Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Hola from Guatemala!

A Caba family.

Hola folks.  In 45 minutes Team 2 leaves Nebaj for the longest walking trip -- Mirador Chajul, Xecoyeu, Santa Clara, Nueva Amachel, Antigua Amachel, Bella Vista, and Caba/Caba La Laguna.  The walk out from Caba to Chel is the really tough one.  We won't be back in e-mail contact until late July 16.

I thought we would be doing this with a few photos from Team 1 participant Hayme Leon, but they haven't reached me yet.  You will have to accept prose.

Everybody is alive and well, though Team 1 did have its moments -- very compressed trip, some minor illnesses, and one harrowing ride on a very narrow and rough 4WD mountain road with many obstacles, an inexperienced driver, and an overloaded vehicle.  I still have bruises where my upper arm kept banging against a metal pole used to stretch a loma (canvas cover) over the back in case of rain (we got to stay al fresco, no rain -- all umpteen of us standing in the back with the cargo).


Militarization is continuing apace, with soldiers at every demonstration of people seeking social justice -- like the students occupying their school to protest changes in education plans, a block from Casa San Jose, where we stay in the Capital; and oh the road between Nebaj and Chajul, the Ixil Area soldiers carrying galils.  They looked so very young and out of place to me.  More evidence of this, and resistance, in the Ixil Area, where we are now.  Note:  under the Peace Accords, the army can be used only for protecting national borders, except in a national emergency, so all this activity is in violation.  Domingo Alvarez, who has driven both teams and all the meds and our personal packs to the points where we will start walking, says that when he sees the soldiers, he is reminded of all that transpired in the past, beginning when soldiers entered his village when he was 6, destroyed the village, and executed some of the leaders.

Domingo, who is also on the Lead Health Team and handles our money when it is turned over for payments to health workers and for other in-country medical needs, has been elected president of the overall 22-community CPR-Sierra organization.  He says he can do both.  It is very, very generous of him to give us his time as he starts to assume his new office.

Hydroelectric installation, massive on some formerly free-running wild rivers, is continuing apace in the Ixil Area, as is local resistance.  There are no local benefits in terms of more or cheaper electricity.  Everyone says the electricity is bound for Mexico and beyond.  Ironically, Nebaj, which has outgrown its electrical system, is still subject to daily brown-outs, especially in the evening and when it rains.  One passes slogans painted on rocks and on the highway, "The rivers and the holy earth are for the Ixil people," and "No to mining," and "No to hydroelectric."  Team 1 drove right by one of the installations, on the Finca San Francisco, where the finca guard told us the finca and hydroelectric were private property and we could not take photos or stop.  Once we passed him, we got some good ones of the hydroelectric, before the aforesaid harrowing trip over the mountain and down into Zona Reina, Uspantan, the second-largest resettlement community.

TEAM 1 HIGHLIGHTS (I have to finish everything in 10 minutes, now)

Among the team, incredible raw intelligence and some very useful skills -- Midwife-RN Kerry, and RN-diabetes expert Jordan, and artist Richard, among others.  All of us were a wee bit under-utilized, but the trip was useful and productive for all, including the loal health workers.  We were ably accompanied by Diego Lopez of the Equipo de Salud.

This trip was too compressed to admit much interaction with local groups, but we did get women's leader Nazaria Tum Sanic to give us an impressive overview of 30 years of CPR-Sierra history and a glance at current women's organization and activism.  In Nebaj, we also met with the Health Ministry Extension de Cobertura (Health extension services, where ther are no regular services) director, who welcomed our presence and gave us letters authorizing us to use Health MInistry limited medicines if ours gave out.  They also said their budget has been so constrained that they can no longer buy trimetroprin sulfa or local anesthesia for wound-suturing.  They begged us to try to find them 20 vials of lidocaine.  (hope my spelling is ok).

Team 1 then headed out for on-foot giras Chaxa, Santa Rosa, and Pal, Area Xeputul, to work with the local health promoters.  In Chaxa and Pal, we found somewhat-discouraged local workers.  In contrast, Chico in SAnta Rosa had his little two-room clinic well organized, and had meds.

Because of Kerry's presence, we saw many pregnant women and their midwives, to good effect.  We were able to reinforce advice that one woman should leave in advance of her due date, as her baby was very, very small.  In addition, we did more hemoglobin testing than in the past.  Preliminary results would suggest that there is less anemia in these communities than the astonishingly high figures passed around internationally; but we may need to factor in altitude and a few other variables.

Two points of interest, with more infor to follow when I get a break in late July:  A young coule in Pal who had a baby born with a growth that needs correction now that she is one year old waitied patiently for us and agreed to walk out with ust to the little hospital in Nebaj.  Because of the presence of all the giranos-as, the family received royal treatment.  They were advised to go to Santa Cruz de Quiche for special x-rays, to rule out spinal nerve involvement, and we were able to pay for the private x-ray (not the right term) with funds donated by Project friend [Sherley S. in Phoenix.  The very conscientious young father has delivered these to the social worker in Nebaj, and the Nebaj doctors decided that the surgery should take place in Guatemala City.  Plans are in the works.

Additionally, on the trail we heard Mateo's story about his early life.  He had met us between Chaxa and Santa Rosa.

More later -- especially re Team 2.  They are waiting, to begin the long drive and then the uphioll waalk into Mirador Chajul.

Abrazoa a todos.  Ila