Oxlajuj B’atz’ planned an ambitious two day marketing seminar for twenty-five Mayan artisans. The women arrived at OB headquarters prepared to work over night. That means that they came without children and could really concentrate. Lucia Chavez prepared sessions to introduce the concept of creating a “line” of goods. And, beyond that, she would instruct the managers on how to evaluate the progress of the group of offerings, how to code and how to take inventory. This is sophisticated stuff for artisans of any stripe.
To accommodate the low literacy rate of the group members, exhibits were prepared with clever symbols to indicate phases that a line goes through. At the top left of each sheet was a star, further down was a (cash) cow and to the right toward the lower left was the dog. The object was to place the craft items that each cooperative creates into one of the categories. The under-performing “dogs” were to be discontinued and the “cow” would need to be elevated to “star” status. After this induction, the artisans had the vocabulary and concepts of Seventh Avenue “Rag Traders.” They spent much of the day reviewing the goods from each group using the new rubric.
Coding is another matter. Apparently there was confusion about prior systems and many codes needed to be revised to conform to the current model. By having the women come to the center and learn the task, the ability to generate codes was advanced and OB hopes that this will sharply reduce ambiguity in the field. The class would go on to exercise this new skill in the context of selecting and ordering a group of “cows” into a cohesive line.
The women had voted, earlier in the session, to continue making original and fine goods and to position their store for the up-market shopper. Lucia told them that their choice meant they would have to carefully merchandise the line to attract those customers. The sessions broke out onto several tables. One group was stacking chocolates and coffee, others arranged the long scarves in color order and investigated different ways of folding and displaying the woven items, others evaluated stuffed toys and mini-hacky sack key chains.
The next morning they would clean out the store in order to take their first inventory. This activity was a bit of a shock. They discovered that many items that the cooperatives had delivered to be sold were missing. The sense of confusion around this loss provides sufficient incentive for them to repeat the process every six months. Lucia confirmed that there was no money for insurance for theft or loss at the store and she thought that getting a Business Interruption insurance for 700 OB members would also be prohibitive.
The women returned to their studios with awareness and a fresh focus knowing that on Monday, their store will open with an order that they affirmed and contributed.
Oxlajuj B’atz ‘ previsto un ambicioso dos días seminario de marketing por veinticinco artesanos mayas. Las mujeres llegaron a la sede de OB preparado para trabajar durante la noche. Eso significa que ellos vinieron sin hijos y realmente podían concentrarse . Lucía Chávez había preparado dos días de sesiones para introducir el concepto de crear una “línea ” de los bienes . Y, más allá de eso, ella daría instrucciones a los administradores en la forma de evaluar los avances del grupo de ofrendas, cómo codificar y cómo hacer un inventario . Esto es algo sofisticado para los artesanos de cualquier índole .
Para dar cabida a la baja tasa de alfabetización de los miembros del grupo, exposiciones fueron preparadas con símbolos inteligentes para indicar las fases que una línea atraviesa . En la parte superior izquierda de cada hoja era una estrella , más abajo había un (efectivo) de la vaca y de la derecha hacia la esquina inferior izquierda era el perro . El objetivo era colocar los artículos de artesanía que crea cada cooperativa en una de las categorías. Los “perros” de bajo rendimiento se interrumpieran y la ” vaca ” tendría que ser elevado a la condición de “estrella” . Tras esta inducción , los artesanos tenían el vocabulario y los conceptos de la Séptima Avenida ” Rag Traders. ” Pasaron la mayor parte del día la revisión de los bienes de cada grupo utilizando la nueva rúbrica.
Codificación es otro asunto. Al parecer hubo confusión acerca de los sistemas anteriores y muchos códigos necesarios para ser revisado para ajustarse al modelo actual. Al tener las mujeres vienen al centro y aprender la tarea, la capacidad de generar códigos era avanzada y OB espera que esto reducirá notablemente, la ambigüedad en el campo. La clase se encendería ejercer esta nueva habilidad en el contexto de la selección y clasificación de un grupo de “vacas” en una línea coherente.
