Friday, August 23, 2013

Guatemala #4 Looking One Family in the Eye

538 words, reading time 2.5 minutes.  Appreciating time a little longer

 Today Semilla Nueva is in Comunidad Andres Giron on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala for another community meal meant to improve nutrition by demonstrating new recipes with more protein, vitamins and minerals.  For me—and for you—however, it’s a chance to meet an extended Guatemalan family and see a little of who they are and how they live.  The food SN is promoting—higher protein corn, a spinach-like vegetable called chaya and pigeonpeas or gangul—will be covered more fully in a later post. 

We’re in the home Gabino and Gloria Geronimo which consists of three rooms under corrugated tin roofing plus several large plastic tarps covering part of a compound which is home to the usual free-range residents:  chickens, ducks, turkeys, puppies, cats and pigs.  Gabino calls himself “Father Abraham” but how many kids did Abraham have, anyway?  (And does he expect an angel to come and put Gloria through it all again?)

Gabino and Gloria have 13 children, eight boys and five girls, seven of them married and several living nearby.   One large bedroom accommodates 11 adults in queen beds but probably serves many more as children double or quadruple up.  There’s another double bed in the kitchen.  No wonder there’s a big crowd before any neighbors arrive. 

Preparation of the food begins.  Here, high protein corn is mixed with pigeonpeas and wrapped in banana leaves.

This is not a well-to-do family unless you count smiles as currency.  There is a welcome and comfort about the place that puts at ease my habit for analysis.  Gabino is full of himself during in two talks over the afternoon in which he pushes protein-rich food and Semilla Nueva. Gloria slices corn from the cob with a machete as the first among many preparing the meal.  I am introduced to several daughters-in-law but lose track before long.  The crowd grows as children return from school.


These kids read the recipes from Semilla Nueva's cookbook for me...great readers!

Above, the Semilla Nueva cookbook of meals with high nutritional value.  Guatemala has one of the highest concentrations of malnourished children n the world.

This young man has a friendly parrot which was passed into many hands.


The meal consists of a huge vat of a hot, thick drink called Acol de Elote which is made from the young, sweet corn with which Americans are most familiar (elote), and corn and pigeonpea wrapped in banana leaves.  The protein content of this meal will be considerably higher than the typical Guatemalan version because pigeonpeas or gangul are a principal ingredient.

But this is a bit academic compared to the experience of simply being here. 

I am a poor guide to Mayan families so let me continue to introduce you to the family and their guests simply, through pictures:




One of the sons, seen above in close-up, and below as he goes off to the fields with a pesticide spray pump on his back.  It's dangerous to his health but lots of young men do it.

After a while some women and girls begin to braid each other/s here, Julia being the girl in blue.

As I prepare to leave, Gabino wants to know if I am Catholic.  I answer yes, which seems to please him.  He fetches a picture of his family with  Fr. Andres Giron, Giron being an Orthodox Catholic priest still working elsewhere in Guatemala after whom the community is named. 

I’m told there is some conflict in the community between Catholic and Evangelical Christians, who seem to have donated the community water pump next door given by a church in Christ’s name. 

Guatemala is a “Catholic country” but from everything I can see, the religious initiative seems to come with the evangelicals.  Someone  counted 22 evangelical churches in Santiago Atitlan (which we will visit soon), and its not a large place.  The same seemed true in Korea.

 Communities typically have 400 families.  The Geronimo family must throw the Catholic-Evangelical balance off all by itself, a throw-back to old-time Catholicism.  In that spirit I ask, which one of the children should we wish had not been born?  And as for climate, I alone, no doubt, account for more carbon emissions than this entire family.
Everyone drinks from the same well.  No one checks the religion of those who have come today.   

Another good day in Guatemala. 


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