Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years!

Over the New Year I went to a farm nearby in Santa Anita that was started by a group of 30 ex-guerillas and their families.  After the peace accords were signed in 1996 they were able to get a loan to buy the land--which had been abandoned during the civil war--to farm collectively.  So they have organic coffee and banana production and work with a company in Madison called "Just Coffee" to distribute their coffee via fair trade.  It was interesting hearing a little bit about their challenges living and working collectively and also how owning and farming their own land, while a dream for so long, has not really provided them with the security they had hoped.  The loan is big, the interest is big, and coffee production does not pay well.  They bring school groups in to supplement income, but even as they work to improve the opportunities and education for their own children, the kids who become educated will probably leave and go to school and find better opportunities than farming...so it is is hard to predict what will happen to the community down the road.  There is a really great film about the community you should look for if you're interested called "Voice of the Mountain".  The filmmaker happened to be at the farm over the new year with a group of high school students from CA, he is currently working to update some of the information in the film and should release a new version soon.  Here is a link to the film: http://www.voiceofamountain.com/en/film

On New Year's Eve night we danced in the basketball court with locals from this small rural community, had another fireworks bonanza, this time turning into a quasi-war situation with the kids from the community.  The kids had most of the fireworks stock and managed to keep the foreigners in a state of hysterical-terror for a good 2 hours.  On New Year's Day a couple of us harvested corn with a local family and sat at their house shucking corn, playing with the kids, and talking for a couple hours during the hottest part of the day.  We helped a little bit on a mural that was being painted by the high school students from CA and after that we walked to a beautiful waterfall on the property and took a refreshing "shower" under the powerful stream.  It was a lovely couple of days and inspiring to meet some local activists who are working to bring positive change to their communities.  The families we met were so welcoming and generous and the food was delicious!  Also, the best and strongest coffee I've had in Guatemala!

We wrote New Years Resolutions,  put them in a pile together and lit them on fire!


The mural in progress

The view on our walk to the waterfall--just a couple hours outside of Xela, but so warm and tropical!!