Central America, Spring ^10

February 24, 2010

For dinner

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 3:40 am

Today, I ate pupusas.

February 23, 2010

El Salvador tour

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:51 am

This morning Cesar, our program coordinator for El Salvador, took us on a tour of the city. We visited Mercado San Miguelito, a really busy place with lots of meat and vegetables and flowers. After, we went to downtown San Salvador and saw the Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador. Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated in1980, is burried in the cathedral. We also went to the neighborhood Escalon, where a lot of wealthy people live. There are some beautiful buildings and the mall is very fancy.

This afternoon we had class at the Universidad Centroamericana, a private Jesuit university. Our professor spoke about the current political and economic situation in El Salvador and student activism on campus. We might have class also at the Universidad de El Salvador, a larger public university, but the college is unreliable because students frequently occupy the campus and shut the university down, for various social and political reasons, for long periods of time.

Here’s some pictures of babies and puppies.  

February 22, 2010

A Week in the Campo, continued…

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:59 am

After lunch on Tuesday the mayor of the village led us on a hike up the mountain to see the town’s water source. The community built a system of pipes to channel water from the top of the mountain to the village and surrounding town. The water in the village is pure, because there’s no exposure to air, but once it reaches the larger town in the valley it needs to be purified.

On Wednesday, we visited the school to talk and play with the kids. The school has 60 children and they’re divided into three classes with three years in each. After primary school the children can go to secondary school in the town or Xela, although most finish after primary school. The kids all went around and told us where in the United States their family members are, mostly in LA. We also played duck-duck goose in Spanish.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the public baths – a pool and individual rooms heated by the volcano. It was real nice.

Thursday was the last day of Spanish class, and in the afternoon we had a little tour of Cantel and saw the cemetary, bakery and monument to guerrillas killed during the war. At night we had a bonfire and all the kids in the village came. We roasted mashmallows and made shmores.

Friday was the last night in Xela, and last night I stayed in Antigua. Antigua is the old capital of Guatemala and has a lot of colonial architecture. The city was restored and is a huge tourist destination now.

The drive to San Salvador was 5 hours long. The climate is real different, it looked almost desert-like in some parts. My house is next to the biggest mall in Central America and there’s three burger kings within walking distance. I met my teacher for Liberation Theology today. Tomorrow is a tour of the city, and then tuesday is my first day of official class.

Also, here’s a link to hundreds of pictures. It should work. http://picasaweb.google.com/117910076392883545814

A Week in the Campo

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 1:55 am

Last Saturday and Sunday I visited the coffee cooperative Santa Anita La Union. They are a certified Fair Trade, Organic cooperative. After the peace accords a group of ex-guerrillas formed a cooperative to purchase land from the government. Now over 30 families live in the community and support themselves through exporting coffee and eco-tourism. The director of the eco-tourism project gave us a tour of the farm, showing the two types of shade-grown coffee. Santa Anita is closer to the coast, and has a lower elevation, so the plants were really tropical looking. We walked to a waterfall at the bottom of the mountain. Santa Anita also grows bananas and sells banana bread in the Spanish schools in Xela.

After the tour we spoke with one of the original founders of the cooperative. He explained how the only way to make money and develop is to sell coffee to overseas markets. The cooperative pays a very large fee each year to be certified Fair Trade and Organic. They also need to adopt speficic norms and change their behaviors to meet the demands of American consumer. The Fair Trade market is very competitive, and they need to consistently grow a quality product.

On Sunday we drove to Cantel for our last week of Spanish classes. I stayed with a family for the five nights, a grandma, daughter, and a few little kids. Both their husbands were working in the US. They had two babies and four puppies. I ate a lot of chicken all week, since they had a few chickens in their house. I also took a bucket bath. My host-mom heated up water and put it in a tub for me.

I had spanish class every morning and then an activity in the afternoon. On Monday the mayor’s wife gave my group a cooking lesson. We made tortillas and fried potatoes in vegetables and egg. The food was all natural, but they use a lot of sugar and oil.

On tuesday one of the teachers that grew up in the town talked a bit about immigration. Right now there are around 13 million Guatemalans, and 1.3 million Guatemalans living in the US. 1/3 of the houses in the village have at last one family member working and sending money home. It costs several thousand dollars to pay a coyote to bring you illegally across the border, so usually the family will mortgage their house and land to pay for the trip. The first year of work in the US is to pay for the travel.

Most of the Guatemalans near Cantel choose to work in LA or Washington State because the climate is similar to the Guatemalan highlands. They work in the fields picking strawberries and other plants. Some people in the village also work in NY in restaurants or hotels, doing unskilled-labor.
to be continued…

February 20, 2010

Back in Xela, Antigua tomorrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:39 am

February 12, 2010

Fiesta

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 11:40 pm

Today was my last official day of Spanish class. Next week I´ll still have five hours of class in the rural stay, but it´s focused on conversation. No more exams.

Our final presentations were today, and I talked about Oberlin´s co-ops for fifteen minutes in Spanish. At the end of class we went out for fruit drinks and snacks with our teachers. Tonight is a ´fiesta´at the school for graduation. The teachers are cooking the food and the students are bringing the drinks.

Tomorrow, I leave for Santa Anita and won´t have internet access for a week.

February 11, 2010

Las Fuentes Georginas

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:50 am

Went to Las Fuentes Georginas today. Volcanic hot springs on top of a mountain in Zunil. Really beautiful, lots of tropical-looking plants because of the constant heat. Zunil is about a half hour from Xela and is a huge farming town, they export crops to El Salvador and southern Mexico. The fields go all up the mountains.

February 10, 2010

A tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:22 am

Today my group participated in a Mayan spiritual ceremony with two Mayan priestesses. They talked a bit about the calendar, significance of the materials (incense, wax, wood, etc), and also talked about Nahuals. My Nahual is Tz’I’, el perro. (dog, wolf) We were really close to the fire and it was really hot, but there was no smoke because of the insense.

February 9, 2010

Economic and Educational Development for a Sustainable Guatemala (DESGUA)

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:17 am

Today we visited the office of DESGUA, Desarollo Economico y Educativo por una Guatemala Sustentable. (Economic and Educational Development for a Sustainable Guatemala) We spoke with Willy Barreno, the founder of the network. He moved to the US in the 90s because of his involvement in the guerrilla movement. While living in New Mexico, Willy Barreno helped to found Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an organization that helps protect and expand immigrant rights in New Mexico. He now organizes the DESGUA network, which connects Fair Trade Cooperatives within both the United States and Guatemala.

One of the projects that DESGUA supports is Café Conciencia, a non-profit organization that works with different coffee cooperatives in Guatemala.  One of these cooperatives is Santa Anita, a small community of ex-members of the guerrilla group la Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG). My group is visiting this community on Saturday and Sunday. This community took out a loan from the government ten years ago and is now growing organic coffee and bananas to pay back the loan. They sell their coffee through the fair trade cooperative Just Coffee. Just Coffee sells their coffee to Ramapo College, American University and NYU. We watched the documentary Voice of a Mountain earlier in the semester, which DESGUA helped produce.

It´s raining in Guatemala right now for the first time all semester.

February 7, 2010

Lake Atitlan

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 11:33 pm

Friday and Saturday night in Lake Atitlan. The lake is about 3 hours away by chicken bus. We stayed two nights in San Pedro, a small town on the lake that attracts backpackers and expats.

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