11/27: Making Connections

Sunrise over Panajachel, Lake Atitlan

Another week has flown by and we’ve found our groove in Guatemala.

The mornings have been chilly and each day we wake along with our neighbors in San Miguel Escobar to a unique cacophony.

First the roosters crow, beginning sometime around a quarter ’til 5.

Then the dogs begin to howl.

Called “chuchos” in Guatemala, street dogs can often be found napping during the day in front of the homes or businesses where they are fed – keeping a weary eye on passers by. At night the pups patrol the streets with a purposeful stride and at the crack of dawn they all join in song to awake the community, perhaps as a way of returning the streets to the people.

Then as the citizens arise, distinctly human sounds emerge.

By 6:30 the concrete walls of our rooms begin to vibrate with bass from speakers next door or down the street. The song is unintelligible by the time it reaches our eardrums but the bass remains jarring. Is it not a bit early for a dance party?

At 7 the bangs and crackles of fireworks begin. Yes- fireworks. Guatemalans have a year round obsession with fireworks and while they can be heard at any time of the day or night they are almost guaranteed in the late night and early morning hours.

They send a message of celebration. This day is special. Every day is special. Let’s celebrate being alive and being able to send sparkling rockets into the air to greet the day if we so choose.

Perhaps counter intuitive to the fireworks is the next sound in the symphony – the gas man. Homes in San Miguel rely on one of two (if not both) sources of fuel for their cooking stoves – propane and wood. If you’re a propane user and you’ve run out of fuel you simply need to listen for the sound of a truck-mounted loudspeaker passing by declaring, “Gaaaaaaaassssssssss! Gaaaaaaaassssssssss!” with the dynamics of an ambulance siren. Need gas? Better run outside quick. It’s like the ice cream man, for an arguably equally essential commodity.

Are you awake yet!?

If you are, it’s time to add your voice to the chorus as you echo the words, “buenos dias” cheerfully offered to you on the way to the bus stop by nearly everyone you pass.

Good morning Guatemala!

One of the many friendly chuchos

Community partners and site visits last week included:

Casa de la Memoria – a museum dedicated to the history of Guatemala from Mayan times up to and beyond the civil war and genocide that occurred in the country for decades with the mission of preventing future tragedies and bringing suppressed stories to light.

H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala (Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence) – a social justice organization dedicated to spreading awareness of those who were “disappeared” during the civil war and countering unjust government actions. The organization sponsors murals and large demonstrations dedicated to their cause and to the memory of the tens of thousands of civilians taken from their families without a trace during the war.

Los Patojos – a community school founded by a young Guatemalan man after his tutoring and after school program outgrew his parent’s house. The founder, Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes, was recognized as a CNN hero and is currently working on building a large secondary school in Antigua. More info

Through our site visits we are making connections with other organizations, people, and ideas we have come across through the duration of the GAP semester. We are beginning to recognize that across the North American continent there are universal social problems and injustices that endure through history to our modern day.

We continued last week as well with our work in the Garden of Hope, were able to participate in more artisan workshops – creating beautiful trays and bags from recycled textiles, and had a warm thanksgiving dinner on a hillside overlooking Antigua.

Photos from week three:

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