Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goodbye Mi Bella Guatemala

Angela writes:

It is with mixed feelings that we are now saying hello to El Salvador and goodbye to Guatemala. The excitement of visiting a new country is alluring, however we have marveled at Guatemala’s landscapes, people, and mystery’s for a month now and it has captured a piece of our hearts. There have been so many different flavours of culture to experience in one small area of the world. Hopefully one day we can return to explore some more, although I have felt this way for the US, for Mexico and now for Guatemala so I think we’ll have to do the same motorcycle trip again upon our return!

Guatemala’s population is made up of 40% indigenous Mayan people. The women appear fiercely strong, hardworking and carry everything light or heavy on their heads. My Spanish teacher Dora explained that the women proudly wear their aprons over their woven skirts and blouses, as a uniform of being Mayan and working the land. She also pointed out that during times of celebration Mayan women wear gold earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets to symbolize that before the Spanish arrived in Guatemala that all the wealth used to be all theirs. Apparently there used to be a big separation between Mayan people and the Ladios (mixed Mayan/Spanish people) but really they are all just striving to be Guatemalans now regardless of origin. Guatemala is still healing from their civil war that only ended about 15 years ago. The army was funded and trained by the US and apparently the army killed about 200,000 indigenous Maya people. Some were involved in guerilla attacks but most weren't doing anything but hanging out in their villages in the middle of no where. An example I found on our map is called Rio Negro. Today the healing process still continues as the mass graves are being exhumed so that bones of people can be returned back to their original villages and family.

My wonderful Spanish teacher Dora also taught me a 1940s Guatemala tribute song. She first sang it on the road side in the middle of nowhere as we were waiting to catch a chicken bus back to the city after visiting the glass factory. I in turn sang the Canadian National Anthem to her (don’t laugh, we don’t have any classic tribute songs!) and Dora liked the part about “God keep our land, glorious and free”. When we returned to the school I insisted that she teach me the song as it was more important to me than learning more verbs! Here it is:

Es mi bella Guatemala un gran pais.
Que en America del Centro puso dios.
Es mi bella Guatemala mi tierra querida, tierra del quetzal (tierra del l’amor)
Sus altas montanas
Sus magicos volcanes
Sus lindas praderas en canto son sin par.

Guatemala is my beautiful great country.
That God put in America's Center.
Guatemala is my beautiful my beloved land, land of the quetzal (land of love)
Its high mountains
Its magic volcanoes
Its beautiful meadows unparalleled.

Dora was so happy that I learned this song and she was so proud that we could sing it walked through the streets of Xela. Dora shared a great deal with me about her life and about Guatemala.  She told me stories about her childhood and remembers once that there was an earthquake so bad that her mother made her and her siblings sleep in the street for 2 nights (along with the rest of the neighbourhood) so they were away from the danger of falling walls and breaking glass in their house. Dora says that was the worst earthquake she ever experienced but now each year there are about 10 to 15 minor ones which do not cause her to lose any sleep. She has never been in danger due to an erupting volcano but she has such a large extended family around the country that anytime there is an explosion she is on the phone ensuring all her family is safe.
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