USH: MTF Leaders Begin Work with New Communities

A heavy rain begins to fall on Saturday afternoon as we wrap up our first Unlocking Silent Histories meeting with two new groups of program participants in Santiago Atitlan. The indigenous youth gathered around the table where we sit in a second floor office don’t seem to mind, using the rain as a welcome excuse to stay longer and engage in a lively discussion about their opinions on gender roles across communities.

Carlos, our Youth Educator from San Juan La Laguna, shares his perspectives as a member of a different Tzu’tujil community, while Domingo, a Santiago Atitlan native, takes a different stance. I smile as he concedes that his compañera across the table, Rosa, might have more right to share her opinion on the matter, and Rosa confidently vocalizes a feminist viewpoint, stating that the traditional roles of men and women have been influenced by patriarchal systems, and while they are changing now, there is still a long way to go.


It is incredible to me that most of these youth met for the first time just a few hours ago – through the course of our first USH meeting, they each introduced themselves, shared their passion for bringing to light the stories of their communities and their passion for their cultural heritage, and now feel comfortable with one another, debating deep issues, listening and respecting one another’s points of view, joking and laughing with one another, and sharing and exchanging cultural elements across communities.

As the rain slowly lets up, Carlos closes the meeting, thanking everyone for their time, and telling these eager new participants that he appreciates all that they shared today, has learned a great deal from them already, and knows he will continue to learn from them throughout their progress in the program. He is happy to be able to share with them the little that he knows, he adds modestly.

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Meanwhile, across the lake in the small community of Patanatic above Panajachel, Youth Educator Chema is engaging students gathered in the home of 17-year old Tony. Huddled together over a notebook, our Patanatic participants begin planning the film they will make about the founding of their community – a broad topic that they will eventually narrow down as the story begins to emerge from interviews with community members.

EIMG_0418arlier in the meeting, Chema discussed with the students the importance of community film-making, posing insightful questions to them, such as what is the value of local voices in the media? What role can filmmaking play in inciting community change? How might filmmaking assist in cultural preservation? As the critical thinking wheels began turning in their heads, program participants were inspired to discover, document, and share the story of their community and its cultural uniqueness. Light bulbs went off as ideas emerged – “There’s an anciana that lives above the church who was one of the founding community members. We should interview her!” And the planning process for these students’ first film thus had begun.

The next day, Youth Educator Carmen takes a camioneta, followed by a microbus, followed by a pick-up truck on the 2 hours journey from her home to the community of Quiejel, acanton of Chichicastenango. Carmen began working with a group of young students here earlier in the month, marking our first expansion into a new departamento of Guatemala, and she now confidently follows the winding dirt path to Mariela’s home.

Carmen reviews with the students the various types of shots she went over with them last week: plano general (wide shot), plano mediano (medium shot), plano corto (close-up), andplano detalle (macro or detail shot). Once the students understand the definition of each, Carmen heads outside with them and a camera to put what they’ve learned into practice!

The fertile land and temperate climate in Quiejel make for an abundance of fruit trees. The students begin practicing shot types while capturing all of the different fruit-bearing trees and plants that grow on Mariela’s family’s land – avocado, gauayaba, peach, pear, plum, yellow peppers, cactus, coffee, and more.  The students take wide, medium, close-up, and detail shots of each, and we sample the delicious fruits as we go. With a great variety of photos of each type of fruit, the group heads back inside to start their first editing process. Guided by Carmen, they put together a short video of their photos so that they can see first-hand the importance of capturing a variety of shot types to make their videos more visually interesting.


Later in the day at Carmen’s house in La Antigua Ixtahucan, students begin to arrive shortly after lunch. This group of program participants has already begun their pre-production stage. Last week, Carmen worked with them on identifying a subject for a practice video, and they unanimously agreed they’d like to focus on the cultural significance of their traditional dress. Notebooks and pencils in hand, students begin research and planning, talking through their ideas with Carmen and listing the various shots and interviews they’ll need. “White signifies pureness and red signifies blood, but I don’t remember the rest of the colors,” one student states. “Well, who could you interview that will have that information?” Carmen answers, and the students identify a few community members who are sure to know.

