Posted on February 3rd, 2010
Chichicastenango: a tourist trap, but a necessary trap. On Friday night a group of us, Brent, Allison, Stacy, and me, just to name a few were walking down the streets of Chichi when an indigenous woman, Manuela, and her daughter, Elena, invited us to her house. So being the ignorant people we were we went to their house assuming that they wanted to talk to us and just establish a relationship type thing. It turns out she wanted us to buy from her, but despite the insistence that we buy from her, we got to play with a few of her nine kids. My favorite moment was when we were leaving and the smallest kid, 2 yrs. old?, ran after me trying to hug my legs good bye. I picked him up and he clung to me. I was amazed with how much trust, how much joy this kid had in me, a stranger, an alien who he had only known for a few minutes.
On Saturday we went to the women’s co-op and we passed shack after shack after shack. Our tourist bus was probably bigger than a shack or two put together. Who was I to roll down the pot-holed dirt road in a bright blue bus with comfortable cushioned seats and air-conditioning? At the women’s co-op I was amazed at this particularly older woman. Her face was wrinkled and creased with painful stories, resilient solutions, and proud heritage. She reminded me of my grandma, a hard-working widow who stood strong still.
Yesterday, Sunday, we went to mass that combined Mayan rituals and Catholicism. A group of blatant tourists came in; they wore their cameras, khaki shorts, and safari hats. They took pictures, despite the no taking pictures sign. They interrupted the Mayan prayers and candle lighting. One of the woman tourists even came up and starting talking to an indigenous man who was trying to worship! I was a little ashamed at that moment about being a tourist. It was also hard to say no to the little dirty kids who came up to you pleading for you to buy some trinket or some stuffed animal. To live they needed to sell. To live I needed to be a tourist and buy, but in the US I try living more simply and less consumerism like. Tourism. A little bit of consumerism. Is it necessary?
I have been on foreign soil now for a little over two weeks, and it seems as just yesterday I was stepping off the plane diving into a new experience full of unknowns. For the little time I’ve been here, Guatemala makes me appreciate all God has blessed me with back home.
Living in this amazing country has made me realize the diversity of individuals in the United States. It is not uncommon for you to see someone of a different race walking past you in a supermarket. But here in Guatemala it’s the total opposite. Whenever you walk down the street there is always a pair of eyes watching every move you make. It’s not an uncomfortable feeling, it just puts into perspective what minorities go through not just in the United States, but all around the world.
Already Guatemala has taught me things about the language, its people, my group, and even myself. I have learned and grown so much already, and I will only continue to see the world from a different viewpoint.