Easter in the Mayan Highlands

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” title=”Easter in the Mayan Highlands”>Easter in the Mayan Highlands

Last week was Easter.  Up here there were glorious displays of carpets all over the streets.. Rather than go to Antigua and be carried hand-over-hand..We took in the local celebrations 

Cooperatives and Highland Mayan Artisans

Many Indigenous women belong to co-operatives. These are both political and trade associations – each one is a different balance of these two themes. The more successful of these “unions” are visible enough to receive micro-financing and educational support from NGO’s targeting craftswomen and “self-sustainable ventures.” Cooperatives are very helpful in getting bulk rates, pricing goods for market and for providing the group the means to insist on fair value for their work. In a country known for the” sport of bargaining,” this notion is odd Yet, in cooperative storefronts, the marked price is the selling price. It appears “fixed price tiendas” agglomerate. In San Antonio Palopo, for example, many are grouped in a row.

Cooperatives also offer (an often overlooked) opportunity for branding. For an example of a very successful for-profit group started by NYC MBA, Yenifer Lam, see Kem Ajachel cooperative. In this model, the outside leadership declares the direction and materials, provides the styling and colors and is even growing silk worms in Guatemala to provide enriched fibers locally. And, management promotes and adjusts the line with an eye on customer’s demands and current trends.
Obviously, other highlands communities could use such direction. The issue is that the women design and produce what they are good at ….without researching the end market. The products they create are most often chosen because the materials cost very little. For example, found Pine Needles go into baskets and they only require a little bright thread to bind them. Using pop-tops extends their crochette threads, as does making small items such as baby shoes or coin purses. They would like to use large format looms are expensive to operate because the “up-front cost” of stringing them is prohibitive. The women cannot begin to make bolts of cloth, if they do not have a commitment from a buyer. For this reason, the “back-strap” (+/-1/8”-12” wide) is still favored over the ease and speed of producing on a 24”-36” loom. The products of the back-strap (often adaptions of Victorian needlepoint) are sewn together and adorned with embroidery to make the Guipils that everyone wears. (The skirts are made on a foot looms — mostly operated by men.) The traditional outfit is not complete without a Falda or belt. This 1”-4” piece is also woven on the “back-strap” and can include elaborate beadwork.

Donors who provide sewing machines will offer training to an artisan like Rosa Garcia-Garcia and, she, in turn gives instruction to her group so they can share the gift. A few years ago, the women were shown how to make rag-rugs by an expert from the states and these were very lucrative for them. The husbands, were immediately against them leaving their looms but, soon enough were scouring the second hand stores for materials for their wives.

Basically, the women face a constant logistical problem with marketing heavy, bulky and fragile items — shipping. And, they need more representatives, who will feature and popularize Mayan made goods. We are currently working on free downloadable coloring book and a line of multi-cultural ”mother-daughter” doll clothes on the model of American Girl Place. It is hoped that the former will develop awareness of the regional dress and the latter will create demand in young girls.

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Traveling with Feed the Children

Feed The Children’s – Guatemala headquarters are marked by a modest plaque set to the right of an ironclad gate.  The forbidding eight foot walls are crowned with a concertina wire slinky.  Bits of razors dart ominously through the Bougainvillea.   This is in Zone 5 – an increasingly dicey area of the capital.

Altagracia Hernandez, the Country Coordinator, says that the seven person crew has to move – not just for safety but to accommodate their expansion into new territories.   But, there is no time for that in the First Quarter.  Only the accountant stays behind at the Office – everyone else is out giving away hundreds of backpacks; enrolling new communities and preparing school principals and teachers to distribute their share of the 40,000 pairs of TOMS shoes.  And, after that there is the Rice give away and this means the posse will be taking some serious “Road Trips.”

It is impossible to get the” friction of distance” built into Guatemala’s ruthless topology from a map.  and, distance is quite deceptive when the highway is nasty.  For example, the threeFTC centers in Palencia are in the District of Guatemala City and they appear to be   closest but they they are really a few hours away.  Heading North; towards Solola and Quiche points also takes about three to four hours but you are gliding along the Pan American Highway.  The most distant area, Chujul, is practically to the Mexican boarder, in the Ixil Triangle. It is so many hours of driving that it requires an overnight stay.

