc. There is a lot more I could say about the Chixoy dam and the communities affected by it, but I will save that for a later post.

Today we did the intercultural exchange.  We had a shaman give a service, we gave a brief UU service in Spanish, the youth prepared some dances for us and showed us how they do their traditional weaving, and we shared about ourselves and did 4 activities with the youth: making friendship bracelets, pasta making, playing frisbee, and playing games on paper like tic tac toe and hangman.  The kids had a great time.  I was extremely exhausted trying to teach pasta making without being able to speak Spanish, and it was just a very frustrating interaction, even with some translation.  I deeply regret not practicing more before coming and try to rely on Interpreters–it just doesn’t always work.  I think everyone but me had a great time, but then again, everyone else speaks much more fluently.