A highlight of each of my trips to San Pedro La Laguna is the opportunity to visit Beca Project students in their homes. With nearly 70 students now and many whose homes I've visited year after year, we decided to limit the visits this trip to the 15 students who just joined us for the 2015 school year which started in January.
Mynor always organizes the visits based on geography and we would - literally and figuratively - be lost without him. Some students live along the streets and labyrinthine paths of town while others live in the country; we mainly walk but occasionally take tuktuks or Mynor's motor scooter if it's just the 2 of us. Sometimes we require guiding and flashlights and hand holding to find our way through forest paths and coffee fincas. Addresses with number and street or road names aren't common here; how Mynor keeps all of them straight is a testament to his dedication and intelligence.
Also, without Mynor we would be unable to communicate with most of the family members. The native language here is Tz'utujil, one of nearly 2 dozen Maya languages. The kids learn Spanish in school but few of the parents speak Spanish because they were unable to attend or continue in school long enough to learn it. Mynor serves as our translator for both language and culture.
These visits, like the families, vary. Sometimes the visit includes multiple generations, cousins, and neighbors while other times just a parent and student or even just the student is home when we arrive. Some students have 2 parents while others have just 1 or are being raised by a grandparent or someone outside the family. Some kids have no siblings and some 6 or more; it's not uncommon for grown siblings to live in the home with their own kids.
The homes vary, too. Some are built with cement block or adobe and many have dirt floors and corn stalk walls. One family of 7 shares 2 tiny rooms, 1 for sleeping and the other for cooking and eating. If there is inside space it is generally a bedroom, which you'll see in the photos. Electricity is limited so the rooms are often really dark, especially for evening visits; the camera flash makes them seem unnaturally bright but without the flash the photos are useless. I've included 1 flashless photo (following another photo in the same room) for a touch of realism.
Some days we are offered food at home after home: tamales, bread, rice, coffee, pop, or atole. We joke that more food is offered on days when we have just eaten a big meal before heading out on visits; what we don't eat we must, by custom, take with us. Many of the families live on the equivalent of just a dollar or 2 a day so these offers of food are incredibly generous.
In each home we are greeted warmly, hosted graciously, and thanked over and over. We leave with several rounds of hugs and warm hearts. I hope these photos - generally 1 per visit with a few extras thrown in - give you a sense of what this process and these people mean to me.
Mike is 5'9" for point of comparison.
You can find the complete photo collections for this trip HERE.