We traveled from the east coast, the prairies and the west coast- eleven delegates joining the two Breaking the Silence staff in Guatemala City. After travelling for 13-15 hours, we welcomed our comfortable beds at Casa San Jose. We are a motley crew, ranging in age from young adults to seasoned retirees, all with the common concern to work for a mere just world.
We spent Monday morning reviewing our understanding of the various issues affecting the indigenous peoples in Guatemala- from the challenge of holding to account those responsible for human rights atrocities in the past, to the effects of Canadian mining in Guatemala on both the land and the in indigenous communities.
In the afternoon, we traveled to Chimaltenango, about 1.5 hours west of the capital. Here, we met with women’s groups from the Kaqchikel Presbytery. The name reflects their original affiliation with the Presbyterian church, but now it is more a geographical designation.
The women expressed their gratitude for our visit, for it was an assurance that their Canadian friends at BTS had not forgotten them. They spoke of the strength and confidence they had gained through the establishment of the micro-credit organization, giving them the support they needed to set up their “cottage industry” of traditional crafts. One group makes shampoo from natural ingredients. The money that they earn helps to educate their children. All of us will be bringing home some of the colourful craft items. After sharing the evening meal with our hosts, our group divided up to spend the night with a host family.
Most of our delegation know little or no Spanish, so direct communication is difficult. But, we’ve found that playing with the children contributes to our understanding- some of them even attempted to teach us a bit of Spanish!
The people we met work very hard for very little return and live in conditions that would be very difficult for those of us who have become accustomed to our privileged life. Yet they are happy, hope-filled people, doing what they can to make their homes and communities safe, healthy places, to give their children a place to thrive. In that, we find common ground.