Guatemala

by Saundra M. Saunders

Imagine seeing an erupting volcano, as you begin your descent, by plane, into an unknown environment. Imagine being greeted by armed military men who look at you, but do not speak. Finally, imagine being in a country where none o f the people you meet, speak your language. If you can imagine this, then you might be able to imagine my feelings. Feelings of excitement, anxiety, and and the feeling that no matter how peolple have treated you in the past, your sense of adventure must spur you on. And so, my adventures took me to San Andrés a place where no African American woman had been before.

I wonder if Esteban Dorantes had these feelings when he was sent to explore Florida in 1527. Or, if Matthew Henson had these feelings in 1909, as he discovered the North Pole. And how about the feelings of Mae C. Jemison must have had in 1991, when she became the first African American woman astronaut to travel into space. Thank goodness my sense of adventure provided impetus for a wonderful adventure to Guatemala.

There are many impressions of Guatemala, but, if you are truly looking for adventure, San Andrés is the place for you. The Launche [lancha], or boat, will take you accross a beautiful blue green lake to the wonderful place known as San Andrés. The mystique of the lake is tied closely to the island.

Upon arrival, we realized theat this was not as we had suspected. It is a place where the average income is under ten thousand dollars a year. Most of the people do not have indoor toilets, yet work from sun up to sun down just to make a living.

Their main daily diet is black beans and tortillas. Yet, with so many hardships and such adversity, the people still take time to participate in reforestation projects, and rebuild huts for their neighbors.

I stayed with one of the nicest families in San Andrés. Lucas and Bertilda were warm, hospitable, and worked very hard to make me feel welcome. They shared everything.

The teachers at the school were so concerned for my health, that they pulled me aside, and with a Spanish-English dictionary, told me not to go on walks at 2:00 in the afternoon (the hottest part of the day). I took their advice.

The children continously asked me questions. One of the members of our trip spoke both Spanish and English and helped translate for us. They asked me about my hair, eyes, earrings, and all of the things you would like to ask people of other races or cultures. Then they said that it was nice to know that there were people of color all over the world. I certainly agree.

Everyone knew me or knew of me, and they were very protective, even when I went off the island.

I learned many things, while visiting San Andrés. But one important thing to remember is that a loving heart, and trust, can get you through any adversity.


Edited by Carlos R. Solís

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last updated on September 19, 1995 by CRS