Feed the Children’s Guatemala City HQ reached out and tagged Rosa and Patantic’s A-team Chefs to roll out a training and sampling session for the Guatemalan equivalent of the USDA. This was a “big deal” that FTC´s Country Coordinator, Altagracia Hernandez, cooked up with MAGA (Ministry of Agriculture.) If this class goes well, then, MAGA´s Solola groups will participate with the Oklahoma based NGO in their next distribution campaign: VitaMeal. Such alliances are key to an NGO’s functioning.
Back up in pueblo, Rosa readied the show. And, even though it would have been easier for her to do it herself, Rosa took the opportunity to promote Juanita. Thorough as ever, she made doubly sure the ladies would “nail” the presentation by holding a few practice sessions. The outfit for the day would be totally “Toto” meaning that we would wear the red, black and white brindled traje from Totonicapan and navy blue or black skirts. Belting was freestyle. And, I wore my thin red “training” belt while the others snorted at because they were wrapped in much wider and more decorative items. Despite the difference in the width of the belts, I like to think that I blended into to the crew, as we waded into the market and set about examining onions, divining degrees of freshness, palpating chicken feet. Unlike pesky New Yorkers, the Mayans haggle sweetly with their silky manners in a very fun, pleasant way. These ladies would never-ever ever display the reptilian demeanor of, say, a Filine´s sale rack shopper – like myself.
We took a truck to Solola and eventually the nine women from MAGA’s far-flung community programs in Los Encuentros and San Antonio Palpolo were collected. All fourteen of us to got wedged into MAGA pick’em up truck and headed towards Dona Rosa Maria’s studio in a town that happens to have been home to Rosa’s aunt. Interestingly, the town has a section called “Totonicapan.” But, Rosa said, in so many words, that the place was not as “aligned” or as densely packed with people from the old District as was Patanatic. She assured me that we would be the only ones dressed in our colors in the steep village.
The road got so extreme and we proved too heavy for the truck even in 4×4 mode, that we could not make it up that road. So, we set out on foot across a cow path that made the prior road look like salt flats, in comparison. We had divided the produce into everybody’s bags before making the ascent. Rosa Maria, who was hosting the event for MAGA, met us at an unbelievably) narrowing branch – with room for only one of my feet at a time. She coaxed us around barbed wire on the left, and cautioned about the precipice yawning on the right. Her compound had an outdoor sink, an ample shady front porch and a 10´x8´room with a wood-stove at one end. It also had turkeys, puppies and bunnies wandering around.
Introductions were made, prayers said and the meeting commenced. Everyone pitched in with the washing and chopping the vegetables — Don Samuel and I amused ourselves by discussing the virtues of rabbits vs. chickens. Rabbits mature in about half the time that chickens do but do not lay eggs, he would tell me. This factoid was offered after I told the agricultural engineer that I thought that rabbits laid eggs… and…he had believed me.
The group worked and visited and at the end seemed to enjoy the chicken soup and vegetarian rice dishes. On the way home, in the spirit of John Lennon, Rosa said (again in so many words) “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”
Of course, she did.