The icy wind from the north makes shine the stars while we listen to Arturo telling us the story of its incredible life with Teresa, the director of “casa ACAM” (Asociacion Comadronas Area Mam) and their project to improve the condition of the women and the children of Concepcion Chiquirichapa (near Quetzaltenango, Xela)… At the beginning, man was maize that is, in the Mayan cosmovision, a being that constantly had to look for the equilibrium with the other animals, respecting the instruction given by the Mother Earth. The deep acquaintances of the Mayan ancestors in scientific field, pushed them to build up a society based on a progress which we would define sustainable nowadays, in the full respect of the rhythms of nature. It has been the predisposition of this people to share every resource, humbly demanded to the Mother Earth, that took them to the misfortune, when they were forced to follow a radically opposite model by the Europeans. Therefore began for them a sadly famous phase of marginalization and persecution that, in the history of Guatemala, tragically culminated in the thirty years of civil war (1970-1996): a system of abusive powers, the wealth of the great land owners and the unpunishment of the army, carried out the chaos and the violence in the country. Entire Mayan villages were exterminated and the atrocities towards women and children became the rule, while the men (in great majority indigenous farmers or campesinos), were forced from the opposite factions to kill their similar. A few people could back out of this tragic spiral. Arturo, his wife and sons undertook an intense travel towards the north, after resisting as clandestine in their own land for three years. First, they settled in Mexico, where they found an extremely hostile atmosphere and they were enslaved by the large coffee estate owners. Therefore, they reached the United States (1984), a country that in the 80’s was divided between those who sponsored the terror in Guatemala and those who received refugees in sign of protest. Arturo and Teresa had fortune and found a family that received them like siblings, even though in the difficulties and with the constant penance to have abandoned their people in the blood. From this state of mind, upraised the wish to denounce to the world the atrocity of the civil war and at the beginning of the 90’s, they began to travel along the United States informing the public opinion which, day by day, became more and more sensitive towards the indigenous issue and the Latin American situation. They met other Guatemalan refugees and this increased their wish to help their country in concrete terms. In 1998, officially finished the war, Arturo and Teresa could return to their village (Concepcion Chiquirichapa), after an exile lasted nearly twenty years: they found a community in trouble, many of their friends massacred or dispersed. They decided that, to give a future to their people, they had firstly to build a hope for those women and their children. Indeed originated the idea of the “casa ACAM”, a center of support to the family in which the ready and willing “comadronas” (mid-wives) of the Mayan Mam region could gather and have a space dedicated for the delivery attention. As a result of an intense aid demand activity, Arturo found an enthusiastic answer in that part of North American people who saved him years before: collected the money, began the phase of construction of the center, that culminated with the inauguration in 2004. Today ACAM association, a well-known Guatemalan NGO (non-governmental organization), is a reality that has opened the road towards the future for the Mam community and it’s already an example to follow, although a lot remains to build. The enthusiasm of Arturo and Teresa does not leave doubts that they will carry until the end their fight for a better Guatemala, proud of its past and bound to the Mayan tradition.
We were dreaming a Mayan city lost in the jungle, impressive temples lived by monkeys, snakes and tucans. We were dreaming a forgotten world, to be explored in complete solitude, leaving space only to the imagination of ancient and golden times… we are allowed to feel all these intense emotions at the archaeological site of Tikal: a gigantic Mayan complex, totally dipped in the forest. There, we have passed an entire afternoon trying to climb the temples and observing with the eyes turned towards the sky the phrenetic life of the monkeys (monos araña and saraguatos) and of the other numerous animals. Only the beauty of an intense and short sunset, took us back to reality, hiding us this incredible “mundo perdido”, lost world, and its masters…
We loved the archaeological site of Palenque: the beautifulness and greatness of its temples reveal the history of a rich Mayan city and of legendary figures (above all, Pakal), however leaving them in the mystery. The jungle covers the ruins, creating a wonderful set. Unavoidably it’s the forest itself which becomes the main actor, with its colours and sounds. Numberless insects and birds, toucans and howler monkeys begin their own concert, while the “Palacio de las inscripciones” tell us about a healthy past: our imagination runs between the jungle and the ruins… it’s impossible not to remain fascinated.
In the Yucatecan peninsula, every aspect of community life is influenced by Mayan culture. Although the strong presence of tourism, or maybe thanks to it, this feature suddenly appears very evident… and it will be more and more evident, travelling towards Chiapas and Guatemala. The ancient history of Mayas reflects itself not only on the impressive ruins, craftsmanship, flavorful cuisine, traditional clothes and dances, but also on the smiles and looks of the people we meet around, at the same time curious and ashamed. A history full of pride and love for freedom. The truth is that after 500 years of submission, Mayan people faces the chance to recover its dignity and consciousness of being carrier of an incredibly refined culture. Its power is demonstrated by the fact that a major part of population (inclusive young people) still speaks the native language. It is the best condition to guarantee the socio-cultural continuity of Mayan people, even though discriminations and conformation attempts are still going on.
Sometimes we feel Mexico is proud of its extraordinary cultural variety just to strengthen its touristic attraction, but it is not ready to completely accept the ethics of equality.
After visiting the incredible archaeological site of Chichen Itza (where we saw the well-conserved pyramid of Kukulkan, which represents the Mayan calendar, and the “Gran juego de pelota”), finally we reached the Caribbean coast, by the village of Tulum. Far from being wild, this place showed us its best part with its paradisiac beaches: white sand, coconut trees and turquoise sea. Just what we were dreaming from a long time! Here we met a lot of people, above all local fishers and long-time travelers, and we shared with them lovely days and funny nights.
The most exciting experience has been to snorkel just over the coral reef: we had never seen so many colors and marine life, so many tropical fishes…
Arranged so quickly the consular issue, we restarted our nomadic travel: from Mexico City to Yucatan peninsula… after seeing the legendary volcano Popocatepetl (5500m of altitude), we went down from the highlands to the tropical jungle and we passed through the maritime cities of Villahermosa, Ciudad del Carmen and Campeche. The following morning we were already touching the hot waters of gulf of Mexico: a red sun, endless white-sandy beaches and a green forest, remembering us that we finally reached the land of Mayas… for the moment we are having a break in the Yucatecan city of Merida, but the Caribbean is too close now!