Mushroom Project in San Antonio Palpolo

Guatemala is among the ten poorest countries in South America. Not only is it constantly raked by ruinous floods and tremors, there are staggeringly high rates of malnutrition and illiteracy among the young. The

elderly, particularly those in rural areas, have no public health programs to support them when they can no longer go to the fields.

But, there is one gerontologist, who has created a scalable plan to provide dignified work for the aging, indigenous descendants of the Mayans. Dr. Luis Cordon explained what he and his team have produced in support of the Kaqchikel.

Dr. Cordon has launched gourmet mushroom production houses in a town along Lake Atitlan. These precious champinions, are marketed through Walmart in the capital city. The process is simple and economical — each basketball sized “cake” (a plastic grocery bag packed with wood chips) lasts for about three months and can support several harvest cycles. And, best, the work is familiar and steady for the old people, who work in the spaces provided by the municipality.

incubating the cakes

We negotiated the remains of a rock slide that had killed twenty people a few weeks prior to our visit with Marcario Militon Martin, who works for the lakeside town, San Antonio Palpolo. Mr. Martin is the liaison for the team and provides a bit of oversight for the seniors who run the houses. Each house elects its own officials and we met with Santos Dias Martin, a vice president, who shares the charge with nine others in one of the 20’x20’ houses. Under a translucent coregated roof with blue plastic walls.

The project is all the more elegant because Dr. Cordon’s team records the oral histories of the workers and archives them as teaching material for the local children.

Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

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