Day 5 Solola and Panajachel
We left Antigua today for Lake Atitlan, stopping on the way in the old Antigua, the original capital of Guatemala established by the conquistdore family Alvarez.
On the way to visiting the church we passed a small preschool where women were preparing to paint a wall by tracing on it a projected image. Cartoon characters, very big in Guatemala, are everywhere: on billboards, ads and murals.
The church, beautifully white-washed, contains a surprise.
An enormous, colorful carpet covers the main aisle near the altar. The artist Estrada Gonzalez has created a fantastic work of art using ephemeral materials. On the top left is Jesus crying out, “Madre…(Mother!)”. Mary looks up at him, tears streaming down her checks, answering, “Hijo, aqui estoy….(Son, I am here.)”
In front of the carpet, people have left offerings of carved fruits and vegetables. Most astounding is this watermelon on which is carved the likeness of Mary.
Behind the carpet stands the anda on which sit statues of Christ and Mary. These objects are ready for the town’s Holy Week procession which starts tomorrow.
Moving on, we climbed up into the highlands, where the rich soil supports agriculture. These fields stand in back of the restaurant where we ate lunch, the Restaurant Chichoy.
After lunch we drove about two hours to,the town of Solola, where we visited Asociacion Maya De Desarrollo, a women’s cooperative for dyeing and weaving. This cooperative was started in 1987 to support widows whose husbands were killed in the war that wracked Guatemala in the Eighties. With their husbands gone, these women had no way to support their families. Now they have a means of livelihood, and some of their daughters are participating in the cooperative.
The coop consists of 180 master weavers who live in six rural villages in the area. They weave at home so they don’t have to leave their families, but the threads are dyed and prepared for shipment in Solola.
Their products are of the finest quality, and it is good to see traditional backstrap loom weaving supported with new designs and materials, including bamboo.
On to Panajachel, where we visited Mayan Families, a nonprofit that works to help poor indigenous Guatemalans with community development programs and emergency support. Today the organization was giving out Easter baskets of food. A large crowd of people waited patiently for their baskets.
The gift of each basket was made possible by a donor. Photos are taken of each family receiving the basket and sent to the donor.
Mayan Families impressed me with its many programs, including a preschool, a medical clinic, and programs for the elderly. It’s aim is to educate, feed, heal and shelter. So much is needed when half of the Guatemalan population lives below the poverty line, almost half of the children are malnourished, and 40% lack access to water and sanitary systems. What to do?
I decided to sponsor education for a child. Here’s Abner, 4 years old, with his Mother and his sister Glendy.
l was so glad to be able to meet Abner and his family. I’m looking forward to watching his progress, which is updated by Mayan Families on a web page devoted to him. Progress of each of the over 3000 students sponsored by the organization can be followed by their respective donors.
Tomorrow we will visit some of the villages on Lake Atitlan and see Maximon, whom I have not forgotten from my last trip to Santiago Atitlan. He is unforgettable.