Later in the week, Chema will meet with another group of students in San Juan la Laguna, and will be accompanied by our Creative Consultant, Franklin. Because of busy work and school schedules, these students meet late at night, but their motivation and enthusiasm for the program really shows as they work long after nightfall. Last week, Chema led this group through a creative visualization exercise, having them lie down with their eyes closed as he guided them through a meditation to “transport them to another world,” as Chema stated, opening their minds to the imaginative visions they’ll need to create their films.DSC02715 copy

With Franklin’s assistance for their next meeting, Chema will guide themin applying their creativity to the framing of shots, teaching them to focus on visual elements such as lighting and color, line and shape, angle and perspective, to enhance the aesthetic appeal of their videos. The students have been anxious to get their hands on the equipment and start putting what they’ve learned into practice, so this next meeting is sure to be exciting for all of them.

And so we have officially kicked off our third year of the Unlocking Silent Histories program, expanding our number of student groups to 6, and our number of communities to 5, including 3 new communities! Our Youth Educators are now seasoned professionals, adeptly putting into practice our popular-education pedagogical model as they guide program participants through a transformative filmmaking discovery process, learning from students and community members as much as they share their own knowledge and skills, in inspiring cross-cultural and cross-generational exchanges.

We are all thrilled to continue in this work through our partnership with Maya Traditions Foundation, who have helped us to grow, reaching new communities where the Foundation has established artisan groups and bringing them new opportunities to learn, share, and seguir adelante.

– Written by Jenn Miller, USH Guatemala Field Director


Adaptability and Flexibility

When I left the US as an educational technology professor, moving to 21st century skills was a hot topic. I found myself most connected to the “Life and Career Skills” section ( This is because the words “flexible and adaptable” stand out for me. These words were prominent in my dissertation as I watched suburban upper class students struggle at first to adapt to the inner city culture and ways of knowing.  Moreover, it took some work on their part to be cognitively flexible about the nature of how teaching and learning happens. Their ability to step back and adjust their norms of thinking about the world, becoming conscious of their everyday practices and how they influenced their participation was emerged as critical to creating a successful learning experience in contexts that brought together people from different cultures and perspectives. This critical skill of being adaptable and flexible extends also to the ability to live in this world.

I forget the importance of these characteristics because for the most part I have embraced it and apply it in the learning environments that I design (I say help, because it is important to me that the youth with whom I work are part of that design). Despite trying to live this philosophy, there are times that I recognize my own struggles with adjusting and it sometimes takes a little work to be adaptable and flexible.

The majority of my students in Guatemala however, seem to have this skill of effortlessly crossing boundaries and adapting gracefully to new situations. Though the social distance across indigenous communities here is not drastic, there is an inherent and visible difference. Adaptability is necessary for our youth to work together and for our youth leaders to continue facilitating learning with USH.  Again, it is something that I see them do with poise. I have particular assumptions as to why this might be, which hopefully come through in the book that I am in the process of writing.

For now, my reflection is on how quickly I forget the importance of these after living here for nearly two years. I forget how different it is living and working here in Guatemala, how different this world is than the one from which I come. This reminder came to me after a recent visitor traveled to Guatemala to see me and help with the project. With this visit, I’m reminded that the ability to come to a third world country and do this work takes a certain character and disposition. And I mean the work, not the travel – although that has the potential to create an immense disequilibrium as well!

I’m reminded that living and working here requires:
– Fitness: I jump into on boats, climb on the back of trucks, and on an whisked away by buses…. I hike up steep inclines with three computers and other equipment on the front and back of my body and trek through the rural paths to the distant community homes. Thus, being in shape and/or having an adventurous spirit are one thing you definitely need to bring!

– Simplicity: Know that the comforts of life here are different. You won’t always have every food you crave, a hot shower, a car to come and go as you please, and other things that we take for granted!

– Laugh: You have to be able to be laughed at and to be able to laugh. Our ways of talking, dressing, and acting are new to my students. They often laugh at attempts at Spanish or Indigenous languages. They look at my funny sometimes when I do certain things.

