Posts Tagged ‘Panajachel Guatemala’

The Vendor Jesus

Monday, June 15th, 2015

If you happen to be in Panajachel, Guatemala, please buy a card from my 14-year-old friend, Jesus. Three years ago, Jesus spotted my son Mateo and me through a school window in Santa Catarina, a nearby village–we do stand out–and the next day, ran after us on the street in Panajachel.”I saw you in Santa Catarina,” he said, in perfect English. “You want to buy a card?”

Every year since then, Jesus has found us, and every year, we buy more and more cards. This trip, Olivia and I were waiting for a ride to our next destination when out of nowhere bounds Jesus, clutching a bundle of cards encased in plastic, calling “Senora, senora!” I was happy and relieved to see him. When we’d been in Pana a few days, and he hadn’t yet materialized, I worried.

Ask Jesus for a discount, but be warned that he bargains hard. At some point during the negotiation, in a serious voice, he probably will utter his favorite phrase, “Business is business.”

Here are two photos of Jesus’s wares–details of the embroidered blouses known as huipiles–and, above, a picture of him with Olivia and an Abuela, who, by the way, gifted me with a lovely textile to wrap tortillas.

 

 

 

 

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Guatemala Part 3: Family

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Anyone who has read my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, or anything else I’ve written, knows that I am an advocate for open adoption whenever possible. I believe that inside every person, at a very basic and profound level, is a need to know who they are and where they come from. And by that, I mean who they are biologically, who they are in their DNA. A person needs to know who shares her blood.

That need, in my opinion, in no way undermines my role as an adoptive mother. Rather, it acknowledges a life–and a biology–that existed before me.

That’s one reason why I am here with Olivia in Guatemala, so she can visit with her birth family. Are our visits straightforward and uncomplicated? Honestly, they aren’t, for any of us. Not only do we grapple with the complexity of adoption, but we also face the challenges of two vastly different cultures and lifestyles. Speaking elementary Spanish and no K’iche is the least of it.

Despite the challenges, though, these visits with family are the most important days of our year. I believe I can speak for everyone involved when I say we feel healing, and unity, and love. When we started Olivia’s adoption in 2002, never did I dream that nine years later, we would walk down the calle of Panajachel with her birth brother and sister, or drink Coca-Cola in the mercado and shop for hair barrettes and blue jeans. Nor did I imagine kneeling beside her birth mother and Abuela in church, offering prayers in each of our languages. But that’s the reality of our family. That is who we are, now and forever.

For anyone who has been to Guatemala, or hopes to visit, below are a few scenes from Panajachel. My enormous fruit cup at Hotel Kakchiquel, the  vendors, the bus to Solola, the church steps. This is a beautiful country. We feel lucky to be here.

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Guatemala Part 2: Tecun Uman and the legacy of the quetzal

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

By fortunate accident, we were in Panajachel on Monday, February 20, the festival day of Tecun Uman, a national hero in Guatemala. The honor seems bittersweet: K’iche leader Tecun Uman was slain in battle by Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado, who had allied himself with the native Kaqchikel, enemies of the K’iche people. Tecun Uman’s death signified the end of autonomous rule by indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Here’s a snip from the New World Encyclopedia.

Tecún Umán (Tecún Umaán, Tecúm Umán, Tecúm Umam, or Tekun Umam) (c. 1500 – December 20, 1524) was the last ruler and king of the K’iche-Maya people, in the highlands of what is now Guatemala. According to the Kaqchikel annals, he was slain by Spanish Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado while waging battle against the Spaniards in the grasslands of El Pinal (Valley of Olintepeque) on February 20 1524. Tecún Umán is considered the most representative of his people for his bravery and dignity because he fought to protect his land and his people.

In the middle of November of 1523, the Estremaduran captain Don Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras had been sent on an important mission by Hernán Cortés to discover and conquer the lands south of Mexico. For this journey, Alvarado was given three hundred soldiers, a hundred and twenty archers and gunmen, one hundred and thirty five horsemen, and several hundred Cholutec and Tlaxcaltec allies… Alvarado allied himself with the Kaqchikel, who had long been bitter rivals of the K’iche’ nation.