Absolutely, the roads after Palencia are the worst — the pavement degrades continuously about an hour out of the Office.  Even in dry season, it took us forever to get to the nearest destination.  The “good news” is that it is still dusty and the crew can hump donations in via SUVs and rented trucks.  But, soon enough, it will get muddy and navigating the extreme inclines in all territories will require much more efficient vehicles. 

Meanwhile, back at the office, there is no time to consider which zone might require less vigilance until the shoes are landed, warehoused, inventoried, packed and delivered.  Did I mention the Rice just pulled into port yesterday???

Google Map show the breadth of FTC's Guatemala Operations
Google Map show the breadth of FTC’s Guatemala Operations

Women set records at first Extreme Maraton Atitlan 42K and 21K events.

The route

Lake Atitlan does not host the grimmest Extreme Full and Half Marathons on earth.

First, anyone who’d go for the direst of contests would need to suit up for starker and edgier climates.  They’d probably have to give up notching a personal record because they are training to survive.  Maraton Atitlan is certainly not a good choice for those who dream of an icy moonwalk or prefer blazing across the Sahara or ache to gasp above Nepal.  The greatest challenge in Guatamala is not enduring the hideous.  Volcanic terrain provides grueling topology and serious rain gear is all that is required.

From the starting line in Panajachel (5,240 ft. asl.) the 42K whips up 7,500 ft. to Godinez before heading down along Rio San Francisco.  The first 12K are almost vertical.  Since the 21K turns around at Santa Caterina Palpolo nobody escapes scaling the local Heartbreak Hill that ascends a lung popping 2,500 ft. in under a mile.  (This stretch is comparable to the venerable Colorado climb that gains 6,000 ft. over 10 miles.)  The road around “the most beautiful lake in the world” is hardly a barren slog.  All along there are fuchsia mobs of bougainvillea squeezing in between stands of pines and skinny palms.  Best, contenders stream through pueblos and the kids chase along until Mama calls.

The race got started by Richard Morgan (<65/5:42:24.0) who formed a committee to create a not-for-profit, family orientated event to focus attention on the lake and, in the process, to stimulate tourism in the off-season.  Volunteers and big sponsors like Gatorade and GuateVision quickly appreciated the value of inviting intrepid tourists to compete during tormento season.

The course was calibrated and certified to have six age categories (16 year old minimum):

The Women’s field had a better turn out than anyone expected. Eleven entered the 42K and seventy-one in the 21K. The good news for next year is there are outstanding opportunities to set 3 vacant age records in both events:
42K (>49, <65)
21K (>65).

The race is meant to benefit an ailing World Heritage site. The lake is insulted by chemical fertilizers and a constant in flow of solid and human wastes. In the late 1950’s, the sacred area fell victim to a Pan American Airlines scheme to turn it into a “Fishing Paradise.” Hopeful promoters stocked it with Black Bass and, shortly, the predators ate everything. They mowed down the fish, ate the reeds and then, devoured the rare birds and ducks.  Over the next few decades the clear, deep water has suffered some serious cyanobacteria outbreaks that render it unsuitable for either drinking or swimming.  Besides all that, decades of unconscious development have been bad for the ecology and that’s not good for business.

On the race mornings, cheery volunteers waited at registration tables while people shook out their umbrellas and jackets. Meanwhile, entrants pinned on their numbers and milled around the school gym, stretching, waiting to dive into sopping chutes and schlep though a dense rain.   And, on both mornings, the rain let up just in time.  Sure it left pools in the cobblestones and unavoidable blacktop lagoons on the way.

Someone hooted as they splashed upwards, “Hey, this IS supposed to be ‘extreme!’”

The Women’s 42K winner, Kristina Milne (>39/3:38:22.0) heard about Maraton Atitlan while traveling around the world with her husband and four children.  The family has been touring in the flatter parts of this country since the spring but the Australian easily won in her 30-39 age category.