Las mujeres habían votado, más temprano en la sesión, de continuar la fabricación de bienes originales y finas y para posicionar su tienda para el comprador hasta el mercado . Lucia les dijo que su elección significaba que tendrían que mercancía cuidadosamente la línea para atraer a esos clientes. Las sesiones estallaron en varias mesas . Un grupo estaba apilando chocolates y café , otros organizan las bufandas largas en orden de color y se investigan las diferentes formas de plegado y la visualización de los artículos tejidos , otros evalúan los juguetes de peluche y mini- Hacky Sack llaveros.
A la mañana siguiente iban a limpiar la tienda con el fin de tomar su primer inventario . Esta actividad fue un poco de un choque . Ellos descubrieron que muchos artículos que las cooperativas habían entregado para ser vendidos faltaban . El sentido de la confusión en torno a esta pérdida proporciona suficiente incentivo para que repetir el proceso cada seis meses. Lucía confirmó que no había dinero para el seguro por robo o pérdida en la tienda y ella pensó que conseguir una interrupción del negocio para los miembros OB también sería prohibitivo.
Las mujeres volvieron a sus estudios con la conciencia y un enfoque fresco a sabiendas de que el lunes , su tienda se abrirá con un orden que afirmaban y contribuyeron .
Rosa Garcia-Garcia was busy preparing for her September visitors from Feed the Children. She told us weeks in advance that there would be an exhibit of her projects as part of their formal welcome. This meant we should be ready to suit-up in our Totonicapan traje and ready to dance the Mayan Welcoming Dance when the special guests got to Patanatic. Also, Rosa wanted me to help put part of the show together – for a while, there, she seemed to be requesting some kind of a Powerpoint presentation. (Now, Rosa is one canny Mayan woman but “Powerpoint” is not part of her daily lexicon.) She would remain mysterious about just what kind of display she was thinking about. But, whatever it was it was meant to chronicle the array of supporters she has garnered for her pueblo over the last two decades. She wanted to celebrate her key collaborators like the government agrarian agency, MAGA, and the NGO’s like Feed the Children, Mayan Traditions and Oxlajuj B’atz that bring work and aid. This was going to be a big production – from the pine needles on the floor to the festoons on the eaves. Like the fabled Mrs. Dalloway she anticipated everything but unlike Clarissa, Rosa can not just amble down to Fleet Street for her party goods. She would need to scour beyond Santander and go all the way to Totonicapan to find the perfect favors. Beyond recruiting dancers, Rosa would have to arrange for teams to lay out samples of their work and, then, she had to name everybody who would prepare food. There was so much to do.
At last, days before the event, she summoned me up the mountain to sort through a stack of out of focus, faded Kodachromes. She, Odilia and Wendy were there marking-up the new Totonicapan fabrics for embroidery. They needed to emblazon words of thanks on each piece in the small stack of stripped and pattered cloths along with everything else that had to be done over the next few days. These were ladies in a hurry but, somehow, Odila was dispatched with some reluctance; she would guide me in making the graphic. It would be a collage with ten images. So, we laid in a photos of Marianne Wise and Rosa holding up an early Rag Rug from 2005 and women working at sewing machines dating from 1996. The mushrooms, medicinal/spice plants, cucumbers and the chickens are vintage 2012 and all would be very large when printed our on a one meter square poster.
The guests would see the women’s dance complete with younger women strewing rose petals and, then, the children performed their snappy quadrille. By way of thanks, Rosa explained her projects and the honorees would receive their gifts. Odila wore her grandmother’s tocoyale and MC’ed; she called for a different person to recognize each recipient. When it came time to give Karina Reyna, DVM her memento, Rosa perched a chicken on her arm as tangible proof that the project had succeeded. The bird promptly pooped – a sure sign of good luck. In this esteemed company, I was very surprised to also be honored for escuela de globos.