– Patience: Time is different here. Expectations are different. Responsibilities are different.

– Persistence: just keeping after things here can be exhausting, until you let it go and realize that you have to just keep going!

As in my dissertation, I see that flexibility and adaptability might be hard to out rightly put into a curriculum. We hope that the innovative engagements in USH help to bring them out or in this case enhance them. These characteristics are critical to cross-cultural experiences and participation in the past, now, and in our ongoing future.

Santa Clara

 June 15:

dockSanta Clara is a mountain town above San Juan.  For me, it takes the most stops and most forms of transport to get there.  From Pana, I first get on the boat.  The first one of the morning leaves at 6:30 AM.   I need to be on that one in order to make it to the 8:00AM meeting time.  This boat is a local boat and can take some time to get from Pana to San Marcos (where I get off).  In the mornings, there are many people on the boat going to different pueblos on the lake to work.  The boat usually stops in Santa Cruz, then Jabolito, Tzununa, and then San Marcos.  However, in the mornings, there are often additional stops to small hotels or other businesses along the water.

tuks About 45 minutes later, I arrive in San Marcos.  I pay the local price as I step up from the boat onto the dock and then walk up to the town center to grab a tuk tuk to San Pablo.  On the way to San Pablo, I usually have a conversation with the drive and usually it comes back to how much he and his family struggle financially.  Yet, like in other towns here, it doesn’t change the upbeat and positive spirit of the people that I have met along the way.

The driver stops at a córner about a block away from where I catch a pick up to Santa Clara.  We say “mucho gusto” as I pay him, we smile and each go on our way. I step over fruits and textiles to cross the street and get to the pick up stop.  The local market on Sundays in San Pablo brings many people to the street.  They look at me as I walk, carrying one backpack on my back and one in front.  There aren’t many tourists that spend time here in San Pablo.  So I stand out each week that I pass through.

pickupAt this stop, both camionetas and pick pus pass by.  I prefer the pick ups because you stand outside in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the amazing views as we wind up the steep curves that come into Santa Clara.  But Sunday transportation is limited so I will take what I get.   Today I’m lucky.  I see a pick up and off we go.

Some how it always works out and we make it close to the 8:00 meeting time.  This morning, before I walk to the house, I visit my favorite chuchito and tamal lady.  She’s very happy to see me.  You’ve returned?  When did you arrive?  I tell her I’ve been here for about a week and I wouldn’t dream of missing my favorite breakfast spot while I’m here in Santa Clara.  I get one of each item, including atol – arroz con chocolate – para llevar.  Those of you who know my distain will say, chocolate?  What?  Yes, the chocolate here is real cocoa – it is not sweet at all.

I start my walk up to the house where we meet.  Benjamin, one of our students, opened his house to us, when Maria’s family could not longer allow us to meet at her home – there were going to be a women’s group meeting at the same time that we meet.

I’m about half way up the road and I feel a tap on my shoulder.  It startles me a little because I’m not going thinking that it could possibly be anyone I know.  It is Chema.  He tells me that there were no buses and he got a ride from the shuttle.  It was me and all gringos he tells me.  We laugh.  You have the best luck Chema.  You always seem to find the best ride.  Just about a month ago, we were standing and waiting for what seemed like forever, for transportation back down to San Juan.  There was nothing and all of the sudden Chema spotted a police truck.  His eye widened and he said, I wonder if they are going to San Pablo.  They were.  He asked them if they could take us and they said yes.  We jumped in the back seat of the truck and off we went.  Apparently, Chema tells me, police are required to take citizens with them if they ask and they are not allowed to take money for this service.  That day we had a free and comfortable ride back home.

