Guatemala was not what I was expecting. It has taken me by storm and has shown me so much about myself and my place in the world, and it has only been five days. Our trip thus far has taken us to increasingly rural areas, easing us into the poverty and service work we are here for. Antigua was full of beautiful architecture and ruins. Its history seemed from every cobblestone street; from every century-old church.
The church La Merced in Antigua.
The quality of human interaction seems to be pretty lost in America after visiting Guatemala where human interaction overarches everything. In the states we go to a store and anonymously shop for our items and then check out without much interaction at all.
Shop in the church square in Antigua.
The markets and even just on the street the merchants come up and talk to you, asking you what you would like to buy or what you are looking for, hoping to find an item that is a good fit for you.They are very proud of their trades and set up their shops very neatly. I really don’t think I’ve been to any artisan shop in the United States that is as personable as the ones here.
Horse buggy in Antigua.
The stories I have heard from the group of women who work at the Association of IMAP have made me reflect on the “hardships” I have experienced in my life. What have I even done that compares to the stories I’ve heard, really? Francesca lost her mother when she was ten years old and raised her one year old sister from then on. Then when she started working at a Catholic mission she had to have an abortion after two months and then in June when her baby would have been born she found a baby to be abandoned at the hospital in the mission and adopted him. Her husband had three children with a Canadian woman and then moved there, which completely goes against her Catholic beliefs of the love god which says that a woman should respect her husband and a man should respect his wife. And he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain, so Francesca was left to raise three children on her own. The strength she has is incredible and awe-inspiring.
Us Aggies and the four Guatemalan women at the Association in San Lucas from right to left: Francesca, Odelia, Josephina, and Nancy.
It makes me feel quite spoiled to have grown up in America, and also makes me feel handicapped for my lack of life struggles. Life struggles seemed to have made her stronger throughout her life, and started very early on as she grew up in poverty and never went to school; never learned to read or write. But yet she persevered and worked to better herself, learn a trade, and be able to provide for her family. She is amazing. Of course I am eternally grateful for the life I have been given and for all my parents have been able to provide for me, but seeing such a vastly different lifestyle makes me wonder if I could have been as strong as someone like Francesca.
Coffee plant blossoms.
I yearn to learn more from the women and children in Chajul as well. Until today we only heard what the men had to say, and it was only in the context of orientations and agriculture. Today was when the women spoke to us and told us some of their stories. It was one of the most touching moments of my life to see these women in the flesh in front of me and to know the insane chasm between my life and theirs. The dissonance of our lives alone brought tears to my eyes. I feel so unworthy in a way, to be working by women who have so much more strength and wisdom than I. They even said they knew we were there to help and that they respected us. They respected us. It made me speechless.