DÍA 3: LUNES
LUNES: We started this day exceptionally early, 6:15am for spinach omelets and 7am departure by chicken bus to Concepción Chiquirichapa with midwifery students and other women from the community. I witnessed children eating cotton candy outside of school at 7:20AM ;( AQ' AB' AL is a special day in the Mayan calendar, it symbolizes renewal of energy and is a day of hope for a better future.
Adelino, a Mayan Priest and Anthropology professor would lead our Mayan ceremony on the sacred mountain of Po'píl. The Mayans are very connected to nature and astronomy, which I am also very into. We were told to bring offerings to the ceremony, offerings of the elements. (I acquired a stack of corn husks, however, I was prepared to offered rose quartz that I brought along with me!)
There were six big candles that we began the ceremony with. Red, Black, White, and Yellow...all colors of corn, we stood in each direction and pray to the N,S,E,W before lighting these candles in our fire. Blue represented the Sky and Green represented the Earth. I was one of six volunteers to hold these candles. I held Yellow, which is the color of the South. It represents the energy of life and is used for health, protection, and helping adults. Yellow is related to the water elements, as well, as plants and seeds. Yellow is directly connected to material things and material manifestation. We offered so many other things, like tobacco, chocolate, seeds. We prayed for abundance, opportunity, loved ones who are no longer with us (which is where I got highly emotional).
The ceremony lasted quite awhile, we lit so many candles, practiced rituals by the 13s, shared a bottle of moonshine, and at the end, prayed for those who never expressed gratitude for what the have. It was emotionally enchanting and draining, all at the same time. For the entire duration of our ceremony, there were three women engaging in their own ceremony nearby. By the looks of the three chickens they sacrificing, they were seeking healing for someone who was sick. As soon as we finished, it started to rain. This seemed to be a theme throughout the week, once we were done with our business, then it would rain. Perfect timing, always.
We had lunch at CODECOT, the facility where las comadronas receive their training. I learned during this event that my trip is paying for 28 midwives to attend a 2 year training. Maternal mortality rates are incredibly high in Guatemala, especially in rural, indigenous communities. 29% of indigenous women give birth in a healthcare facility. Access to medical facilities is not always easy and with 20 Mayan languages, language barriers can often present problems. Training midwives within their communities is so important.
In their 2 year program, the students will learn about Mayan medicine, prenatal care, and mental health. They will spend 6 months at a local hospital for their clinicals. Often times, midwives are not recognized by Western hospitals as medical professionals. We heard stories from many of the comadronas about how they came to find their destiny as midwives. Dreams of hands, flowers, ducklings, and 'receiving a baby' were a few symbols that the students saw as a calling to midwifery. The psyche of the midwife is so important and they promote self-care. Not only do midwives take care of the mothers throughout their pregnancies, but it is the duty of the comadrona to detect and protect bad energies of guests who come around the babies, this idea is known as Mal De Ojo.
Many of our presentations had to be translated from Mam or K'Iche to Spanish to English. I was proud of myself when I was able to understand the Spanish translation, which was pretty much all the time!
After our long day, we walked through Parque Central to XelaPan, a panaderia that I heard be compared to Panera, except I didn't see any bread bowls. I loaded up on pastries, chocolate with sprinkles, a powdered doughnut filled with black bean paste, and a period cupcake. My housemates went to the bank next door to exchange money but the banks in Guatemala pretty much won't take currency smaller than a $50 or $100 bill. When they did accept $20s or $10s, they had to be perfectly crispy and not folded/torn whatsoever. I didn't have this problem because I exchanged my currency before my trip BUT consider this information, if you plan to head to Guatemala anytime soon.
After spaghetti and split pea soup, I went to bed at 8pm. This bedtime would be pretty common during my trip.
Check out my complete Guatemala album on Flickr!