“I have done many different events and this one rates as being right up there. It is steep but don’t let that put you off because there is 15k of really scenic downhill as a reward after your climbs!
I was hugely impressed with how well organized it was.
The aid stations were frequent,
The people -friendly..
What else can I say?
I LOVED it!!

This is not Guatemala City (where safety is a concern.)
The lake is lovely and I could let my 4 kids walk — on their own.
…It totally rocks and you will NOT be disappointed,” she concluded.
At the 42K starting line, the youngest finishers, a lithe pair of hometown high school students laughed and chatted. The Micikas sisters, Mary Elizabeth (>29/4:32:00.9) and Ashley Marie (>29/4:32:01.1) did not seem at all nervous about their first marathon.
After the official send-off, I enjoyed a Chapin breakfast of eggs, frijoles and tortillas with Shirley Salvador, who told me about her 27 year old sister.  The family lives in Xela; near enough so, that when she heard about the run for the lake she had time to prepare for her first 42K.  I was told that her sister “…worked so hard at conditioning that (their) father worried that she might ‘blow up.’”

She would stuff rocks in her backpack and pace herself up and down an embankment.

It makes no difference what she does, she always succeeds.”

And, with that, she correctly predicted that Rosselyn Julissa Salvador Monroy (>29/4:04:30.6) would win her category

The 21K was full of familiar faces.  It would be won by Laura Co Torres (29/1:35:36.2).  And, my random photo of Miriam Elizabeth Panjoj Perez, of Antigua (29/2:50:20.5) finishing her run uattracted lots of “likes” for her accomplishment.  Dr. Jennifer Thoene of Hospitalito (>49/2:22:16.7) came in second in her category.

The record that interested me most is Pullo, Nancy (<65/3:04:34.9) because that is the number for me to beat in my 66th year.

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Lago de Atitlán no aloja más sombríos de los Maratones extremas completo y medio en la tierra.

Las mujeres que entran a estos concursos graves debe adaptarse a los climas más crudos para y más afilado. Tienen que entrenar mucho más difícil para el mal tiempo que para entallar registros personales. Maratón de Atitlán no es ciertamente para el corredor medio más de lo que corresponde a los pesos pesados, que sueñan con una caminata lunar helada o ardiendo a través del Sahara, o jadeando por encima de Nepal. Aquí el mayor reto no es simplemente duradero. En Guatemala, ropa de lluvia sólo se requiere. Sin embargo, se advirtió. Terreno volcánico ofrece topología agotador.

Desde la línea de salida en Panajachel (5240 pies de altitud.) La 42K azota encima de 7.500 pies a Godínez antes de dirigirse a lo largo del Río San Francisco. La primera 12K son casi vertical. Dado que la 21K se da la vuelta en Santa Caterina nadie escapa Palpolo escalar el Heartbreak Hill local que sube un pulmón apareciendo 2.500 pies en menos de un kilómetro y medio. (Este tramo es comparable a la venerable subida de Colorado que gana 6.000 metros más de 10 millas.) El camino en torno a “el lago más bello del mundo” no es una árida sudar tinta. A lo largo hay turbas de buganvillas fucsias apretando en medio de stands de pinos y palmeras delgadas. Los mejores, los contendientes corriente a través de pueblos y los niños persiguen a lo largo hasta las llamadas Mama.

La carrera se inició por Richard Morgan (<65/5: 42:24.0) que se formó un comité para crear una organización sin fines de lucro, evento orientado a la familia a centrar la atención en el lago y, en el proceso, para estimular el turismo en el fuera de temporada. Los voluntarios y los grandes patrocinadores como Gatorade y Guatevisión apreció rápidamente el valor de invitar a los turistas intrépidos para competir durante la temporada de tormento.

El curso fue calibrado y certificado a tener seis categorías de edad (16 años mínimo de edad):
> 29
> 39
> 49
> 59
> 65
<65 años.

