Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


This is Naj Tunich, the little visited cave of the Mayan underworld. People still come here to make requests. The day we visited people were asking for a good planting, "sembrar." This really very amazing burial cave, extending some 2 miles beyond where tourists can go, is from the period 100-200 A.D. and is just a short way down the dirt road from Tanjoc, with the distant mountains of Belize visible just beyond.
The great rainforests of this part of the Peten have been decimated by slash and burn agriculture. The people of Tanjoc are trying to maintain forest land but poachers come and cut the trees. There is an effort underway to improve the lives of the people and for them to be able to live well and in harmony with what the earth can provide. The Pueblo Partisans group is helping as much as it can ( but decisions are in the hands of the community.
One of the adult ed projects the women wanted was a hammock making class so they would have something other than vegetables and eggs to sell. Here is part of the group concentrating hard and working together to learn this new skill.

This is a traditional building. I was glad to see fewer palm roofs and better construction of wood frame buildings. The road is better, there is electricity now (and a few TVs!) as well as the community well shown below (so less parasites and better health.) There are still dirt floors and animals in and out but the pigs are now contained and over-all the health and the happiness of the community seems much improved from five years ago when I first went there with the president of the Pueblo Partisans BOD to meet with their Directiva about how we might be able to work with them. The community is now two years from paying off their land debt... there is a greatly increased focus on education and a real sense of community spirit that was weak before.
A former student, who is now an MSN in Community Health Nursing and I went door to door to visit the women who were pregnant and breast feeding during our time in the community and were able to discuss with Q'eckchi interpretation by the teacher, Eva, or Francisco, the agronomist, how the women perceived the changes in the community in order to reflect what they said back to them. Their comments were very positive but we did have concerns about growing numbers of women with symptoms of untreated diabetes. There is access to midwifery services in the next community but access to a good standard of care may even be lacking in the regional center of Poptun. (Unlike Sister Sarah's clinic in the city there isn't the focus and knowledge about diabetes that needs to develop as rural people with genetic predisposition move away from plant based diets to more access to the empty calories we know so well--soda, chips, sweets...)

So, it was a good trip... lots of wonderful interaction with great people and opportunities to do health education but also there was the nagging and undeniable fact that the growing population and poor political infrastructure of the country mean that the problems will continue to outpace solutions. Even so, I love having the heart for Guatemala and feel it is one of my greatest blessings to be able to go there, participate and give what I can.


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