Naima Dido, SPI’s Program Director is on the road this month with Nancee Neel in the mountains of Guatemala, where they’re working to grow a deeper partnership with a local group, Pop Atz’iaq. Established in the 1990s, Pop Atz’iaq has focused on craft-based livelihood development with women and men in the region around San Cristobal in Guatemala. Catarina, Pop Atz’iaq’s Director, reports that establishing a garden-based livelihood program has been a longstanding goal of the organization and its members. Garden-based livelihoods are more reliable, and this program will help diversify their members’ options for income and also provide a source for nutrition.
Naima and Nancee have been traveling with Catarina to visit the different Pop Atz’iaq communities, check on the gardens, and deliver seed. Earlier this week, they had the honor of attending a stakeholder meeting where members continued to coordinate the garden-based livelihood project. Naima writes:
“The mountains are breathtaking. We even saw an active volcano on our way to San Cristobal. We’re staying at a hotel near Pop Atz’iaq. We’re surrounded by small gardens of corn and beans. The only gardens growing vegetables are those associated with PA.
San Cristobal is beautiful and green. The area is culture-rich. Most of the women wear traditional clothes while all the men are dressed very western. The Mayan culture is very strong and alive, but the Spanish influences are everywhere.
I am amazed at how the Mayan people here still proudly maintain their culture and traditions. Still, the Spanish language and non-Mayan people have control over resources and access. For many, Spanish is a second language and it’s the official language mandated in schools and government.
The staple foods are eggs, chicken, rice, maize, beans, and cheese. Chili peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and onions are also popular, but trucked in from other regions. The vegetables grown here are exported throughout Central America.
Life for most people I’ve met involves hard physical work. People are very poor, but much like other communities I’ve met in my travels around the world, being poor doesn’t mean their lives are unhappy or unsatisfied.
Women I spoke to at the stakeholder meeting said their days are spent working in their homes, cooking, raising the children, tending gardens, weaving cloth for their own clothes and for the market.”
We want to thank you for your support of these communities through your Sweet Blossom Gifts purchase and the Women’s Empowerment Initiative. We truly cannot do what we do without you!