Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rabinal, part one: "somos todos hermanas en este mundo"

We just returned from our long trip up to Rabinal, to visit the last Nest community, San Rafael, and another one of OB’s groups, Chuaperol. The trip itself started at 6 am last Sunday and lasted all day – hopping from camioneta to camioneta, driving along curvy and bumpy mountainous roads, and finally arriving at our destination around 5 pm. We were joined on the trip by two OB facilitators – Lety and Mildre – who thankfully were there to help us navigate the bus system (which, even after all this time, I still don’t fully understand/trust enough to navigate on my own)!
On Monday morning, we visited San Rafael, a beautiful community just a few minutes away from the town of Rabinal. There, we helped with the “Promotion of your group” workshop, which Lety and Mildre led. I’m really glad we had the opportunity to see this workshop in particular, because it was so relevant to the work we’re doing with Nest and reminded the women why it’s so important how they present themselves to the international community.

At the end of the workshop, the women put on a practice community visit presentation for us, pretending that Darcy and I were foreign visitors to the group. The practice presentation was like a “final exam” for the women – and the facilitators took notes on each component of the presentation (welcoming the visitors, short histories of the community, their traje, and the group, the life history of one of the women, space for questions and comments by the visitors, and a brief thank you at the end). We asked a LOT of questions at the end that served two purposes – both to prepare the women for any questions tourists and visitors might ask, and to help us (and Nest) understand the group and their dynamic better. The presentation was also a great way for us to see the production process first hand, as they demonstrated each step for us – dying the thread with natural dyes, winding the thread and arranging it on the loom, and finally weaving the product.

Then, we spent the afternoon wandering the town with Lety, Mildre, and one of the women in the group. We explored the market and the church, drank “atol” – a thick, spicy corn drink very typical of the Rabinal region – and went shopping. Each of us bought some beautiful yellow and red hand-painted bowls – carved from large gourds – that we watched some women make right in front of us. We spent over an hour at the artisans house, looking at her products, taking pictures of her kids, and chatting.
As we left and we thanked her for her time and for the beautiful products, she thanked us in turn for the company and for taking an interest in her life and her work, saying “somos hermanas todas en este mundo, no?” (we are all sisters in this world, aren’t we?). It was a beautiful sentiment to end a beautiful day, and it made me think about how even though I come from halfway across the world, and even though I was raised in a completely different culture than the women I’m working with, we all share the same experience of being women and sharing the same physical world and resources, and we are all connected in so many different ways – whether it’s through the chain of production and consumption or through the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and experiences. It’s moments like these that make me so grateful to have the opportunity to spend my summer in this way – and that make it so hard for me to even comprehend leaving!

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