The Native women of Guatemala, if to be summed up in a single word, would be called hardy. They have survived genocide and brushed starvation in harsh mountains. And now that calm and relative peace has come to that part of the world, their lives are less scary, although from my perspective not all that much easier.
They still struggle to eke out a living from their subpar mountain farm lands, take care of their children, as well as their houses and animals, and in their spare time they take up the backstrap loom, which has been a part of the Maya culture for nearly 1,200 years. This is tedious work, the most intricate of Mayan weavings taking up to two months to complete with this method.
In the world today, it is nearly impossible to live off of the land the Mayan people have ended up with. Therefore weavings and embroidery have become an essential part of Maya life. Not only to make clothes for themselves but also ones to sell to tourists. In this way the Mayan people are able to survive even when their farms are not so healthy.
Each town has a pattern of weaving that is specific to it. The trained eye can tell where a woman is from simply by looking at the pattern of her blouse. This is amazing to me, because to create even one pattern on a backstrap loom takes more skill and precision than I have ever seen.
I cannot wait to go and see these women’s work with my own eyes.
However what I am most interested in is meeting these women face to face. After they suffered such a hard life, I am interested to see what remains of the women’s spirits. Their lives have been enough to break my spirit, and I want to know how, even if, they cope with it. I want to see the lights in their eyes and the smiles on their faces after such hardships.
Ever since I learned about the war in Guatemala and my countries role in it my heart has been heavy. I guess I just want to know the women there are happy despite their forced trials. If through everything these women kept their smiles and their hope, I will not feel as guilty. However if we robbed them of their hope and their spirit, it is no better than murdering them. If I can see signs of meaningful life, smiles, then perhaps I won’t feel so bad for what my country did to them.