Campo de la Mujer había una mejor convertirse en lo que nadie esperaba. Once entró en el 42K y setenta y uno en el 21K. La buena noticia para el próximo año es que hay excelentes oportunidades para establecer registros de edad de 3 vacantes en los dos eventos:
42K (> 49 años, <65)
21K (> 65).

La carrera está destinada a beneficiar a un patrimonio de la humanidad doliente. El lago es insultado por los fertilizantes químicos y un flujo constante de los desechos sólidos y humanos. A finales de la década de 1950, el área sagrada fue víctima de un esquema de Pan American Airlines para convertirlo en un “paraíso de pesca.” Una vez que los promotores esperan que este provista de Bajo Negro, los depredadores se comió todo. Los acribillados a los peces, se comió las cañas y, a continuación, devorado la mayor parte de las especies raras de aves y patos. Durante las próximas décadas el agua clara, en el fondo ha sufrido algunos brotes graves de cianobacterias por lo que es apto para beber o nadar. Décadas de desarrollo inconsciente no ha sido malo para la ecología o, y eso no es bueno para los negocios.

En las dos mañanas, los voluntarios alegres esperando en las mesas de registro, mientras que la gente sacó sus paraguas y chaquetas. Mientras tanto, los participantes puestas en sus números y se arremolinaron en torno al gimnasio de la escuela, que se extiende, a la espera de bucear en toboganes y empapados schlep aunque una lluvia densa. Y, en ambas mañanas, la lluvia amainó, justo a tiempo – dejando las piscinas en los adoquines y las lagunas de ancho, el asfalto en el camino.
“Hey, esto se supone que es” extrema “,” alguien tocó la bocina, ya que salpicó más allá del lector de chip.

El ganador de la Mujer 42K, Kristina Milne (> 39/3: 38:22.0) oído hablar de Maratón de Atitlán, mientras que la vuelta al mundo con su esposo y cuatro hijos. La familia ha estado de gira en las partes más planas de este país desde la primavera, pero el australiano ganó fácilmente en su categoría de edad 30-39.

“He hecho muchos eventos diferentes y esto uno como ser las tasas a la altura. Es fuerte, pero no dejes que eso te desanime, porque no es de 15k muy pintoresca colina abajo como una recompensa después de que su sube!
Yo estaba muy impresionados con lo bien organizado que era.
Los puestos de socorro eran frecuentes,
El pueblo de fácil ..
¿Qué más puedo decir?
Me encantó!

Esta no es la ciudad de Guatemala (donde la seguridad es una preocupación.)
El lago es precioso y me podía permitir que mis 4 hijos a pie – por su propia cuenta.
… Totalmente rocas y usted no será decepcionado “, concluyó.
En la línea de 42K de partida, los jóvenes finalistas, un par de estudiantes oriundos ágil de secundaria se rieron y charlaron. Las hermanas Micikas, Mary Elizabeth (> 29/4: 32:00.9) y Ashley Marie (> 29/4: 32:01.1) no parecía en absoluto nervioso por su primer maratón.
Después de que el oficial de despedida, yo disfrutamos de un desayuno de huevos, Chapin frijoles y tortillas con Shirley Salvador que me hablaron de su hermana de 27 años. La familia vive en Xela, lo suficientemente cerca para que cuando se enteró de la carrera por el lago tenía tiempo para preparar sus primeros 42K. Se me dijo que su hermana “… trabajado tan duro en el condicionamiento que (su) padre se preocupaba de que ella podría” hacer estallar “.

Ella metía piedras en su mochila y ritmo a sí misma y por un terraplén.

“No hace ninguna diferencia lo que ella hace, ella siempre tiene éxito.” Y, con eso, se predijo correctamente que Rosselyn Julissa Salvador Monroy (> 29/4: 04:30.6) iba a ganar su categoría

Los 21K era más grande, pero hubo más caras conocidas. No habría sido realizada por Laura Torres Co (29/1: 35:36.2). Y mi foto al azar de Miriam Elizabeth Panjoj Pérez (29/2: 50:20.5) de terminar su carrera bajo el arco inflable Gatorade atrajo a gran cantidad de “me gusta” por su logro. La Dra. Jennifer Thoene del Hospitalito (> 49/2: 22:16.7) quedó en segundo lugar en su categoría.

