The Odyssey
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Latin America Kavitha Dispatch

Todos Santos Part 1:
Rough Road to Paradise

 

Santa Fe Bus
Caption
Yeah!!! After over a week of traveling around, unsure of where we'd find families to live with, Shawn and I have finally found homes. We're in the village of Todos Santos, located in the beautiful highlands of Northern Guatemala. But let me tell you -- it was no easy ride getting here. Imagine the most uncomfortable school bus you've ever ridden. Now, imagine sharing your seat with two other adults AND two five year-old kids AND all your heavy luggage. Wait -- there's more. Picture yourself riding in that school bus up a rocky dirt road for three straight hours! Did I mention that it was ninety degrees and that we couldn't open the windows because they were broken?

I promise you I am not making this story up. This hot, dusty, crowded bus ride is a reality that all the villagers in Todos Santos have to face every time they need to go to town to work or to go to the market. Believe it or not, the reality gets even worse. You see, the people who run the buses are ladinos (of Spanish descent), and the villagers who ride them are Mayan Indians. The bus drivers and ticket collectors treat the villagers as second-class citizens, crowding them into the bus and yelling at them to move to the back.

Kavi Street
Caption
The distance from Todos Santos to Huehuetenango (the closest town) is only about thirty miles. However, because of the poor condition of this curvy, unfinished, mountainous road, the trip takes three hours. Thirty miles in three hours -- I'll let you do the math! Shawn and I caught one of the last buses headed up to Todos Santos for the afternoon. As we left Huehue (pronounced 'Way-Way'), I gawked at how many people they could squeeze onto the bus. Little did I know what was in store!

As the bus slowly wound around corners, it stopped to pick up more Mayan workers, who were heading home after a long day in the fields. I thought that surely some people would be let off the bus before more could get on, but I was wrong. More people piled in and filled the aisles, pressing up against each other like sardines. Many of the workers were teenage boys and girls carrying their younger siblings on their backs. I wanted to take a picture, but I couldn't possibly move my arms enough to get my camera out.

Even though the ticket collectors were mean to them, and even though they were tired and crammed into such a tiny space, the Mayans still managed to be kind and caring to each other. Imagine, rush hour in the fields of Guatemala and no one was yelling! Despite these miserable bus conditions, I could tell from the beautiful scenery and these beautiful people that arriving at Todos Santos would be well worth the journey.

When we finally reached our destination, we found a beautiful small pueblo (village) surrounded on all sides by the Cuchumatanes, the highest mountains in Central America. Todos Santos is one of the few villages left where people still remember and observe the traditional Mayan calendar. The people of Todos Santos speak Mam, their original Mayan dialect. At school, the younger generation is starting to learn Spanish as well. The people of the village look brilliant in their brightly colored traditional clothing.

Yard
Caption
Shawn and I have come to Todos Santos to study Spanish at an intensive language school and to live with Mayan families. Living here will be so different from the way we live back home in the United States. The homes here have dirt floors; nobody has televisions, refrigerators, or showers. To cook, they build fires inside their houses. To get to the nearest phone, you have to travel three hours by bus to the nearest town. In spite of these minor inconveniences, we will do our best to keep you posted on all the latest from Todos Santos. Wish us luck!


Check out Part 2 of this article to get more information on my new home and family: Todos Santos Part 2: Finding a Home Away From Home.

Kavitha  
 

Team - Torture and Bloodshed: Truths of the Guatemalan Civil War
Shawn - Uncovering the Riches of Todos Santos
Abeja - The Flourishing Quiche Culture
 
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