The night I arrived in Guatemala I prepared my camera bag, took a freezing cold shower, and slept for a few hours before waking up at 4:45 am to attend a Mayan Mam ceremony run by the priests that direct the community radio station I am working with, La X Musical. I met up with staff and volunteers for the organization Cultural Survival, which supports various community stations around Guatemala and advocates for the legalization of community radio. Together we travelled to Cajolá, Xela, a small Mayan Mam town an hour from the city center.
Upon arrival, the radio station, a small, bare building, was empty because the priests had already left to begin preparation for the ceremony. A friendly old man who turned out to be a member of the station, led us up to the ceremony, skillfully maneuvering the steep hill with a heavy load of firewood mounted on his back. We followed a thin white electrical wire that ran from the station's power source at the base of the hill and through the forest, eventually connecting to two monitors at the top of the hill, which were broadcasting the ceremony on the town's radio station. With live marimba music, Mayan rituals, and an overlooking view of the town as the morning sun came up, the ceremony was a beautiful, warm welcome to Guatemala. The priests, with colorful cloth wrapped around their heads, led the ceremony, praying for a healthy harvest in the coming months and blessing the attendees. After a meticulous construction of two fires, a chicken sacrifice, and many rounds of blessings, prayers, and dance circles, we toasted to the middle of the year with vodka drinks and feasted on stew and tamales. All in all, a very exciting beginning.
On this same day in Guatemala city over 16,000 indigenous people marched 7 kilometers for the national day commemorating the victims of the armed conflict in Guatemala. This weekend I will attend a community radio workshop on historical memory of the armed conflict, where community stations from around the country will congregate in Xela to open dialogue, share stories, and discuss the history that underlies the current situation of indigenous communities in Guatemala.