Monday, March 14, 2011

Land of Eternal Spring

Guatemala is known as the Land of  Eternal Spring, and it has been on my mind this week, not only because I am  dying for spring to get here.  Last year  at this time I was in Guatemala, and at this very moment,  many of our crew are there again now, bringing efficient stoves and health care to the Mayan  people of the Central Highlands.  I could not go this year, but I wish I could have!
Instead, I will reminisce and share a few of the  (almost 700!) photos I took last year.

I have been meaning to share this image since I returned last year: I brought back this painting of the fruit and vegetable market in Chichicastenango, as seen from above. We went to that very market, which is inside a large gymnasium,  There is a balcony around the outer edge, and you can look down on the very crowded market and it really does look like this artwork.
This style of painting is called "vista de pajaro," or "bird's eye view." I don't know what artist came up with this innovation in perspective, but it is very popular and there are copycat artists all over Guatemala, with varying degrees of sophistication.  I selected this piece by Juan Jose Jojcom because the detail is so delightful.  So many types of fruits and vegetables.  The shirts the people are wearing are authentic weaving designs of one of the villages.  If you look closely, there are many little dramas--one woman is nursing her baby.
When I discovered this painting in a little gallery down the street from our hotel I knew it was the perfect souvenir, being a farmers market vendor myself. The painting hangs in our dining room and transports me back to my wonderful Guatemala adventure.
We worked in three villages and admired the gorgeous woven and elaborately embroidered blouses, called "huipils," that the women wore. In Chicua, several of the women offered to sell us their old huipils so they could buy materials to make new ones. I was lucky to purchase this woman's beautiful old huiphil, which is very similar to the one she is wearing in this photo, with zig-zag geometric designs.  She told me it takes her three months to embroider a huipil.  The Mayan women are much tinier than I am--it would never fit me, but I intend to hang the huipil on my wall as art.  I treasure it - especially having met the actual woman who made it and wore it.

Most of the cattle I saw in Guatemala were Brahma cows, the type you envision being in India. They are so beautiful and exotic, at least to a Minnesotan.  I did not meet any families who owned more than one cow. Most of the livestock were very skinny. Chickens had to pretty much scratch out a living for themselves.
A sweet little girl with her silky chicken.
Woman in Xepocol, a mountain village, watching our activities below.
Man with a kind face in Xepocol.
After our week's service in the mountain villages we traveled to Antigua for a couple days of tourism. We were there for Santa Semana, a spectacular event during Holy Week where people create  elaborate alfombras (carpets) on the cobblestone streets from  flowers, fruits, vegetables and colored sawdust. Then, a religious procession winds through the town, scuffling through all the murals. There is music and joy - and throngs of people shoulder to shoulder.
Beautiful fruits and veggies at an organic restaurant where we ate lunch in a garden in Antigua.
A toddler - she couldn't have been more than three years old - selling little bobble-head turkeys at the market in Antigua with her mother. Of course I had to buy these turkeys!
We took a boat around Lake Atitlan and visited several villages, including Santiago, a  picturesque  community  filled with artisans. We visited a weaving cooperative where they showed us how they spun and wove  cotton. They grow cotton in several vibrant, natural colors that  do not need to be dyed.
A tryptych  painting I came across in Santiago, with a bird's eye view panel of coffee bean harvest, an ant's eye view panel of going to market, and a bird's eye view panel of corn harvest.  I love the soles of the feet in the ant's eye view paintings, as if you were the ant about to be stepped upon!

I hope my friends are having  a wonderful, meaningful  time in Guatemala and are staying healthy. Can't wait to hear their adventures!


Becky said...

Your pictures are beautiful. I love the way you captured their faces. I would love to visit markets like you visited. I imagine I would come home with bobbled head turkeys too! :)

Sandra Sarlinga said...

Thank you Susan for sharing the beautiful pictures that shows beauty in other cultures!