It is almost mid October, and it seems longer since Santos, our son Nicolas Virgilio and I made it back to Santa Cruz, Quiche. I say this because it has definitely taken us a while to get back on schedule and balance with our life here in Guatemala particularly because the transition back has been a bit difficult emotionally, physically and personally.
May this message find you in good health and spirit!
It is almost mid October, and it seems longer since Santos, our son Nicolas Virgilio and I made it back to Santa Cruz, Quiche. I say this because it has definitely taken us a while to get back on schedule and balance with our life here in Guatemala particularly because the transition back has been a bit difficult emotionally, physically and personally. Ever since we started to move out of our little apartment in Chicago, life has definitely had its ups and downs. For example, for our son Nicolas the transition really impacted him but I guess Santos and I did not think much of it as we got too involved thinking about packing, moving out and making all the arrangements we had to make. But things were not too obvious as they were once we arrived in Santa Cruz Quiche.
Some of the immediate changes we saw in Nicolas had to do with his refusing to take a bottle and formula, something he was accustomed to ever since the hospital introduced him to it when he was born. As a mother I struggled with his preference but made the most out of the few times he would breastfeed. Unexpectedly though, he refused to feed from the bottle as soon as we landed in Guatemala and as tired as I was from having taken the red eye flight out of Chicago, I breastfed him. The first week in Quiche was difficult and concerning as he would wake up every night every hour or so crying. There were times when he would appear unhappy to the point of falling asleep in his highchair during a meal. We took him to see a doctor who examined him and informed us that he had lost four pounds and had a serious throat infection. After prescribing antibiotics, Nicolas’ appetite improved but still not for formula or a bottle. So happily I continued to breastfeed him, something I am very proud (and exhausted) of. I have to say that I was heartbroken to see our son in such distress and I got to the point of feeling guilty and depressed for putting our son in the situation he was in. For a moment I questioned my calling to serve in Guatemala thinking about Nicolas and how he was struggling physically and emotionally.
A week after the doctor visit we returned for a follow up and found out that Nicolas had regained three pounds as well as regained his beautiful smile! I am very proud to share that he is looking and responding to the transition much better! He appears a lot happier, stronger and is showing more of a personality (something we are not always proud of!). I have to say that it has been a blessing and joy to see him healthy and happy again. I also think that the love and attention that Francisca, ACG’s Women’s Program Director has given Nicolas’ has helped in his well being.
And I forgot to mention how important it has been for her two children to show so much love and affection for Nicolas. They make each other smile all the time! This has given us a new perspective and energy about things. And as my husband Santos puts it, it was only a matter of time.
Now in terms of other challenges we have been facing, have to do with the few “commodities” and “luxuries” our family had in Chicago which we no longer have, relatively speaking. For example, having access to potable water is not only a national problem but for the area of El Quiche, for example, it has been a long-lasting problem for years. Although I have to say that only a selected area of El Quiche faces this problem. There are some other areas that do have access to ´´clean´´ potable water. Perhaps it sounds conflicting to refer to potable water as clean, as the term clearly suggests it, but for life in the highlands like El Quiche, this does not imply. For example, for the zone where we live, there are water trucks that drive by your street as early as 6 am honking their unpleasant horn selling water (including Saturdays and Sundays!). We buy water this way, which is stored in subterranean cisterns where the already murky water gets even murkier. It is on these days that I wish I could submerge myself in Lake Michigan as many times as possible to bath and to be honest, I have never been interested in Lake Michigan, but now I miss it!
Now, where do I leave the simple things like washing food, clothes and utensils? Even though I had a system set up a while ago for disinfecting our dishes it seems like having a baby changes our perspective even more, especially after Nicolas’ infection. This has made us ultra cautious about how we clean and store things.
It has now been a little over a month since we got back to Guatemala and finally we have a sense of stability again both at home and work. Back in September, I had a meeting with the executive committee at ACG to get caught up about life at ACG. There is something impressive about an organization like Guatemalan Cultural Action (ACG) and that is the commitment and dedication of the staff notwithstanding the economic hardships and the daily responsibilities of work and family. For example the role that the president of ACG, don Mateo Castillo plays has been fundamental in the way the organization is maintained. Despite his functions as President and Legal Representative, he is also in his last academic phase and soon will be graduating with an equivalent to a BA degree in Pedagogy. In the same way, I see the role and commitment that Francisca Ortiz, the Women’s Program Director has in the life of the organization. I think that the amount of time and work that they put into the organization has never been measured but it is a fact that they dedicate more than enough of their time at ACG.
Generally speaking there are many things to worry about here in Guatemala. For example, there is not only a problem with having access to potable water which is a problem not only a social problem but also an environmental one having to do with severe climate changes thus resulting in not having any rain fall throughout the country. In the area known as the Corredor Seco Sur or the Southern Dry Corridor a region starting from southeastern Guatemala and expanding throughout Central America is a region that has experienced increased historic Maiz prices since 2007 as well as experienced mild droughts throughout the years. But this year, and the case of Guatemala, the government has officially announced a severe drought that is distressing the country causing the destruction of all of next years subsistence crops. The Milpa, (corn) crops have dried out in most of the country causing not only a lack of food for the upcoming year, but an economic hardship for the cost of people cultivating their crops. There is mention that the European Union has offered financial support to combat the problem of food insecurity but God only knows where those funds will go in the end, or I should say to whose hands they will go in the end. While historically, many rural communities have been internally displaced, or uprooted from their communities of origin, mostly due to colonialism, the 36 year old armed conflict and the recent mining business, now many communities are being displaced from their homes due to the grave environmental changes.
And there is enough political uncertainty here as congress continues to rule out and deny the recent findings of the International Commission against Impunity. Also known as the CICIG in Spanish it is a UN sponsored entity responsible for investigating and overseeing cases of impunity therefore bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to justice in Guatemala. Recently, there has been chaos in the country due to congress’ recent Supreme Court elections. It turns out that the Commission announced that 6 of the recently elected judges that congress voted for were found guilty of having committed serious crimes in the past and/or present either through having participated in acts of human rights violations or having been involved or having ties with illegal and criminal entities. As of today, there is uncertainty about the Commissions validity by many and by others like civil society it is a small grain of salt that continues to give people hope for a change and for justice.
I hope it will not be too long before I send another update and I welcome any thoughts and comments, and encouragement about my notes. Lastly, I want to give thanks to God and to everyone who has been supportive of Guatemalan Cultural Action and of my family. May God bless you and your families and everything you do in support of Global Ministries and ACG. I humbly ask for your continued prayers.
Gloria serves with Guatemalan Culture Action (ACG) as a youth and communication worker.