We have a new president since we last posted, which has not only been huge news in the United States but on a global scale as well. It is a privilege being in a foreign country as this goes on, as many people never get the chance to experience an election from the outside. It’s a hot topic here, among host families, our teachers, and people on the streets. Many locals are fearful for what the future holds–over the past few weeks we’ve attended conferences centralized on the history of the area and have learned of the US involvement in many of the most violent times in Guatemala–so it is understandable that they would be wary for what’s to come of immigration policies and US involvement in the foreign affairs of Central America. Sadly, their current political situation slightly resembles our own. The current Guatemalan president is Jimmy Morales – a former comedian. Our teachers tell us he was elected because people thought that, since he was not a politician, he would not be immersed in the corruption that is rampant in the government. However, since being elected, he has done nothing, because he does not know how to operate in politics. It’s been very eye opening to talk about these issues, historical and current, and in the next election I think we will all have an expanded idea of what our vote means–how our decision not only affects United States citizens, but the livelihoods of so many other people as well, people who have no say in our country’s politics.
Though news of the election is all around us, we have been busy with other activities as well.
We spent this week at PLQ (Projeto Liguistico Quetzaltenango), the sister school to La Escuela de La Montana. One significant difference between the two is that PLQ’s classes last for an intense 5 hours, from 2-7pm. Although we all groaned (and some let out more colorful words of protest) upon hearing this announcement, everyone’s Spanish has improved immensely over the course of the week.
Fortunately, PLQ also offers workshops, which provide a welcome break from classes. This week a local author visited to offer his knowledge of Guatemalan history, as well as speak about his books. We also attended a seminar, in which we learned the background behind Spanish protest songs about social injustice, as well as the opportunity to sing along.
Yesterday was a trip to the municipal city of Salcaga, which is where the process of weaving traditional tapestries begins. While we expected to see looms, we did not expect to find them to be of such a large scale: workers in large, open fields weaving many yards of thread. After this step, it is sent off to be spooled and shipped. We also met a very playful cow.
Salcaga also houses the oldest Catholic church in Guatemala. During our visit, our guide gave us a brief history of the Spanish influence on Mayan and native cultures and how, to encourage the native peoples to join the Catholic Church, images of aboriginals were included in the ornate designs lining the church walls. Catholicism is very apparent in Central America, clearly seen through the abundance of churches, the ubiquity of religious icons and figures in homes and storefronts, and the daily prayers of many citizens. Interestingly, much of the Catholic religion here has some aspect of Mayan belief or culture integrated in it as well, incorporating a connection to the earth and a strong sense of community within towns.
Thursday nights are soccer nights at the school, so last night we crammed into the back of a pickup with a bunch of other foreigners attending PLQ and drove to a nearby field. Unlike at the mountain school, we were not playing against teachers that had semi-professional experiences, so no one got maimed this time (I kid, of course). As we played, a group of locals gathered to watch–watching foreigners try to play soccer seemed like a great source of Thursday night entertainment.
Tonight is an international potluck dinner at the Spanish school and a graduation ceremony. Tomorrow, we load up our packs with camping gear and, with our guides, start our 29 kilometer trek in the mountains to Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs. Following that is a week long yoga retreat at The Mystical Yoga Farm on Lake Atitlan. Heads up friends and family, we will be out of service for about a week and a half but will have connection again once we get to Antigua.
It’s class time, but stay tuned for more updates!