El disco que más me interesó es Pullo, Nancy (<65/3: 04:34.9), porque es la única para mí para vencer el próximo año.

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Lake Atitlan Hosts an Extreme Marathon in Panajachel

Record Holders 2012
42K Winners
Kristina Margarita Milne————————–3:38:22
Javier Isaac Turnil Ixquiac———————–3:09:31
21K Winners
Laura Co Torres—————————————1:35:36
Diego Ajtzalam—————————————–1:14:45

traducción al español a continuación

Mayan ladies in traditional dress watched an international field of competitors trek past their doorways. It looked like the entire pueblo of Panajachel stepped out to cheer on the extraordinary racers. School kids sporting “Marathon Atitlan” headbands handed out Gatorade, some young men, in rain gear, directed the runners onto the narrow road up. The Federal government contributed a CONRED truck as an escort and, all along the route, cars and tuk-tuks skulked to a virtual stop. Traffic was held up behind the convoy of support vehicles. What was especially nice was that the chicken buses were obliged to withhold their inky plumes from the athletes.

More than three hundred participants signed up to negotiate one of the two lanes spanning the steep hills above Lake Atitlan. Sixty-six stalwart women entered the Half and one 70 year old completed in a very respectable time.

Women 65+
21K Nancy Pullo ———–3:03:38

There were a eleven women competing in the Full.

The title “Extreme” applies because the volcanic caldera slopes at such sharp angles – like a coffee filter. In some places, it rises/falls more than 2,000 feet in under a mile. One wheel-chair bound “Achilles” runner, J.C.Perez, covered some of the steepest down-hills backwards. Maybe he does this because he brakes better. Maybe he does it by “feel” rather than looking. One runner told me she caught his eye as he rolled (face first) downhill and barely made a “very lucky swerve” avoiding a steep fall. This formidable competitor tackled both races this weekend. He finished the Half in 4:22:08. On Sunday, he started the Marathon 2 hours ahead of everyone because he did not want to be last – J.C.Perez finished the Full in 7:27:47

If the course was tough, at least the weather favored the runners. As race week started, NOAA reported tropical storms off both Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the maps showed very few breaks in the soggy lace of clouds. The morning of the Half Marathon the soaking let up just as people had to enter the chutes. Fortunately, both races were run under a thick, cool cloud cover. In some places, the field had wide pools of water under foot but, hey, this is an Extreme Marathon.

Many of the runners were Guatemalan; some made the three hour trek up from the Capital others came from nearer by in the Highlands. There were comparably trained runners from mountainous, high altitude Colorado. But, we were most delighted to see some of our Mayan neighbors, competing on their own turf and leading the pack. There were some senior men, who completed both races back to back. One of them, Efrain Elias Ramirez Velasquez a sixty three year old from Panajachel, won his age group with a good margin in both races.

Men 60 – 65
42K Efrain Elias Ramirez Velasquez —–4:06:39
21K Efrain Elias Ramirez Velasquez —–1:53:41

This Marathon was the idea of a local runner, who wanted to stimulate the community’s economy during the rainy season. Somehow, he mobilized this resort town of retired ex-pats, NGO workers and Indigenous people. He tapped a local group to find sponsors. Then, he set about getting the race course officially sanctioned; measured and marked. Finally, he set about to train to win his age division – which he did.

MEN 66+ –
Richard John Morgan-Szybist —–5:42:24.0

Richard can be proud of this win and for planting the seeds that grew into this Marathon. It was wildly successful in engaging the whole town – together. Business boomed and everyone enjoyed the sporty visitors and their families. Lots of local people are so inspired they are talking about training up for next year… or at least starting a volley ball team.