Rosa García-García estaba ocupado preparándose para sus visitantes septiembre de Feed the Children. Ella nos dijo semanas antes de que habría una exposición de sus proyectos como parte de la bienvenida formal. Esto significa que debemos estar preparados para adaptarse en marcha en nuestro traje Totonicapán y listo para bailar el Baile de Bienvenida maya cuando los invitados especiales llegaron a Patanatic. Además, Rosa quería que yo para ayudar a poner parte del espectáculo juntos – por un tiempo, allí, ella parecía estar pidiendo una especie de presentación en Powerpoint. (Ahora, Rosa es una mujer astuta maya pero “Powerpoint” no forma parte de su léxico diario.) Ella permanecería misterioso sobre qué tipo de pantalla que estaba pensando. Pero, fuera lo que fuera que estaba destinado a la crónica de la matriz de seguidores que ha cosechado por su pueblo en las últimas dos décadas. Quería celebrar sus colaboradores clave, como la agencia gubernamental agraria, MAGA, y los piensos como de la ONG de los Niños, Tradiciones mayas y Oxlajuj B’atz que aportan trabajo y ayuda. Esto iba a ser una gran producción – de las agujas de pino en el suelo para las guirnaldas en los aleros. Al igual que la legendaria señora Dalloway se prevé todo, pero a diferencia de Clarissa, Rosa no sólo puede preámbulo a Fleet Street para los bienes de su partido. Ella tendría que recorrer más allá de Santander y recorrer todo el camino a Totonicapán para encontrar los favores perfectos. Más allá de los bailarines de reclutamiento, Rosa tendría que organizar equipos para diseñar muestras de su trabajo y, a continuación, tuvo que nombrar a todos los que se preparan los alimentos. Había muchas cosas que hacer.
Por fin, unos días antes del evento, ella me llamó a la montaña para ordenar a través de una pila de fuera de foco, Kodachromes descoloridas. Ella, Odilia y Wendy estaban allí trazado hasta los tejidos Totonicapán nuevos para el bordado. Tenían que adornan palabras de agradecimiento en cada pieza de la pequeña pila de trapos pelados y repiqueteaba junto con todo lo demás que había que hacer en los próximos días. Eran señoras que tienen prisa, pero, de alguna manera, Odila se expidan con cierta reticencia, ella me guiará en la toma del gráfico. Sería un collage con diez imágenes. Por lo tanto, hemos sentado en una fotos de Marianne Wise y Rosa sosteniendo una manta Rag principios de 2005, y las mujeres que trabajan en las máquinas de coser que datan de 1996. Las setas, las plantas medicinales / especias, pepinos y los pollos son de época de 2012 y todo sería muy grande cuando se imprime nuestro en un cartel de un metro cuadrado.
Los invitados a ver la danza de las mujeres completar con mujeres más jóvenes esparciendo pétalos de rosa y, a continuación, los niños realizaron su ágil cuadrilla. A modo de agradecimiento, Rosa explicó sus proyectos y los premiados recibirán sus regalos. Odila tocoyale llevaba su abuela y MC’ed, ella llamó a una persona diferente a reconocer cada destinatario. Cuando llegó el momento de dar Karina Reyna, DVM su recuerdo, Rosa encaramado a un pollo en su brazo como prueba tangible de que el proyecto había tenido éxito. El pájaro pooped rápidamente – un signo seguro de la buena suerte. En esta compañía estimada, yo estaba muy sorprendido también será honrado por la Escuela de globos.
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Meet the Mayans
My two K’iche students bridge me into their Mayan community.
From my gringa’s distance, I have fairly gawked at how the Mayan women show up in their fancy suits (traje) to pedal their wears or just to work in the fields. No matter where they are, they appear utterly stately in their long hand loomed skirts, ornate belts, embroidered guipels and, with a head dressing added, the effect is strictly couture. And, these ladies dart in and out of the pick-up trucks gingerly hauling bundles and kids in this costume.
As for the men, their traditional dress might be hot colored woven pants and (in Solola) they wrap a knee length brown and cream wool sarong cum kidney belt over these. On market days, they top off this ensemble with an equally loud cowboy shirt and a crispy ten gallon hat. But in comparison to the majority of women in traje, seeing the men’s outfit is rare. Of the few guys that I have seen attired this way, none have been younger than fifty.
