A small child arms swinging by her sides, like windshield wipers on a rainy day wipes away air to make space Space for her slight figure and that of her baby doll on her spirited back—face white as a corn tortilla just patted into shape before it turns dark above the flames that cook it steadily from underneath Tears dampen her mother’s brown cheeks when she realizes our eventual departure She believes that her economic stability is tucked away in foreign bank accounts. She doesn’t own the key to her own future Her uncle’s eyes are alert and knowing. He sits on a hand-crafted wooden and bamboo box-stool and talks about reforestation creando consciencia about plastic and grey water systems and questions the lack of regulations for companies that ship their products over in brightly colored packaging which later dot the landscapes with colors and particles this land has never welcomed. No home for waste—make-shift trash dumps—basureros clandestinos are the only place that take on the heavy human hand The child introduces me to the kitten Tomy He is small and black and has a brown patch on his throat He meows as the child’s mother prepares lunch en cantidades He was placed in the kitchen to hunt mice but maybe Tomy is a bit out of place in his new home full of food he cannot rightly partake in and lacking the mice he can. He is underfoot in the kitchen like a shadow— his presence and his meowing reminders of his constant “thereness.” (Muj is shadow in Tzutuhil.) “Tomy Muj,” I say giggling to the girl “Muj, Muj, Muj,” her mother chants and smiles Sharing upturned lips like life-long friends.
It’s the last day on the summer course. It’s so interesting to hear about what people say of you and what kind of presence you bring to the table. I think even in my 30s it’s hard to come to terms with or just settle comfortably into the person you are. I guess sometimes I feel like I’d much rather be on the seat of my chair—smart and talkative and always knowing what to say and/or do in any given situation. At the end of the day, I think what it comes down to is being cool with your inner spirit and self. Maybe what I needed to practice and have highlighted this time around was my spirit of kindness, coolness, and grounded energy. I am so thankful for an amazing Instructor team and group of teenagers ready to learn and grow. Los quiero mucho y he aprendido un montón de ustedes.
We have journeyed into a history as dark as the depths of Lake Atitlán—el más profundo de las Américas The depths have felt overwhelming but necessary as the reminder of the pain that lives in each of our bloodlines the bones that hold us up like a ladder are dense with the memories of time and are buried in the soil we occupy with strong and reaching raíces. Roots we need to continue to explore in all directions. We have ventured into the verdant lands of Guatemala—land of trees and like the Lorax we must be careful of the greed and power that run like currents of flames in our nation’s veins We must tell the story of deforestation, of pollution, of dwindling natural resources before it’s too late We must plant the seed that will revive the forests and inspire the birds of the trees to keep on singing We must care and maintain the precious seedlings of our siembra and never give up. You are the seeds of the trees that will grow into grandes problemáticas or soluciones transformativas. We want to sew the fruits of our labor of love During our adventure the garden of love has been planted let’s see what it’s beauty holds and who will hold it up to the light that illumines dialogue and understanding, patience and tolerance, caring and challenge. Raíces profundas y duraderas.
This is a note for the families and friends that have journeyed with us, albeit from afar (and especially to the parents). We would like to thank you for lending us what is most precious to you so that your son or daughter could learn what the stories of the land of Guatemala had to teach them. From the people that inhabit this remarkable corner of the world, rincón del mundo, and the numerous native languages, struggles, hopes and injustices that each student experienced first-hand. The story of Guatemala is one of conquest, of bitter memories, and difficult realities that cannot be swallowed whole, sino poco a poco. In its same right, Guatemala is a land of a people that inspire. They are resilient to the constant change in tide.
Thank you for planting the seed within your child that gave them the openness, desire, and grit to keep on learning and to begin to grow roots of difference and change against corruption and injustice and the destruction of the Earth. Keep watering them and we hope they will grow into that aguacatillo we learned about at Chico Mendes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.