Monday, May 14, 2007

Cultural Adaption...

Recently I was compelled to better understand Guatemala and her people. I shared my need to know this country beyond the borders of Antigua with anybody who would listen (specifically the police). Two of the officers that I work with took me up on my offer to come and see where they live and meet their families.

Last week I made a 610 kilometer road trip up the southern edge of GUA to the Northwestern Mexican border. As thrilling as that was in and of itself, it paled in comparison to the time spent with two of my police officer friends.

The first officer I stayed with, his name is Gerrado Aguilar. He lives in the community of Catarina near the Mexican border. He lives with his wife, his very pregnant sister and her husband, their 2 yr old son, his mother and her husband. A total of seven plus the occasional visit from his nephew that came to eat and bath at his house. Three separate family units that functioned as a single family.

Gerrado's wife Pamela is quite the cook. We were either visiting sites and people in and around Catarina or eating. This is one these trips that you half expect to be losing weight on. But in fact it was just the opposite. This young lady has a strong future in cooking.

It was here that I was able to experience the sound of life under the "Mango Tree". Apparently in the normal course of nature, bats love mango juice. There was a very large tree over the section of the house that I was living in. I went to bed with the sound of bats eating the fresh fruit. It was akin to rats fighting. Then through out the night I heard what it sounds like to have mango falling onto a tin roof in the middle of a rain storm... 6 times.

Gerado and Pamela showed me the evidence of damage and subsequent repair from Hurricane Stan. They introduced me to their grandparents that had survived the flooding while home across the street from their house had been washed away with their families inside.

As well they took me to the Mexican Border crossing point of "El Carmen". An interesting subculture unto itself.

I also was able to see a sugar cane processing facility. It has been in operation for the better part of 75 years with the family. Here is some perspective. These men, 5 in total, work for 2 days gathering raw cane from the fields, then squeeze it cook it and pour it into molds to make "panela" bricks that yield Q400 ($53US).

On Tuesday, I went to a rural community of New San Carlos. This is near the city of Retaluleo. My friend Juan Carlos, another police officer, lives here with his wife and two daughters. Just when I was wondering how he found his house and property... it is very remote. He told me that his family had been here for the better part of 100 years. His children made 4 generations that were living in this location.

There were several points of interest from parents TV antenna to his sisters indigenous roof on her home. His families life in general is incredible. He showed me how to build a well. He had built 2 and was about to complete a 3rd... Hand dug... 150 ft.

His home had no real shower facility and as their bathing space was also their kitchen he thought it prudent to take me to another sisters home that lived 9 kilometers away. After visiting for a bit a torrential rain storm moved in... for 4 hours. With the nature of the roads to his house, the weight of a second person on the motorcycle and heavy rains, it was deemed best to stay with his sister and her family; her husband, three daughters, a nephew and his wife, and a few of the neighbors. A wonderful Christian family. They have the local christian radio station in their home.
Wednesday morning before I return to Antigua. I was able to spend time with Juan Carlos' family and a neighbor and his family while visiting a national park (Mayan Ruins).

As interested as I am in the homes and lifestyles of the people I visited, they too were interested in the "Giant Gringo" on the moto. It was a great time of fellowship and cultural exchange.

Yes, I plan to do this again.

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