So, why do men eschew regional costumes and favor a western look? My student’s answer that only the women are about preserving tradition or that the men shucked out of their folk-wear so as not to be identified when they went out of their areas during the civil war. In any case, on the chicken bus the girls are suited up like their moms and the boys and dads are in t-shirts and jeans.
I enjoy going to Yolanda’s — Her house is situated way down a dirt road and up a path to a high tier overlooking stepped fields. One of the things I love about going there is that the Mayans travel in tight puppy piles – by choice. They will squish themselves – all friendly-like – into the first few seats and leave the rest of the bus vacant. This is oh so different from the US, where people prize “the privacy” of vacant seats. Since I do not drive, my travel is via the stereotypic, black plume spewing, old school busses or by minibus shuttles. Yesterday, the shuttle had twenty-four adults beside the driver and the wing man, who collects fares and acts as an usher/stuffer. I had a spare baby on my lap on the way to los Encuentros. Many Mayans can stand up right in a mini-van bracing themselves as it lurches and heaves around the turns but, when I get in one with no seats, I try to share a lower footing with “the stuffer” on the van’s doorstep and, even with that, I am still hunched over.
Yolanda, my more distant student wisely suggested that our lessons be on Thursdays – market day – because the pick-up trucks run 2-4 times an hour from her village, Quijel, direct to the turn-off or further on to Chichicastenango. I arrive about 10:00 AM and they are all working on Hooked Rugs for the upcoming show in Minnesota – “Mary Anne Wise and Friends.”
The schedule out here is that the family of sisters and their mom concentrate on the Oxlajuj B’atz’ project all morning and just before the kids get home, lunch is prepared up at Yolanda’s. Everyone comes home for this meal and they are way too generous with their guest. Last week my plate held a giant thigh and drum stick carefully hidden under a stack of tortillas. This week Yolanda tried (unsuccessfully) to give me half of the breast. Yolanda’s husband and the boys (cousins) ordinarily take seats at the table and the women sit on the floor. Yolanda’a mother has a dry sense of humor and pointed out between bites that even though Fire was a “Chinese invention” they use it here, anyway.
This week Yolanda’s husband, Estaban, is a baker (last week he was doing construction) and he came home with a bag of pan dulce and a fresh pressed video of an “Accion d’Gracia” held last week at the church. Since Estaban plays base in the church band, we all wanted to watch it. So, with soup bowls in hand, seven of us lunched on Mariella’s bed.
The plinking of the guitars and the singing sounded more mournful than celebratory to me and I asked what the occasion was. It was an “action of gratitude” because three brothers from the village had found work in the United States and they had left the village for a year.
As the video panned the thirty or so neighbors praying, focus fell on the three men’s father standing next to two of their wives. The lens would revisit this group and their positions and faces never changed. The two women were breathing high in their chests and held their babies tightly and stood close to their father-in-law — all three of them stiff and solemn. I asked if the men’s employment was “legitimate” or not. It is not. The brothers are currently traveling across borders with a “coyote” and everyone is waiting for news of their safe arrival.
The video went on, Estaban played while Zoila sang and the camera incidentally focused on the Calgua women in turn. At last, the orations began and the father and wives got down on their knees in front of the gushing array of flowers. From above, the camera paused and held to on to a single framed photo of one of the brothers; it was the only one they had. The camera held still over the stoic trio as they began to keen. While the two wives listened in silence, the men’s father put a hand over his eyes .
This video was stark confirmation that despite their talents and hard work, these proud K’iche Mayans live in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in South America. And, up in Quijel, when a family does not have enough land to support itself, someone has to go north.
Yolanda Calgua and Rosa F. Garcia are K’iche speaking Mayans. They have been selected to appear in a show called “Mary Anne Wise and Friends” opening in Minnesota’s Anderson Center.
I had volunteered with Oxlajuj B’atz’ (an educational foundation) and was delighted to learn that one of my jobs would be to teach these ladies the basics of N. American cocktail chatter.
