This is day 3 of the wonderful Guatemala trip. This is the first time I have the left the country and even really experienced another culture. Today we met with a group called GAM and a women's weaving cooperative called Corazon de Mujer. We then drove three hours to Xela.
We started off our day going to the GAM headquarters. GAM roughly in english translates to group of mutual support. The group was started in the 80's when people started disappearing in Guatemala. The people who were mainly disappearing were university students, leaders and any educated person. 1 in 125 persons disappeared at this time or 20,000 people. This is a scary statistic because the families of these people still don't have answers for the tragedy they went through. Very few have gotten the remains back or have gotten justice for what happened. Imagine everyday knowing that at any point you or a family member could just disappear forever and nobody would know what happened to you or them. GAM was created by people who wanted answers. They started demanding justice or even just the remains back so they could lay their loved ones to rest. In the mid 80's one of the leaders, Maria, was killed along with her two year old son and 14 year old brother. Later it showed that Maria and her son's were tortured before being killed. Many of the other leaders were terrified for their lives after this. People were outside of their houses watching their every move. I would have been so scared knowing that someone was watching me ready to kill me if I did something they didn't approve of. I believe though God was present because GAM's story didn't end there. They kept pushing for answers and filing complaints hoping to be heard. In 2008, an order was approved to search a military base called Creompaz. There they found a mass grave. When the military was asked about it they said those were all people who died in an earthquake. The remains though showed signs of torture and many bodies had bond feet and hands, and bullet holes in their skulls. The military was still trying to cover up something that happened over 20 years ago because the magnitude of the situation. 14 people were arrested when they found all of this and the trial is happening right. I only hope that someone can identify who those people were so the remains can be returned home. There are people searching and praying for them. I hope that these people finally get justice and answers. The people of GAM lay down their life everyday for others. They are truly living as the disciples of Jesus did. The voices of the missing need to be heard.
After we left GAM we drove to Chimaltenango, to visit a women's weaving cooperative. These women were so inspiring. In such a patriarchal society, these found their voices. One woman named Dora said that at first they weren't sure if they were allowed to speak, but now that they know they can nobody can shut them up. This speaks on so many levels about how they have so much to give to society and also how people should listen to what they have to say. She said that at first these women weren't sure if they could run a business, but now nobody can shut them up from what they are doing. The group started when the founder was forced to flee her village because it was being attacked by soldiers. Her and her family had to run to the mountains. She got separated from her husband who had two of the kids, so it was just her and her newborn daughter. Now, when they had to flee she couldn't take anything with her not even diapers. She met up with some of the other villagers and her baby wouldn't stop crying, but she had no diapers to change it. The villagers gave her a choice either leave by yourself with the baby or kill the baby. They even showed her how to kill the baby easily, and so the baby wouldn't feel that much. Then she could just toss it into the river. Luckily, she left on her own and spent 15 days out by herself in the mountains. Then she finally found her husband and two kids, and they went to GAM to seek refuge. They stayed there three months before moving to the building where to cooperative is. The cooperative isn't for women who want a handout, but for women who want a job. The women split up the cooking and the cleaning each day. Everyone carries their own weight in the community. This tight night close group of women show that even in a male dominated society women can flourish. These women took night classes at CEDPCA and even sell their products in a store in Guatemala now. They are truly an inspiration to all of us. I don't think I could do what they do.
I believe God sent me on this trip for a reason. I felt called to come here and I think now it is so I can hear all these stories. God speaks to us in mysterious ways and I believe he is speaking to me through these people in Guatemala. It has been making me reflect within a lot. I want to start living my life simply and not worry about the stuff I have, but more the people I surround myself with.