After a quick yet full trip to La Suiza, the DLG team and Chet Sadler from the Sanibel Captiva Rotary traveled to the Ija’tz Cooperative in San Lucas Toliman. Carol, DLG’s Tour Manager and I (Director of Development), traveled early that morning to make it to Ija’tz around lunch time. We spent the afternoon picking Arnulfo’s brain about tourism in San Lucas Toliman. Considering San Lucas is on the shores of Lake Atitlan and is such a beautiful community rich in history and tradition, we wanted to learn more about how we can support the cooperative through Community Tourism.
“We (women) have to value ourselves. WE HAVE VALUE. If we don’t value ourselves we can’t succeed and agriculture is important for everyone. If we don’t have farmers, we don’t have any vegetables or food.” ~ Marta Salazar on the importance of women recognizing their own value and the important work they do.
One of our recent visitors, Grace, documented the time she and her family was spending in Guatemala. Please enjoy a snippet of one of her entries, reflecting her time with us at De La Gente. Enjoy her her entire blog at: http://graceinguatemala.tumblr.com/
After lunch the boys and I grabbed a quick ice cream at our favorite place near Parque Central, Sobra Mesa, and then we headed out to San Juan del Obispo, a small pueblo 15 minutes from Antigua. There we were met by our translator and escorted to the home of Carlos, a metal-work artist. Arranged by a people’s coop called “De La Gente” (who also arranged for our coffee plantation tour a few weeks ago) we spent the afternoon learning to make sheet metal into art— a butterfly candle holder for Owen and a decorative seahorse for Mason— in Carlos’ backyard.
This was super cool. We scratched a pattern into sheet metal, cut it with giant metal cutting scissors, banged it with various tools to create texture and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Well, Mason maybe did not enjoy the minute when he crushed his finger with a heavy hammer, but other than that.
While some of the work on the butterfly was too tough for Owen, he amused himself playing with scraps of metal and in the process ultimately made a “Christmas ornament” that vaguely resembles a leaf. He is very proud of it.
In addition, Carlos, like many other Guatemalans, has chickens and dogs and rabbits in his yard. One of the rabbits had just given birth to 7 babies, one of which fell through the cage and was sort of crawling blind and hairless across the yard. Owen discovered it and we got to watch as Carlos made a safe box for the babies and returned the newborn to its siblings and mother. None of us had seen a newborn rabbit before, so this was a pretty exciting event.
After 3 hours we were mostly done with our work, but there was still painting and polishing to do. Carlos will be finishing up our pieces for us tonight and we will return tomorrow to pick them up. For this unique hands-on cultural experience, complete with English translator and 2 finished products made with our own hands (mostly) to take home as souvenirs, we paid $64. I would have paid twice that.
This workshop, along with our coffee plantation tour and lunch with Eduardo and Francisca a few weeks ago, are two of my favorite experiences from our trip to Guatemala. In both cases we had an exceptional and authentic experience, as opposed to the “tours” that are specifically designed for groups of tourists. These were real working-class Guatemalans and we were invited into their homes to see how they live and participate in how they make a living. It wasn’t watered down, sanitized, or modified to meet the high-maintenance needs of American tourists. I wish i had taken more of the artist workshops offered by De La Gente.