Sounds of Guatemala

by Cindy Tedesco

BioEsfera Project Essays

Traces of my journey to Guatemala linger behind, but until now I have had difficulty putting my experiences on paper. Thoughts would go parading past my brain then be gone just as fast as they had come. It took me unti l this morning to realize that before this trip I had been too busy to pay any real attention to the sounds around me. Since my return, I have taken extra time each morning to listen to the morning sounds that I hadn't heard for a long time. Every day sounds have all taken on a new meaning for me, since our trip to the Petén.

These new listening skills surfaced early on our second day in Guatemala. While hiking through Tikal National Park, individual sounds that had been blocked for so long began to register again as separate sounds with meaning. The wind blowing through t he trees at the Pyramids took on new meaning. I thought about the people who had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build these magnificent structures. If I listened closely I was able to hear the faint noises of a city living and breathing. As I approached the Jaguar Temple, which towers above the plaza I was able to imagine throngs of people congregated to celebrate some glorious occasion. Finally at Temple IV, many sounds beat against my ear drums. The strongest was the beating of my heart and the pulsing of my blood as I climbed straight up the metal ladder to the top. Eventually the chanting of the birds replaced the sounds of fear, as I looked down upon the birds darting in and out from the ledges below. These were songs of happiness and peace.

Later that evening I experienced one of the funniest sounds of the trip. The very social Howler Monkey started its nightly ritual, contacting friends and family without the aid of a telephone. This sound resembles donkeys in distress and invades the silence of the jungle for about an hour each night. Strange pictures certainly came to mind as I listened from the darkened bedroom.

In San Andrés, many new sounds bombarded my brain. At 5:30 A. M.. the roosters would start, followed shortly by a mother sow and her squealing piglets. She crashed through the streets with those piglets following at break neck speed. Breakfast was so on to follow as they reached their destination. Shortly thereafter, the fan started its whirling as electricity brought it to life. Around 7 A. M,, I experienced the most important sounds of the day. The primary students headed off to school in smal l groups. Their sounds filled the quiet with laugher and joy, not the usual screaming and taunting that I am accustomed to hearing in similar situations when children are gathered. This feeling was reinforced later on in the week when I had to spend t he afternoon in bed. Children played for hours in the streets without the usual complaining, yelling, or constant correction from parents. These sounds brought the hope that a simpler way of life might ease the strain of every day life. Now that I'm back in the United States, I have found myself listening more intently to the sounds around me--every day sounds that I haven't enjoyed for a long time. The people and sounds in Guatemala helped me regain a new perspective. In a world that keeps moving faster and faster, I received the gift of individual sounds in Guatemala.

Edited by Carlos R. Solís