Patty – Guatemala – The Past

Guatemala – THE PAST – January 6, 2000

When you fly into Guatemala City, you first see the “new development” of the country – all the American companies doing business and bringing modern merchandise and equipment. Then, you see the local buses and you realize that ‘once upon a time’ these buses were yellow schoolbuses from the USA – colorfully painted with a rack put on top to hold all the local peoples baskets and bundles of vegetables and handicrafts for market. You glance around at all the people dressed in “western” clothes and than magically, you notice a beautiful Mayan woman with her sculptured bronze features as if you were studying one of the Mayan stone carvings found in an ancient pyramid 1000 years ago. She is in “full garb” – woven and embroidered ‘guipiles’ blouse and wrap around skirt – all bearing a pattern indicative of her village. She is traditionally carrying a baby wrapped in a sling of woven stripes on her back and on her head in perfect balance is a basket full of goods she is either taking to market to sell or bringing back something she bought in the big city she goes to once or twice a week. She balances on her head using no hands. The PAST is everywhere in Guatemala, in the plaza where the women still traditionally wash their clothes on a stone slab or even wash themselves in the plaza pools, in the ‘mercado’ where the stalls are still brought in from the country and built of wooden branches carved to the perfect length and tied together =85in the ancient Mayan pyramids and temples where as you are walking up the very steep steps climbing 140 ft. high to the heavens – you think of the hundreds of prisoners making their own climb up those same steps to their deaths – being sacrificed to the different gods of rain or fertility. When we left Costa Rica and arrived in Guatemala, we had planned consciously this contrast and thought it would be great for our children’s experience of exotic cultures. Costa Rica is full of ‘nature’ beauty in the landscape, wildlife and birdlife. It has no indigenous culture or folk art. We left with only a T-Shirt! Guatemala is 50% Mayan and it’s mask making, weaving, carving is rich in color and meticulous in detail. But I was not prepared emotionally for the feelings that Guatemala stirred in my soul. To actually see the past in the present as a pass-by traveler opened up a bunch of questions. The past gives you a little glimpse of what we all came from a simpler life. Some people merely see it as poverty because it is not filled with a lot of material things or modern conveniences. But, in looking at the past, I always wonder, “Do we really need all the extras that we surround our lives with? Are we losing touch with what is really important that you see so quickly – family, community, fun!