Connecting with Mayan Women and Children

mayan childrenWhen I told friends and family that I was going to spend Spring Break in Guatemala,  the only thing that I heard more than,  “don’t drink the water” was “don’t bring home any babies.”  While building stoves for Mayan women high in the mountains of Espumuja,  I found out why.

I have traveled to many places in the world but never have I encountered a more beautiful people than the Mayan.  However,  this is not “western” beauty which is more of a capitalist doctrine than a cultural agreement, it is almost a spiritual beauty,  an inner beauty of vibrant splendor that rivals the traditional hand-woven colorful clothing seen worn by Mayan women.

We got to spend the day building stoves for 10 of these women and will return to their village this morning to finish the job.  I am not alone in having already found myself in love with my Mayan family,  led by Santa,  a young mother of three beautiful children and her Abuello who could possibly be close to 100. Santa’s husband left her earlier this year after the birth of their third child,  Panixa,  the most precious little girl you have ever seen. From our AMA translator we learned that this is a common occurrence for Mayan women to be left alone with their children.  To compound Santa and the other women of Espumuja’s struggles,  they had experienced a destructive earthquake earlier this year.

The community of women in Espumuja are fortunate to have an advocate in Lupe Ramirez and her organization Asociacion de Mujeres Del Altiplano (AMA)  which aids Mayan women find strategies to deal with hardships such as these as well as to gain much needed self esteem.

Our team of three worked serious hours of hard labor yesterday building the foundation for a cement stove which will not only make the lives of our Mayan women easier,  but will also,  hopefully,  help prevent many of the respiratory illnesses that have become the leading cause of death for Mayan people today.

Throughout the day we found ways to connect to the many beautiful children running around the village wide eyed with curiosity as we played with cinder blocks and mortar volcanos. One of the easiest ways to do this,  I found out with Santa’s three year old son, was to show him his face in my camera phone.  The little boy who had timidly sat for hours watching us in silence erupted in a giggle large enough to be heard throughout the Altiplano.  By the end of the day,  the Rutgers students were surround by laughing Mayan children,  playing games and getting their pictures taken.  I am not sure which group had more fun,  the children or the Rutgers students.

But as we drove away from this beautiful Eden-like Guatemalan village,  and through Xela,  or Quetzeltenango,  the neighboring city,  and its billboards advertising western products with images of exclusively western women,  telltale signs of poverty and class divisions, further symptoms of western imperialism,  one is left wondering if western exposure is truly a good thing for these beautiful Mayan people.  Just maybe,  they would be now,  as always,  better off,  had we left them alone.

By Robin Parry

Students at the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden are spending their spring break on a service learning trip in Guatemala. Throughout the week, they will be blogging about their experiences.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Comments are closed.