Sunday, March 6, 2011

To hell with capacitación, I need to teach these women how to drive

Social life in Guatemala is fairly gendered, although there seems to be somewhat more equity between men and women among the indigenous households I know in Chinique and environs than what I have read in other anthropological literature. Several married wome I know have jobs that take them to other towns, and while I don't know anything much about the division of labor inside their households, their husbands seem to have little to say about their leaving home at 6 a.m. and returning after 6 p.m., or traveling to Guatemala for a meeting. This obviously bears more analysis. But nearly none of the Maya women I know up here in Quiché drive. Actually, of the people I know in rural communities, a great number of them -- men and women -- do not know how to drive and do not own cars (as I've previously noted, a pickup is considered a carro). So they are dependent upon paying for a camioneta (literally, little truck), walking or hitching a ride.  Even some of those who own cars do not drive; I know at least one returned migrant who purchased a -- you guessed it -- red Toyota pickup, but I have only seen his sons drive it. 

A side note here: what defines a vehicle as a camioneta is that it is used to transport other people. A camioneta can thus be a picop whose owner runs people back and forth to rural areas. A microbus is a van or mini-van that is also used to transport people; microbuses are a bit more institutionalilzed and "professional" -- they usually have the name of the route (Los Encuentros- Chichi) stenciled on the glass, and also often are numbered. Microbuses seem to run exclusively between towns; camionetas concentrate on rural aldeas.

So, one of my functions in the organizations with which I am working (and among my friends) is as a source of rides. When I go to a meeting or activity in another town I always try to find out if anyone needs a lift. 

Today, as I drove to Panajachel for the second time in two days, I was complaining mildly on the ride back that no one could drive and thus relieve me of a bit of the burden. Yesterday (March 5, Saturday) I drove from Chinique to Tapesquillo (about half an hour) then Tapesquillo to Panajachel (about 2-1/2 hours), then back to Tapesquillo, and then back home to Chinique. Today I met my folks in Chinique so it was only about two hours each way -- and I told them as we returned to the pueblo that I was not feeling well and needed ot get rest so I couldn't drive them back up into the mountains (I did give them some money for a camioneta -- not enough for the full fare but I had paid for the gas, bought part of our collective lunch, and paid for a half-hour lancha (boat) ride for all seven of us. 

So, one of my passengers suggested that I teach her to drive so that she could share the effort. It hadn't occurred to me before, but I will think about it (actually, her younger brother knows how to drive but he doesn't have a license so I didn't turn the keys over to him, although the chances of us being pulled over by the highway patrol are fairly slim. I have rarely seen a highway patrol car doing anything except when there has been an accident or a few weeks ago when there was a roadblock in a community around KM 108-19 of the Panamericana, but still, I didn't want to chance anything.

There are very few flat surfaces anywhere in Quiché. All the streets in the town are very rough and narrow and although there is little traffic it always feels congested because of the tight squeezes and potholes and speed bumps. I learned how to drive in a parking lot of a company headquarters that was near my parent's home (International Salt). They had a big parking lot and my father would take me out on weekends or evenings when no one was there.  No place like that in Chinique, for sure. But it's a thought -- certainly of as much practical use to me as other kinds of trainings (capacitaciones) that the various organizations offer to socias.

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