The Lester File

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guatemala: Volcanic eruptions are commonplace

I have embarked upon a new adventure this Spring Break to a country I have never been to, but one I have read much about. At this very moment I am sitting under the stars on the roof of my hotel in Antigua, Guatemala. Nestled in a small valley, surrounded by active volcanoes, this city was the first official Spanish headquarters/capital during the Colonial Period. Many of the buildings from that time peroid fell prey to the minor eruptions and earthquakes that pervade this volatile landscape, but a few facades remain intact and act as antique frames against the natural backround that envelopes the city. Rugged mountains and unpredictable tectonic activity acted as natural fortifications for the Spanish conquerors and viceroys that governed Central America 500 years ago. Today the people of Antigua have done their best to stay true to the early European architecture and asthetic and because of that many tourists flock here every year to experience Guatemala "lite."
Indeed, for my part, this particular trip has been pretty posh. We have a driver, we get free meals, and we get to see this beautiful place for a whole week. In exchange are goal is to give our time, our love, and our support to some 300 children and families that really need as much as possible of all three. Everyday for the past six days, me and a group of humanitarians armed with donated clothes, soap, and crayons (among other things), have continued the efforts of those before us by travelling into the mountains and playing with the children we find there. We have visted with Guatemalan doctors that donate their expertise everyday to the sick and penniless people of this province. People come from all corners of the mountainsides (when they are able) to seek help and comfort from Dr. Sergio and even my father when he comes around every six months or so.
The village depicted in these pictures is called Altotenango. Here live hundreds of families, crunched together in tiny shacks that cascade across the very steep hillside. I definitely needed to actually train myself before attempting to climb even a few hundred yards up the dusty road whereas the locals were hauling everything from freshly pressed textiles to brush leaves upon their backs up and down without breaking a sweat. We came to the village where the children waited for us anxiously. They knew we were coming to sing and play games with them... also we had candy. Every morning they were waiting for us and I made so many precious friends that I find difficult to think of leaving even though tomorrow is technically our last day of work.
But, Altotenango was not the only place we were expected to be here in Antigua. That story will have to wait until tomorrow.
.. That