The Odyssey

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Rigoberta's Story
The Odyssey

Live Webcast, February 18, 1999!
Rigoberta Menchu
I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
pages 52-54

The time we spend up in our village are happy times because we're there to harvest the maize, and before we harvest the maize, we have a fiesta. The fiesta really starts months before when we asked the earth's permission to cultivate her. In that ceremony we burn incense, the elected leaders say prayers, and then the whole com-munity prays. We burn candles in our own houses and other candles for the whole community. Then we bring out the seeds we will be sowing. With maize, for instance, the seeds for the coming year are picked out as soon as the cobs start to grow. We choose them and put a mark on them. The cob is peeled or left in its leaves but those grains are taken off, and the big ones are wrapped in the leaves and made into a little ball.

We put in some ayote too, because that will be sown together with the maize. And we do the same with beans. It is like an offering to the one God. This will be our food for the coming year. During the fiesta, prayers are given up to the earth, the moon, the sun, the animals and the water, all of which join with the seed to provide our food. Each member of the family makes a vow and promises not to waste the food.

The next day everyone calls to each other to go and start sowing. The whole community rejoices when we begin to sow our maize. When we reach the fields, the men sow the maize and the beans. The seeds go in the same hole. The women follow, planting the ayotes in between the furrows to make the most of every bit of land. Others, children usually, follow sowing gourds, cbilacayote, or potatoes. Children like sowing potatoes. We plant everything at the same time...

At harvest time, we also celebrate the first day we pick the maize cobs, and the rest of what our small plots of land yield. The women pick the beans and the men pick the maize; we all harvest the fruits of our labour together. But before we pick them, we have a ceremony in which the whole community thanks the earth and the God who feeds us. Everyone is very happy because they don't have to go down to the finca and work now that they have food. The ceremony to celebrate the harvest is nearly the same as the one where we ask the earth's permission to cultivate her. We thank her for the harvest she's given

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