DÍA 2: DOMINGO
DOMINGO: We went back to El Patio for breakfast; pancakes & fruit. Our hotel was 2 blocks away from the shore of Lake Atitlán. Central America's deepest lake, the lago is Guatemala's most important tourist destination. It is surrounded by volcanoes, villages, and Mayan culture. There is a rumor that says an underwater Mayan community was discovered in the center of the lake.
In the short walk from Hotel Kakchiquel, there were many pups, guapo gringos, and the most delicious jasmine tree. It was early, but it was also Sunday, so the streets weren't bustling with vendors quite yet. People would appear out of nowhere with headbands or peanuts to sell. In fact, I was sad to miss a photo op of a man bushing a wheel barrel of rambutan.
We hopped on a single speed boat taxi and traveled across the lake to San Juan La Laguna. I still cannot find any facts regarding the distance from Pana but it's surface area is about 50 square miles and it took about 25 minutes. Paranoid by nature, I kept thinking about the fact that I might lose my passport, if anything happened to our boat. We arrived safely and walked up a pretty steep hill to get to the coffee farm. The murals around San Juan La Laguna were my favorite part about this quaint village.
We arrived at the Cooperative La Voz Que Clama En El Desierto. (The Voice Crying in the Desert). 100% Organic. If you love coffee, you must visit a coffee farm. I have such an appreciation for my cup of java and for the intense process that goes into growing this beloved crop. In true colonial fashion, Spanish priests brought coffee seeds to Guatemala in the 1700s. The Spanish would force the Mayans out of the lowlands and into the Highlands where many indigenous communities still reside. Cafe La Voz grows high-altitude, shade grown Arabica coffee. The process of growing shade-grown coffee is sustainable and environmentally friendly, in comparison to sun-tolerant plants that can produce larger yields. Avocado trees are the main source of shade in the farm and I was so excited to see an abundance of avocados while on the coffee trail! Not only do they shade the trees, they feed families and give people an item to sell at markets, if they need to.
I need to mention that it takes coffee plants 3-5 years from seedling to becomes trees that live on the farm. After that, it takes 4-6 years to sprout beans. Harvest season is from September to January, which seems like an incredible short span of time for all of the TLC that goes into growing this magical plant. Gabriela led us on an informative, interesting tour! There are about 150 people that work together on the co-op, with everyone's land being divided by a tropical plant. We heard a lovely cantador while on the trail and we figured it must've been someone tending to their plants.
I need to mention that it takes coffee plants 3-5 years from seedling to becomes trees that live on the farm. After that, it takes 4-6 years to sprout beans. Harvest season is from September to January, which seems like an incredible short span of time for all of the TLC that goes into growing this magical plant. Gabriela led us on an informative, interesting tour! There are about 150 people that work together on the co-op, with everyone's land being divided by a tropical plant. We heard a lovely cantador while on the trail and we figured it must've been someone tending to their plants. The tour ended with lunch, made by women from the community and a cappuccino for dessert. As we made our way back to the boat, the clouds rolled in and the rain began. I opted to sit in the front of the boat because I wanted to see the sights; not realizing that the boat windows were covered with tarp. It was only slightly scary because I could only see fog for miles! I was panicking on the inside and clinging to the side of the boat. After what seemed like a lifetime, we made it to the shore of Pana, power walked to our hotel and jumped on the bus to Quetzaltenango.
Two-ish hours of driving, we reached our destination; Quetzaltenango or Xela, as most people call it. We settled into our new home at the Wach Lal House, which is also the AMA Headquarters. AMA is an acronym for the non-profit, Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplanos (Highland Womens Association) but it is the term 'to love' in third person Spanish. After dinner, we given a presentation on AMA, their core values, and the work they have done for over 20 years.
The mission of the organization is 'Building Community Resilience One Woman At a Time'. High masculinity is a common theme in Latin American cultures and their societies are often very patriarchal. The role of women is often to cook and bear children, however AMA's mission is to empower women and encourage educated, confident members of society. They've created programs that allow indigenous women from rural communities to become midwives, agricultural entrepreneurs, and so much more. Another component of the organization is to celebrate and keep Mayan culture alive. We discussed mission trips and the culture of dependency that they can perpetuate in Guatemala. From the perspective of people in the community, mission trips can often do more bad than good. Many short term mission trips do not provide sustainable, long term solutions. I know I am generalizing and I am certainly not trying to hate on anyone's religion or good deeds. By the end of the presentation, I was so inspired by AMA's ideology and knew I would be learning so much for the week to come.
Check out my complete Guatemala album on Flickr!