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San Juan

Today was a good day. We went to San Juan with our Spanish class and that was a very different experience than Guatemala City. We definitely stuck out so much more and we really felt like the very obvious minority present there, although I didn't feel threatened at all.

The people were very friendly and the general atmosphere was much different than the one at El Mercado Central in Guatemala City. The square in San Juan was packed with indigenous vendors, which was really interesting to see.

Although the streets and buildings were filled with venders the atmosphere seemed more relaxed to me. The vendors did not call out to you like they do in Guatemala City. We were able to stop and look/talk about various produce items that are native to Central America without the pressure to buy them.

I can picture what San Juan was like in my head but it will be impossible to really explain it to others when I get home to the U.S. I didn't take many pictures at all; although there were perfect opportunities just about any direction you would turn. As badly as I wanted to take so many pictures and as beautiful as they would be I couldn't bring myself to take them. I took one picture that was a general shot of a large crowd, but I felt as thought I was violating the people and couldn't take anymore.

San Juan was filled with so many smells, colors, textures and I'm sure tastes (although I didn't eat any of the food.). There was beautifully woven cloth, piles of vegetables, and stacks of fruit-whole or bagged and peeled. There were women kneeling behind piles of flowers.

One set of husband and wife pair-each holding a sleeping child in their arms knelt behind their flowers. Then there was the older woman who was trying to keep the brown hen in her carrying hand basket, but it was trying to jump out. There was fried food and lines of restaurant type meals fixed in large bowls. Some women had fly swatters to keep insects away from their food and others had not only a basket full of fruit, but full of flies as well.

There was the women who balanced the tray of individual jell-o cups on her head, each cup complete with a miniature plastic spoon. There was the boy selling batteries, the man selling peanuts and the women selling flowers with the legs of her dinner tied up next to her flower pile (a turkey and a hen).

Not only was San Juan amazing but the trip there was as well. I was fascinated by these indigenous people and their lifestyle. I loved seeing the way they would give their packages to the man at the door of the bus, he'd run back, climb up the ladder, and put it on top of the bus. It was also interesting to see them take it off the top. Everyone moves so fast during this process and really works together.

One thing that I was completely shocked by was a women and her daughter who sat in front of me. They were dressed in indigenous attire and were on their way to San Juan to sell their goods in the market. We have read so much about how much the Mayans respect the earth as well as other indigenous tribes. Lisa and I couldn't believe it when the mother handed her daughter her chip bag, which was then tossed out of the window. A little while later the window had slipped down further so the mother leaned over and chucked a large black plastic bag that was packed full with garbage. I couldn't get over it. Lisa and I just looked at each other and that action would not get out of my head. No matter how hard I tried. I couldn't come up with any way that it would make sense that the bag would somehow be better off as trash on the side of the road than it would be in their laps, or hands until they could get to a trashcan.

I was trying not to be judgmental, but I was totally shocked that anyone would do that, let alone an indigenous woman. Perhaps that sounds racist, or prejudice in some way, but those were my honest feelings. It seemed once again to fit into the category of so many contradictions here in Guatemala.

- Melissa Horst

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