But, wait, wait, first, they must learn to say “Hello.”
With lessons spread over 2-3 months, for Yo-Ro “success” would be if they are able to navigate public spaces, greet people and minimally discuss their work and families… Much of this instruction is done through ROTE memorization and DRILLING phrases from musicals like: “Hi my name is Rosa, what’s yours?” and “This rug is ‘Lovely absolutely Lovely.'”
The good news is: Rosa lives close to me in Patanatic – just a 20 minute uphill tuk-tuk ride. But, Yolanda lives way-way out in Quijel – just this side of Chichicastenanga and deep in the mountains. It takes four transfers to get to her: Panajachel to Solola to los Encuentros to the turn off and from there, it is a 15 minute pick up truck ride to their compound. If I make every connection perfectly, it takes me about an hour and one half. Quijel is further out than Flatbush.
Last Thrusday, while trying to reduce the “friction of distance” to Yolanda’s and get beyond Quijel to my tailor in the state of Quiche, I had a NY moment. This is not a good thing to have in Guatemala.
I had to do small but unavoidable errands (like getting cash and buying food for my hosts) before catching the first chicken bus that morning,. I had the ambitious (but, do-able) plan of getting up to Santa Cruz D’Quiche (45 minutes above Chichi) that day. My goal was to get Yolanda tutored, snag a pick up to Chichi; the bus to the tailor in Sta Cruz and double back to Chichi in time to catch a nonstop shuttle to Pana. The Bonus would be to get back, with my custom made Tipica zoot suit before 6:00PM.
I was about hustling to the bank at 8AM, when I saw a taxi parked across from the church. This was a “real” TAXI (with the little light on the top) and I thought it was one beat up mirage.
I had to ask:
Will he take me all the way to Santa Cruz d’Quiche?
“Yes,” he says.
Make a few stops on the way?
“Yes,” he says.
In a flash I ask him how much if I hire him until 6PM if I pay gas?
“About 50 bucks,” he says (A little more than the round trip shuttle to Chichi and I was going beyond that…)
We agree on $45 and with cash in hand, I jump in directing him to go three blocks to PanaSuper for the goodies. Soon enough we are off to Solola, the first stop is to pop in and deliver Adonna’s gift to the Asociacion Maya. After this is accomplished in less than 20 minutes, I am liking my plan more and promise to buy the drive lunch in Santa Cruz D’Quiche at the Mansion d’ Chef. But, first we will go to Yolanda.
And would he mind filming the class for me??
“No Problemo,” he says
I begin telling him about pans, zooms, pulling focus, cutting on movement and form, etc. Expecting the best, I am carefully reciting “The Art of the Film” in broken Spanish.
And, since he told me he knew the way, I am hardly looking for the turn-off to Yolanda’s.
Suddenly, I notice that we have crossed into Chichi.
Is he is blowing though to Sta. Cruz, first?
That was not the plan.
I ask him what is going on and he says that it will cost me 100’s of extra Q’s to go to Sta Cruz and we are going now.
That was not the plan
…the Mansion d’ Chef doesn’t even open until lunch.
He then tells me that he doesn’t want to wait for the English class to be over. He wants to return to Panjachel immediately.
After a few minutes of this annoying patter, I am on the verge of flaming. And,when he told me he did not understand the plan, I took to screeching.
“How can you have misunderstood “Santa Cruz D’ Quiche” it is the Capital city of Quiche; a destination? You sure understood the lunch part,”
I am seething and it is time to be at Yolanda’s if the plan is going to work. I tell him there will absolutely be no extra money and to turn around, now, forget lunch and take me to Yolanda’s, pronto.
This time around I am keenly scouting the turnoff and direct him to go there. By now, he is muttering that he needs to go to church and I second that emotion by calling him a “liar and a cheat” in my best Spanish. (Yes, yes I know he could just as easily leave me on the road or chop me up in little pieces with a machete but I am having a NYC moment.)
As you can see by the photo, I retrieved my zoot suit. And believe it or leave it, I made it back to Pana via flying chicken by 6:30PM.