0 In Explore/ Guatemala/ International Development

Going UP… to the Guatemala Highlands

I travel with Lorraine, Change for Children’s finest, from whom I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can about international development.

Angel, Sylvio and Juan Francisco are our guides, our drivers, our logistics coordinators (packing and unpacking garbage-bag-wrapped luggage – protection from the rain – into the back of a half-ton like Tetris pros), our protectors, and, graciously, our entertainment.

They entertain with stories that make me laugh or think or ask more questions. These are men who have lived. They lived the Nicaragua Revolution. They participated in the revolution. And their stories are plenty. They are told over breakfast, over beers, and in between. I receive an education everywhere!

But, as we travel by truck, first from Guatemala City to Antigua, from there to Quatzaltenengo (Xela), and finally to San Pedro, it is hard to speak or hear with the noise of the wind through wide-open windows. Instead, it is here that I receive my education in latin music! And where I am reminded that dotted lines on the road are suggestions only as I hang on to the headrests of the front seats and lean, roller-coaster-style, into Sylvio and Juan Francisco (folded into the backseat beside me on either side expertly gripping the oh-shit handles) as we slow down (rarely) and accelerate (always across the lines) through every twist and turn of the switchback highway that takes us up into the Guatemala highlands.

In between cities, the rows of tiendas lining the streets are replaced by terraced agricultural plots lining the highway. The leather boots, school supplies, and used tires sold streetside are replaced by clay pots, brightly colored textiles and flowers on offer. The bright-colored attire of the women (long, layered skirts and blouses) here is not simply a pretty backdrop for tourist photographs, but instead the authentic dress of the people who weave cotton into amazing works of art.

At this new altitude (San Pedro, 2,400m), I shiver in my tanktop and skirt (above the knees) and appreciate that there is not only great beauty, but also great function (and warmth!) in tradition.

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