We arrive at the house and find the TV on.  The world cup is this week and Benjamin is watching.  He is the only one there.  We wait for a little more time, but no one else shows.  Chema and I go off to visit the houses of the missing students.  We get to Jesika’s but no one answers.  We walk back and there is Marvin, walking toward the house.  Will your brother be coming too?, I ask.  He didn’t have time to come.

marvinI ask Chema to go ahead and work with Marvin and I’ll go see the others.  Edwin 1’s store is closed so I’m not able to find him.  Edwin 2, I have no idea where he lives but I know he often goes to church on Sundays.  I go to Maria’s house, she is cleaning.  I can’t come today because I need to help my family she tells me, and then she assures me that she’ll come next week.  She tries to reassure me more telling me that her interviews are translated and she is ready to edit.  I give her a hug and tell her I will see her next week.  I remind her to please call when she can’t make it.  It is kind of a waste to take all of us – Chema, Carmen, and me up to the community when there is only one student.

By the time that I get back, Carmen is coming in.  It seems to be getting harder for her to get here on time.  It is because of the lack of buses, not because she is late.  It is becoming the same problem on her end as it is on mine.

I tell Carmen and Chema to go work with Benjamin.  He doesn’t want to continue in the project, they tell me.  I take a deep breath.  He is in his room talking to Jesika – the two of them seem to be great friends.  I ask her to go work with Carmen and tell her I would like to talk to Benjamin. He and I go outside and sit in the street.  He starts…. the problems that he sites include: school is far away and he’s back and forth between San Pedro and Santa Clara during the week.  He had a place to stay there, but it is not always good so he comes home a lot.  (It is a far way).  Then he tells me that he has lots of projects and he has to go to church and he really just wants one day free.

I tell him that I can empathize.  I work everyday and meet you all here on Sundays because that is the day that works for the group.  It’s ok for me, I tell him, because I want to be here working with you.  We talk a little more and come to a compromise.  I always see a spirit in Benjamin and the wheels are turning when we have discussions and show examples.  It was surprising to hear that he wanted to drop it.  But I think that I helped him feel more at ease knowing that we could find another time that is more flexible for him and for his schedule.  I’m secretly hoping to encourage them to meet in smaller groups during the week so that I too can have a Sunday off – like “normal” people! 🙂

Oh, one thing to remember is that Jesika was doing homework between moments.  She had to write the same word on six pages – to improve her handwriting.  I remember these kinds of assignments, but so long ago and now more than ever, I question the time used – for what purpose I keep asking.  I know what they tell me, but at the same time, I think that there are so many more useful and challenging things that they could be doing!  breath.  recognize your ibas… for me though, it is yet just another example of the focus of education here and in other communities with similar socio-economic challenges.

jesikaThe rest of the day is dedicated to working with Marvin and Jeskia.  Marvin works through his edits as if he were a pro.  Occassionally he would ask a question, but for the most part, he remains focused.  Jekia needed a little more attention.  She seemed a bit scared to work with the program.  I reassrued her that it gets easier and it isn’t has bad as it seems.  She enjoys herself after some time, and by the end has a nice introduction going.

vanBy 12:30, Chema, Carmen, and I start packing up.  While we do this, Carmen asks the youth to talk about what they learned today and what their goals are for the next weekend.  We say our goodbyes and plan a time for the next week.  Chema goes waites for his pick up to get him back to San Juan.  Carmen and I get on a minibus for 148.  She and I split, Carmen returns to Chirijox, and I head to Antigua for the night.



Photo Credits:

June 14

In San Juan today, I tried to come early, but the express just wasn’t cooperating!  Not one single person was there, so I took the local.  This one takes longer, but the risk of waiting for the express just wasn’t worth it this morning.  It feels a little strange to be back in this community.  Instead of waking in the wonderful home that I once occupied, I take the lancha from Pana once again.  I take a deep breath when I exit the lancha and let the positive energy of this wonderful little town wash over me. 

I walk up the hill to arrive at Carlo’s house.  It’s a little before 8:30 and I know that I’ll be late if I don’t walk quickly. I’m going to be later, I realize, when I pass by Gloria’s restaurant.  Gloria is one of the women in Chema’s video – she paints and owns a restaurant.  She was cleaning her restaurant and just happened to look up at the very same moment that I was walking by.  Our eyes met and there was no way I could not stop  “Donna, I missed you very much”.  She gave me a hug and I told her I was late. “You have time for a juice” she said.  I could hardly say no.  She was very excited that she has her juice maker now and her restaurant is looking more and more like a cafe each day.  Yet the customers are not coming.  There really aren’t any right now as it is the rainy season.    And now, including Gloria’s there are four cafes on this hill up to town.  How or why the people decide what business to start is still an enigma to me.  I can’t imagine how these families survive every day.  A lot of money comes out of the pocket of the individual families to create these spaces but not enough comes back in to truly make it.