Las damas en trajes tradicionales mayas vieron un campo internacional de los competidores de caminata más allá de sus puertas. Parecía que todo el pueblo de Panajachel salió para animar a los corredores extraordinarias. Niños de la escuela deportiva “Maratón de Atitlán” bandas para la cabeza entregó Gatorade, algunos hombres jóvenes, en las artes de la lluvia, dirigida a los corredores a la calle estrecha hacia arriba. El Gobierno Federal aportó un camión CONRED como un escolta y, a lo largo de la ruta, coches y tuk-tuks acechaba a una parada virtual. El tráfico se mantuvo detrás de la caravana de vehículos de apoyo. Lo que era especialmente bueno fue que los autobuses de pollo se vieron obligados a suspender sus plumas manchadas de tinta de los atletas.

Más de trescientos participantes firmaron para negociar uno de los dos carriles que atraviesan las empinadas colinas por encima del lago de Atitlán. Sesenta y seis mujeres de carácter entraron en la mitad y uno de 70 años completó en un tiempo muy respetable.

Las mujeres de 65 +
21K Nancy Pullo 03:03:38

Había menos de una docena de mujeres inscritas en el pleno.

El título de “Extreme” se aplica debido a que las pistas de caldera volcánica en ángulos tan agudos-como un filtro de café. En algunos lugares, se sube / baja de más de 2.000 metros en menos de un kilómetro y medio. Uno en silla de ruedas “Aquiles” corredor, JCPerez, cubierto algunas de las más escarpadas de las colinas abajo hacia atrás. Tal vez lo hace porque frena mejor. Tal vez lo hace por la “sensación” en lugar de buscar. Un corredor me dijo que le llamó la atención, como laminados (primera cara) hacia abajo y apenas cometió un “viraje muy afortunado” para evitar una fuerte caída. Este formidable competidor abordado las dos carreras este fin de semana. Terminó la mitad de 4:22:08. En domingo, comenzó la maratón de 2 horas por delante de todos, porque él no quería ser el último.

Si el curso fue duro, por lo menos el clima favoreció a los corredores. Como semana de la carrera comenzó, la NOAA informó de las tormentas tropicales de ambas costas del Pacífico y Atlántico y los mapas mostraban muy pocas pausas en el encaje empapado de nubes. La mañana de la Media Maratón de la maceración que justo cuando la gente tenía que entrar en las rampas. Afortunadamente, las dos carreras se realizaron bajo una gruesa cubierta, nube fresca. En algunos lugares, el campo tenía remansos de agua bajo sus pies, pero, hey, esto es un maratón de Extreme.

Muchos de los corredores eran de Guatemala, y algunos hicieron la caminata de tres horas a partir de las demás capitales vinieron de cerca por los de las Tierras Altas. Había corredores con una formación comparable de montaña, la altitud de Colorado. Pero, fueron los más felices de ver algunos de nuestros vecinos mayas, compitiendo en su propio territorio y a la cabeza. Había algunos hombres mayores, que completaron las dos carreras espalda con espalda. Uno de ellos, Efraín Elías Ramírez Velázquez un sesenta y tres años de edad de Panajachel, ganó su grupo de edad con un buen margen en las dos carreras.

Los hombres de 60 a 65
42K Efraín Elías Ramírez Velásquez 04:06:39
21K Efraín Elías Ramírez Velásquez 01:53:41

Esta Maratón fue la idea de un corredor local, que quería estimular la economía de la comunidad durante la temporada de lluvias. De alguna manera, que movilizó a esta ciudad turística de jubilados expatriados, trabajadores de ONG y personas indígenas. Se tocó un grupo local para encontrar patrocinadores. Luego, se dedicó a conseguir el campo de regatas oficialmente sancionada, medido y marcado. Por último, se dedicó a entrenar para ganar su división de edad – lo que hizo.

HOMBRES 66 + –
Richard John Morgan-Szybist 5:42:24.0

Richard puede estar orgulloso de esta victoria y para la siembra de las semillas que crecieron en este Maratón. Fue un gran éxito en la participación del pueblo entero – juntos. El negocio floreció y todos disfrutamos de los visitantes deportistas y sus familias. Muchos de los habitantes locales están tan inspirados que están hablando de la formación para el próximo año … o al menos a partir de un equipo de voleibol.

Link to Race Results and information on next year’s race

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