Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trabajo y Fiesta!

Settling in to life here has been easier than expected. I have the regulars I say “Buenos dias” to when walking through town; I’ve picked up some fun Guatemalan phrases (¡Un cachito por favor, cuate!); and I begin each morning with a wonderful cup of coffee, made from the coffee beans that grow across the street.

My group has gotten off to great start on our cultural tourism project. The other two girls in the group, Molly and Maria, bring environmental and tourism skills, while Jamie and I bring more business and economic development expertise. We will be working with the Municipality to assist a Mayan women’s weaving group so they can have a more sustainable way to create and market their goods. Last Friday we met with 32 of the 55 women for a focus group discussion, trying to find out what their assets are, what they want, and how we can help them achieve their goals. We are a bit overwhelmed with all we want to do in the next two and a half months!!

But it hasn’t been all work and no play….this last weekend San Antonio Aguas Calientes had a big festival to celebrate the Dulce Nombre de Jesus. I’ve never seen such a thing! Parades, processions, dancing, food, plays, mass, bands, Mayan games, endless fireworks and music don’t even begin to describe the three days of festivities. And my friend Rachel (from ACCION USA in Boston) is now living in Antigua and was able to come for the second day and check out my pueblo!

As we were watching the parade, Maria and I were standing against a wall (otherwise we block everyone’s view behind us) when a few Guatemalen men went past us on the sidewalk. The first one looked at me and then did a double take with a big smile. He looked semi-familiar, but I only gave him a half-smile just in case he was sizing up the gringa. Maria didn’t recognize him, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I knew him. It wasn’t until five minutes later that I realized it was the mayor! We had had a meeting with him on Wednesday where he pledged his support for our project. Ay, que cosa, hopefully he won’t hold our absent-mindedness against us!

Another funny thing happened the next night I went with Jamie and his host family to watch a play. Only I want you to picture it on top of someone’s roof in the middle of the block with hundreds of people gathered below to watch. The main actor was quite funny as he began to tell the story of the Dulce Nombre of Jesus. He went on to describe that no such festival is celebrated in the United States, thus the gringos have to come to San Antonio to see it…of course Jamie and I are the only two gringos in the crowd and every single person starts to look our way! There’s no hiding when you’re the tallest people around. It was all in good fun, and the upside is we’re now well known throughout town!

The main church and plaza
My pueblo- San Antonio Aguas Calientes

My family- Don Enrique, Clara, and Dona Maria
"Pelota Maya"- the ancient game played by the Mayans; this group will appear on the History Channel in March!
Part of the parade

Walking through the maze of buses in Antigua

Molly, Maria, Jaime and our Spanish/Cultural mentor Jorge
Rachel and I in Antigua


  1. this is friggin' awesome.
    (I usually don't say friggin', but I can't think of another descriptive word).

    I especially love the story about the Mayor. i know you are probably meeting hundreds of new people every week, so don't feel bad that you didn't recognize him right away! It happens!

    I can tell that Clara adores you too. Are yous staying with them?
    Jess W

    I seriously might have to find a friend with a TV to go watch "Pelota Maya" too!

  2. So interesting!
    And they're celebrating the Sweet Name of Jesus!
    Remind us when the TV show is going to be on.
    Que Dios te bendiga!