I enjoy my carrot juice with her and we talk a little about the paintings that were sold, her husband, and her children.  I also talk to her about my favorite juice bar in San Pedro has very interesting combinations of vegetables and ginger.  She asks how much they charge there and we talk about the different prices depending on the ingredients and the size and of course the tienda.   I quickly finish the conversation and tell her that I will see her on the way out.  We hug and she smiles as we say goodbye.   

I make it Carlos’ and enter the house.  The first things that I see are cinder blocks piled up in two stacks.  I see his mom first, she is talking to another woman and then I see Carlos coming down from the hill above.  I ask him about these and he tells me that he and his brother are building a house up the road.  Wow!  Lots of work and lots of blocks. 

Carlos and I talk a little bit and catch up.  Aside from last week’s group workshop, we haven’t had a chance to talk.  In particular, I wanted to hear about how things were going in San Juan.  Carlos said, I don’t know, my students don’t come. 

Ahhhh a similar challenge I faced in San Juan. It is something that Carlos and the other leaders haven’t learned yet.  That is, they can’t just expect the kids to come they have to be the motivator.  You have to inspire them, I tell him.  He just smiles.  But I am serious, the time that I spend sitting on the floor with the kids in the first group, talking to parents, chasing down kids in their homes to get them to come was more than anyone would expect.  It’s one of the things to discuss at the upcoming leadership workshop.  Another thing to discuss is the informes.  I ask Carlos if he’s done his and he says no, I don’t have the time.  Ah yes, my favorite saying! 🙂  None of us seem to have time for things that we don’t like to do or that perhaps we don’t fully understand.  I want to address this with all of them at the same time.  So right now, all I say is that it is part of the job and when a job has requirements then they have to be done or we might lose that job.  He agrees.  

While we are talking the two of the three kids left trickle in.  Casper and Fisher walk through the door and greet us.  The time is a bit wasted in the beginning because Carlos has all the videos on one hard drive.  We spend a good deal of time copying files from harddrive to computer and hard drive to hard drive.  This, I tell Carlos, is one of the reasons that you need to do the informe.  It helps you to be organized for the students so that we make good use of every minute that we are together.  Again, he agrees. 

As we are doing the transfers, Franklin shows up as well.  I thought that he was editing at home so I didn’t expect to see him.   The files are still copying so we watch two trailers that Franklin is working on – for his own personal videos.  I continue to be impressed with him and his talent. 

I ask him to come teach the other some of his tricks as well as the basic functions of Premier.  He’s excited about this – we make a plan to meet on Wednesday to talk about what and how he might teach. 

The rest of the morning is dedicated to editing (Fisher and Franklin) and translating (Casper).  I’m also impressed with Fisher’s interests and abilities.  Yep, we are down to just guys in San Juan.  Just like the first group, there seems to be a surge of interest in the boys and a hesitation/resistance to do this work in the girls.  We’ll have to work on that and change that perception – and investigate why here that interest just isn’t there.  

The language dilemma

June 13:

It has been such a long time since I have blogged… My excuse is a good one.  I have spent the last few months writing a book and enjoying it.  So I’ve been a stranger to the blog, but then a reminder came….  

A few days ago I spoke with a UC student named Lacey (Hi Lacey!).  She found my project and contacted me.  When we talked, she said one of her favorite things was following the blog to hear how I’m traversing things in the country.  I thought, I better get back to this!!  

