Another Semana Santa, Holy Week or Easter has just passed me by in Antigua. For those who don´t know, the Semana Santa processions here are one of the highlights of the Catholic Church calendar in this part of the world. It is a spectacle of flower carpets, incense, purple robed cucurucho (people that carry the anda, the procession float I suppose we would call it). The purple is worn until Good Friday and then apparently they change to black. I have to admit I hadn´t even noticed this important dress change. Antigua is invaded by thousands of pilgrims and tourists and you have to forget about driving anywhere for a few days. People take to their bicycles, motorbikes or walk. So far as to say, it really is a big deal and Guatemalans fly home from all over the world to take part in this event.
Semana Santa for me (oh so spiritual that I am) has begun to mean lots of hassle and no nanny for 4 days but this being my last one for the foreseeable future, I did plan to get out and about and see some processions with the tribe but was struck down with food poisoning for 2 days which destroyed my will to fight my way into town through the crowds. I was planning to make it to one of the processions at dusk when the lights, the incense smoke and the beauty of the whole thing even makes this confirmed atheist feel a little spiritual!
Although I am not religious I have to admit to liking the Catholics more after my 7 years here in Guatemala. I am not sure why, but it may be something to do with their history and their discretion. My friends who are catholics here never try to justify themselves, their faith is something private and they are not interested in preaching to others. It is something that most of them feel is so culturally embedded in them that they would never question it. I even have to admit to being a little bit jealous of their faith and the peace and composure that comes with it. Also you have to admire the beautiful churches and cathedrals that fill Antigua, if nothing else.
On the other hand the evangelicals who are down here taking over, scare the living daylights out of me! This fundamental, fervent, self righteous bunch never miss a moment to tell you all about their faith and why they are better than anyone else. Missionaries with T shirts that proclaim to the world that they love God and he loves them more than anyone else. I´ve seen it all! Huge grotesque churches with multi-storey car parks shooting up where money could be better spent on education and food for the poor.
Also if you look at the history of the war here in the 80´s the catholics actually behaved like christians, fighting for human rights and trying to stop the genocide.
The evangelicals were the ones who were killing in the name of God as far as I can work out.
Anyway enough about that and on to another Antigua subject. The NGO industry! Antigua is full of people who have come here to get a do-gooder star on their CV. If you want to skip around in your own moral high ground for a few months this really is the place to do it. There are no end of people here hanging out in bars talking up all the good work they are doing. The longer I have been here the more I have realised that the people who really are doing good work are the ones with the lowest profiles and the most humility and to those people I take off my hat! You know who you are my friends However for every one of those there seems to be about 100 self righteous dullards propping up the bar night after night telling everyone about all their good work and their hearts bleeding fake blood all the way home to their moralising little beds.
I tend to steer clear of these kind of people especially as my connection to Guatemala is profoundly deeper ………. my man and my three gorgeous hybrids. I sometimes feel that I know more about Gautemala and it´s psyche than these zealots as I married it and gave birth to it. But hey who am I to get on my high horse?
So it was with this jaded attitude that I discovered Dita and her skirts and fell in love with her project. This project reached out to me as a mother of Guatemalans and a discerning fashionista. I would not be seen dead in most of the hippy, traveller rubbish that gets peddled everywhere. But these skirts are BEAUTIFUL and look good on everybody. So here I am plugging them big style:
1000 Faces is a community-based initiative that is designed to help provide economic support and stability to local Mayan communities around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Each of the unique skirts, made partially with recycled materials, are sewn and hand-embellished by “Single Mayan Mothers” from villages around the lake. The 1000 Faces project is as complex and interdependent as the threads we weave together day by day to make a Skirt That Makes Sense. When you purchase a Skirt That Makes Sense, you help weave together the threads of nutrition, economic support and stability, and environmental protection.
Check out the website above and click on links to see her collection of very cool designs ……..skirts (my favourites), T shirts, bags , scarves and dresses.
One of the things that got me off my sick bed this semana santa was hooking Dita up with a new friend in town and starting to sell her skirts, brainstorm ways that we can help her wonderful project and share and show them to as many stylish discerning women we could. It is very much a work in progress and if anybody is interested in a skirt let me know!
I would like to dedicate this post to three women …….my oldest and dearest Guatemalan friend Fatima, who has always shown me the love and compassion of a good catholic woman and my new friends Lissette and Dita who have the energy and passion to help other women in this country by giving them the respect they deserve.