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The legends say Tecún Umán entered battle adorned with precious quetzal feathers, and his nagual (animal spirit guide), also a quetzal bird, accompanied him during the battle. In the midst of the fray, both Alvarado and Tecún, warriors from worlds apart, met face to face, each with weapon in hand. Alvarado was clad in armor and mounted on his warhorse. As horses were not native to the Americas and peoples of Mesoamerica had no beasts of burden of their own, Tecún Umán assumed they were one being and killed Alvarado’s horse… He quickly realized his error and turned for a second attack but Alvarado’s spear pierced through his opponent’s chest and into his heart. It was then his nagual, filled with grief, landed on the fallen hero’s chest, staining its breast feathers red with blood, and thereafter died. From that day on, all male quetzals bear a scarlet breast and their song has not been heard since. Further, if one is to be placed in captivity, it would die, making the quetzal a symbol of liberty.

Tecún Umán was declared a National Hero of Guatemalan on March 22, 1960 and is celebrated annually on February 20…  He is also memorialized in a poem by Miguel Ángel Asturias that bears his name. In contrast to his popularity, he is at times rejected by Maya cultural activists who consider his status as a national hero a source of irony, considering the long history of mistreatment of Guatemala’s native population.

The children in one of the schools in Panajachel commemorated the day with a dance and parade, shown in the photos below. Here in Guatemala, so many indigenous people continue to struggle for basic sustenance–enough food, clean drinking water, a secure roof over their head, a permanent floor under their feet. The effects of Tecun Uman’s defeat linger.

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Lake Atitlán and Mayan Families

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

There is no bad view of Lake Atitlán. This particular vista is of one of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, Toliman, framed by white wispy clouds and an orange tropical flower. One morning while everyone else was asleep, I went onto the terrace of our hotel and a woman from England said to me, “You have to take this picture!” So I did.

In the second photo, you can see men repairing a dock in Panajachel that was wiped out by Tropical Storm Agatha and her recent follow-ups. We saw such repair occurring and necessary all around the lake’s perimeter. (If you look closely,  you can see a gushing waterfall in the foliage above.) One of the main modes of transportation around Atitlan is via lancha, or small boat, a favorite activity for Olivia and Mateo. To board our lancha, we climbed down a makeshift wooden gangplank and clambered over slippery wet sandbags. I would have taken more photos, but I was too busy hanging onto Mateo to prevent him from leapfrogging over the sandbags into the drink. (more…)

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The road to Panajachel

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The worst of Tropical Storm Agatha had passed but on the road to Panajachel from Antigua, we could still see the devastation. Acres of mountainsides had loosened and slid, taking down stands of trees and boulders the size of Volkswagen bugs. The landslide in the photo above hadn’t been cleared by the time we came upon it, and our tourist van slowed to a crawl as traffic was routed around it. Whether we’d missed the slide by minutes or hours, nobody knew. Like everybody else safe in a four-wheel drive vehicle, we just counted ourselves lucky.

For us, the weather is a nuisance, but for the residents of the area, these storms often mean death. En route, we saw a crowd gathered around a body on the side of the road. A few days later, as we passed through the area, we saw a funeral procession carrying a wooden box. Olivia and Mateo are still talking about it. To my knowledge, it was the first time either one of them had seen a coffin.

(more…)

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Antigua Guatemala continued

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Summer in the United States is rainy season in Guatemala, and as anyone familiar with the tropics knows, when it rains here, it really pours. We just got word that the road to Panajachel and Lake Atitlán—where we planned to go next week with Tim and Mateo—is closed due to a mudslide. Not only tourists use the road, of course; it’s the main thoroughfare through the central part of the country. With luck, the road will be cleared soon for car traffic. (more…)

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About a father who lost his son

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

This past February, I had the privilege of meeting Tom Heaton in Panajachel, Guatemala, where he lives and works as a United Methodist Pastor from the Indiana conference. I had known about Tom and his work for a few years through my membership in online adoption groups.

Tom is the adoptive father to two sons, Jose and Manuel, both born in Guatemala. Several years ago, Tom started “Mayan Traditions,”  featuring fair-trade crafts to benefit orphanages and child-related ministries in Guatemala. In 2008, he was appointed business administrator of Project Salud y Paz, a United Methodist-related ministry that operates clinics and a preschool in the Guatemalan highlands. Last year, Tom formed Mission Guatemala, a nonprofit organization founded to improve the quality of life for the country’s indigenous population. For the past decade, Tom has dedicated himself to Guatemala and its people. (more…)

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