So here I am, back again!  Friday, June 13th we visited Chuacruz.  Chuacruz is above Sololá, and is one of the towns around the lake most effected by the 36 year internal conflict.  There, many men – fathers, uncles, and brothers were killed or disappeared.  The women here are just something else.  They are strong and beautiful.  The story that I heard about them is that they banded together one day and walked to Panajachel to meet Jane.  Jane, the founder of The Maya Traditions Foundations, began the organization to work with Maya backstrap weavers, assisting them with improving the quality of their work so that they could sell them through the Fair Trade market.  She didn’t start this work with the Chuacruz community, but somehow they found out about her and they were motivated to meet with her and find a way to work with her.  It tells you a little about the spirit of the community! 

Today in Chuacruz, where we work with three wonderful young ladies: Mirna, Carmen, and Ana Maria.    I’ve been in the US for a month, so this is the first time that I have seen them in their community.  I thought that they’d have their translations finished by now, but that wasn’t the case.  The day was dedicated to this. Carmen and I talked while they worked.  In the back of my mind, I thought, “There has to be a better way.”  I’m worried that if they continue to do translations for the next month, they will loose interest in the project or just become too tired of what seems to be a tedious task.  Yes, we do this in research, but we know that translations and being close to the data is very important.  They will come to learn this, as we saw with the last group, but at the same time, I want to keep an inspiration! 

The creative part is be filming and writing.  The hard and new part is learning to ask deeper questions and analyzing what they see in their interviews.  It’s hard to do one without the other.  I’d prefer this to be just fun, but as one of my own inspirations said, learning has to be hard fun. 

So as much as I don’t want them to be doing this work, we can’t move forward without them.  With the interviews in Maya languages, we just don’t know the quality of the interview or what else to help facilitate what more they might need to know.  We have to stay with the language.  There is just no question about it.  They are seeing more about how language is tied to culture and we want to stay with our foundational principal that the stories need to come from them.  They need to resonate with their own storytelling patterns and ways of knowing, not with ours. 

A thought that came to mind was to ask the students to record the translations in Spanish.  Then, when I have more funds, we can hire someone or find a volunteer to transcribe those.  This will go much faster.  

The tensions that I’m feeling right now are… on the one hand, we want it to move along and be fun and driven by them… and on the other hand… there are a mountain of things that they are learning at the same time – how to type, how to ask questions, how to tell a story, how to analyze what is said, how to ask deeper questions about their histories, and how to unearth a story that is emerging.    These critical thinking skills are happening at the same time that they are learning to move a mouse, to organize folders, to type, and to save.  Together we need to brainstorm an easier way to go about this where it doesn’t feel so heavy.

While I’m concerned about these burdens, I don’t see an ounce of concern in the eyes of these youth.  Rather, the gracefully and without complaint work through translating their interviews.  They don’t question, and don’t show any body language that suggests that this is difficult or something that they don’t want to do.  Thoughts run through my mind.  Do they do what they are told like they do in the schools – without question or debate – are they again cogs in the wheels.  This time takes away from their agency and empowerment but perhaps at the same time builds it?  Gaining these skills however slow, is it “catching” them up?   But this is not the goal, right?  It is to see through their eyes what their stories, language, culture is.  It is not for them to follow our rules. 

To do the work is a way to allow them to have the power and the tools to illustrate things from and through their eyes.  This is something to continue to reflect upon and explore what others have found doing this work.

Youth Ownership

Things have been very busy in our absence.  It is hard to believe that we have taken such a long hiatus from blogging.  Life and work swept us away for a while.  However, today, I have an amazing insight to share.  I honestly could not be more happy with the direction that this project has taken in Guatemala.  There are many different ways to define success, but when internal sustainability is rising, it is perhaps one of the most relevant indicators of this term.

I left for Austin TX on February 26, 2014.  In the weeks before, I identified three interested youth –  Carmen, Tín (Carlos) and Chema – to take on the role of teaching the new groups of students.  As I watched them teach in the month before my departure, I was both elated and nervous.  How does one let go of what they’ve created without feeling a little of both emotions?  I was elated because I observed these three confidently sharing what they had learned from their own experience.  I saw them not dispensing information, but engaging the new students in participating in creating the learning environment.  They were successfully cultivating the philosophy that underlies our organization.  My nervousness related to whether or not they would be lost without my presence.  This should not have concerned me given how well they adopted their new roles, but I believe such a feeling is natural.  I had no choice to let go because my role now was to take their documentaries to the US and spread the word about our organization.

