Casa ACAM, a story of hope

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.

Casa ACAM comadronas traditional Maya Mam midwife volunteering and traveling Guatemala Central America