Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reflections on the eve of the election

It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to work side-by-side, arm-in-arm with my compañeras here in the department. I first heard of the concept of "accompaniment" from a Catholic priest who is now a good friend, Father Marc Fallon, who has worked with the Maya K'iche' community in New Bedford. I read a newspaper article about his trip to Guatemala before I knew him well, and he talked about "accompanying" the community in New Bedford. And I think that is the word that best suits what I have done here (and am still doing) -- walking along the same path as my compañeras and compañeros. There is not enough time right now to reflect more fully on what this process has been, but I am grateful to Matilde and Fermina for accepting my offer of support and assistance.

Equally importantly, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my dear friends Humberto and Benjamin. If it had not been for their gentle insistence, I would not have taken the leap into the fray. This adventure began a few months ago, over some churrasco and a bottle of Ron Barrilitos that I had brought back from Puerto Rico in April and that we broke out that night. This was the day that Rigoberta Menchú had visited the annual assembly of Ixmukané. Following her presentation there, we marched through the streets of Santa Cruz to the main plaza, where Matilde and Fermina were presented publicly as candidates for congress. That evening, over churrasco and rum, one of my two buddies (I think it was Benjamin) asked me in a kind but firm tone if I was going to put my commitment into practice, and help the compañeras with their campaign. Becoming personally involved in Guatemalan electoral politics had not occurred to me, but there was something about the tone of Benjamin's voice and the look in his eyes when he put the question to me. It was as though he were saying, Okay, gringa, it's been nice for you to be here and observe and all that, but this is what is really important right now, and are you going to sit on the sidelines or are you going to pick up a shovel and help us dig? And so I picked up the shovel. So, maltyox chawe (thanks very much, in K'iche'), to Benjamin and Humberto, for leading me to the cliff and then daring me to jump!

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