While in Austin, a smile and ease came to my face on two occasions.  The first weekend I was gone, Chema and Carmen called me on Skype.  We spoke before one of their workshops and they talked with authority about the activities for the day.  They were well organized and it was clear that they were ready to take on this task without me.

The second occasion was the morning before I would return to Austin.  I woke up that morning only to find that Chema had posted photos of the activities that he and Carmen facilitated. He did this on is own accord.  Ownership was shaping up nicely.

I returned to find that Carlos was also taking initiative reflecting what he had learned in the previous session.  He had downloaded and organized all the films and photos from each of the weeks that he taught his group in San Juan.  He also wanted to post photos while I was gone, but did not have the modem to access the internet.  The first day that we were together, I made him an admin on FB and he posted a message on our fan page.  He was hesitant write in Spanish, as all my posts are in English, but I reassured him that this was perfectly fine.

These three youth are taking the reigns of Unlocking Silent Histories with confidence and without asking for permission.  I’m excited to feel the sense that we are building sustainability together.  I’m seeing characteristics of me coming through their teaching and their direction and at the same time, I see elements of their personal identities shaping and reshaping Unlocking Silent Histories – without losing our foundations.  Who could ask for more!

Pedro a.k.a Quic a.k.a b boy Quick…

IMG_0609Quíc (his Tz’utujil name) is one of 10 children, many of whom continue to live in his house.  Quíc is the youngest.

When our group meets in San Juan, Quíc is often late. When he enters, he slides into the courtyard of the house where we meet.  His entry is essentially silent and none of us notice he is comes in.  When we do, he greets us with the local handshake and then sits down to join us. His reasons for being late are legitimate.  He is either working, helping at home, or returning from a cultural event.

He has a confidence and ease that is unmistakable.  Through his interactions with others in the group and with me, it is clear that he has a good heart, is hard working, and positive.

IMG_0485The recognition of Quíc’s character and self-assurance are evident not only here, but also in other spaces. Like Tín, Quíc enjoys playing sports and participates on the Juego Pelota Maya.  He does not have as many leadership roles in the school, but instead does a great deal in the community.  Quíc participates in a group of break-dancers and rising hip-hop artists.  He attends a lot of events that relate to his historical culture.  And he manages the computers at the community library. Currently he talks about studying engineering.

It is not hard to imagine that Quíc has many different “faces”. Normally, I see him dressed like a kid who loves rap.  He has torn jeans, a baseball hat and a t-shirt. Then one day, I saw him in a collared shirt, dress pants and a tie. He was unrecognizable for a moment. He was on his way to work, where he monitors computers at the library. My response and surprise could not be contained.  Wow you look so professional!  I say. Thanks he says. This us so different than what I am use to seeing you. I asked him what he liked better – the “street” clothes or the dress clothes.  Ambos.  Both he replied with a smile.  Both are igual (equal).

IMG_0484I saw just one more side. When I watched the Maya Ball Game that he and Tín participate in, he was dressed with accents that are customs of his culture.  He had a handkerchief of sorts on his head and a traditional belt around his waste.  These are important aspects of the game and each have meaning.  Quíc and I are working on putting together a video of Maya Ball, so we will return to the meanings at another time.

For now, and in my experience, Quíc is a complex and interesting person. He has a strong interest in understanding more about his ancestors and his Maya roots.  He struggles to find a way to learn. His parents know very little about the history of things such as Maya ceremonies or Juego Pelota Maya.  He does not know his grandparents and his only more senior relative is mute and illiterate.  There is no way to communicate the knowledge that he holds.  Yet Quíc is determined.  He reads book from the library and searches for more information on the Internet.

IMG_1551Upon meeting Quíc for the first time, he might see like an ordinary teenage, but he’s far from it.  I am constantly amazed with him, his passion, and his gentle and honest spirit as I get to know him better.  He has such a positive self-image and his deeply amiable soul just emanates from within.