I start to feel like at home in Santiago Atitlan. Everything became somehow familiar to me and I am not longer staring at the Mayan women wearing their traditional colorful dresses neither at the men walking on the streets with machetes wearing their typical white trousers with black stripes. Sometimes I just can not help but observe what kind of stuff the Mayan women are holding on their heads. Once I saw this woman holding an enormous box on her head – there was now way how could someone hold the big box in his hands. I can never understand how can they balance it and still walk like models with their heads straighten. And the big Friday or Sunday market is also something that always makes me wonder – hundreds of people being squeezed in this small shopping street close to the main square, the vendors shouting and selling fruits, vegetables, meat and Made in China stuff, people bargaining. It is also possible to buy different kind of animals- You can buy rooster for 70Q, small rabbit for 20Q, dogs, chickens etc. Sometimes there are some crazy religious fanatics walking around and invoking God and propagating his words. But still, when I hear tzutuhil it still sounds like a language from a different planet.
Mayans have beautiful black hair and dark skin lashed by the sun. They are very short which is caused by the subtropical climate and the nutrition. I did not see any tall people in Santiago, they are all shorter than me, I would say 160cm is the average for an adult men. People here are very kind. I did not meet any bothering people as in other developing countries that would go after you and force you to buy something or cheat somebody. They are not spoiled by the tourism industry yet. (Well, just a little bit). Who knows how the situation will change in few more years when more hotels will be build and more tourists will flow here.
It is great just to walk on the streets while heading to work, not being dependant on any kind of transportation, just enjoy walking and looking around. The only thing that makes me really sad is seeing the forlorn dogs. There are dozens of them everywhere you look. Some of them are walking with me, some of them are just lying on the street, some of them looking for a food and some of them slowly dying. They are all skinny and most of them look very sick. Of course the ponds for dogs are nonexistent in Guatemala since this is a developing country where half of the inhabitants live under the poverty line and life of a dog does not mean anything. I remember once when I was in San Lucas, I saw a dog in a garbage bin, he was old and molt completely and he had a broken leg. I always think of my dog Frantisek who is happy back home, gets enough food and does not have to live on the streets.
WORK 24-28 May
I started shooting a short film about ADISA, the Asociation of Parents and Friends of People with Disabilities, the school and the centre for disabled people. ADISA was founded in 1997 when the daughter of a couple who run the centre, Argentina and Francisco, died because of Meningitis in the age of 9 years. There are about 60 children in the school and dozen adults in the centre where they make products from recycled paper. Being a teacher in the school is a tough work. The children require constant attention, there are some kids with serious physical handicaps and some kids mentally retarded. But it is great that such places exist and that there is at least some hope for these people.
In the afternoons I was helping in the CENTRE DE SALUD which is a medical place in the centre of Santiago. It is a governmental centre so the medical care here is free including the medication. They also have a special educational programme Mi família progressa. The programme financially supports mothers and the workers from the centre check if the children are not malnourished and teach the mothers about baby prevention and hygiene and things like that because they were never thought as they never went to school. So I was helping in the consulting room to take the mothers with their 1-5 years old children. Every hour there was a group of approximately 10 women who entered the room at once, the assistant Miguel was explaining them in tzutuhil (as they can not speak Spanish of course) all the previously mentioned things and then we were checking their kids. It is not unusual if the family consists of more than 5 children. Sometimes the mothers are very young, even 13 years old!!! And do nt get me wrong, these girls were not raped, it is legal here! The majority of the mothers are illiterate, so they only sign the papers with their fingerprint. I just hope that their children will attend school one day! Have I ever mentioned before that the illiteracy rate in Guatemala is about 30 percent and even higher in the villages?
One day after work in Centre de Salud, my coworker who has a sweet name Miguel Angel took me for a walk. We Europeans go to have a coffee, here in Guatemala guy takes you to the church, isn´t it sweet? Of course it is still muy dificil hablar en espanol but I am trying hard. My only advantage is that I can speak French so I always derive some words from French, sometimes it works, sometimes not.
After almost three weeks of preparations and negotiations I finally realized the documentary screening. Oh boy, you can imagine how I was disappointed when I went to the school where the screening for the students should have taken place and instead of the students there was only bunch of teachers because there was again some kind of misunderstanding and the director did not know that the projection was meant for the students. I showed them the documentary film called MADE IN L.A. about three Mexican women who went to work in Los Angeles in a clothes factory but got less than average salary (3,25$ per hour instead of the minimum 8.25$) and decided to demonstrate for one year all around the States. It was interesting to see how the teachers were vividly discussing with the specialist on human rights Lea whom I invited to come and discuss about human rights. They also mentioned the Guatemalan Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú during the discussion who is fighting for the rights of Mayan people and recently is living in Mexico. She seems to be pretty big hero here in Guatemala. There was also a discussion about religion going on, the only thing I understood was that Bible is macho (“Biblia es machista!”) and that there is no place for women in it at all! Right.
MAXIMÓN- SECOND TRY
We tried to make another excursion to the local god Maximón but it was evening and the place was closed already. BUT- there is another Maximón in the town who is believed to be a fake Maximón. But the guy who owns him and displays him does not doubt that this Maximon is real. Anyway, it was very interesting to see it and hear the story. The owner told us that Maximón has the power to cure people or and his wife Maria who is lying behind him makes the women pregnant if they can not become and ask her for the help. Again, people are worshiping him cigarettes, Quetzalteca, money, candles and they talk to him through the guy (I forgot his name). He told us that people from all around Guatemala and from abroad are coming to get cured by Maximón.
LLUVIA, VOLCANO Y FIN DEL MUNDO
The official winter season started in Guatemala which means that it is raining a lot and it is also much colder these days. This year there is a lot of rain all around the country, it has been raining 4 days in a row without a break. I have never seen such a constant rain in my life. It seems we entered some stage of emergency already. This happened couple of years ago when during the rainy season there were some mud slides and it torn down couple of houses i
n the neighborhood villages. That is why they preventively evacuated people from there and they are now being relocated to the municipality of Santiago Atitlan. Some roads were closed completely and again there was a shortage of electricity. Fortunately, the rain finally stopped on Sunday when I finally get on the internet where I found out all the messages from my friends and family asking me: “Are you alive?”. Because in the meantime on Friday there was the volcano PACAYA near Guatemala city erupting, the leaking lava killed couple of people and the Guatemala airport was shut down because of the ubiquitous ashes. Later on I also learned that the enormous rain was effected by the tropical storm Aghata that hit whole central American region and 131 people died.
I think that this planet is going crazy-we entered the second decade of the 21st century and only during couple of months there were disasters such as earthquake in Haiti, earthquake in Chile, eruption of the Iceland volcano. Will we even live to see the year 2012 when the Mayas predict the end of the world?