Nuevo San Ildefonso
Fifty years ago, a group of Maya from the Mam town of San Ildefonso, located in the northwestern department of Huehuetenango in Guatemala, purchased a section of mountain land in a remote cloud forest of the department, two days travel from their home. Their intent had been to leave their soil-impoverished land and seek out a more fertile place where they could grow the cash crop of coffee in a cool climate where it thrived best. However, as the country’s 36-year civil dragged on, their dream languished and when the war finally ended in 1996, they bequeathed the land to their grandchildren.
It was these young people who came to inhabit this wilderness, bringing with them the same pioneering spirit of their grandparents. They named their small settlement, “Nuevo San Ildefonso”. The challenges they were to face in the ensuing years proven almost insurmount-able, but the little community of some 12 couples survived the odds against them. For one, they were dependent on rainwater. During the water shortages in the dry months of March and April, they were compelled to carry water from a spring located a day’s trek away. Moreover, no road reached their small crudely constructed village. Men and women alike were obliged to haul all their food supplies, building materials, and other needs on their backs up the steep five-kilometer mountain path. Nor did the land prove to be as fertile as they had expected. Men were forced to find seasonal work in the hot jungle lands far from the village in order to provide food for their families.
When their children reached school age, parents struggled to fund building materials and constructed a small one-room schoolhouse. However, the government refused to dispatch a teacher. Determined to see their children educated, they spent years soliciting for a teacher. Their eventual success was short-lived. When an instructor was finally approved, he subsequently rarely showed up to teach, all the while drawing his regular salary. The villagers’ solicitations for a replacement have all been refused; as a consequence, over a period of ten years the children’s education amounted to no more than a few lessons here and there. This trickle of instruction was not enough to enable the children learn to speak, read, and write the national language of Spanish.
Life is particularly harsh for the women. Without a clinic, doctor, or even health worker, pregnant women are dependent on the village’s only midwife, who is not well trained. During the dry season, water is scarce, and women must carry the family’s laundry to a distant spring for washing. There is no motorized corn grinder. A woman with a large family may have to hand grind corn for as many as three hours a day, in order to produce sufficient corn dough to make her family’s tortillas.
Despite these and many more daily hardships, the villagers of Nuevo San Ildefonso have maintained a strong and positive spirit. It has been this spirit that Finding Freedom through Friendship is seeking funds to purchase a diesel corn grinding machine for this tiny hamlet. The cost of purchase and installation of this labor-saving machine is $4,000.
History of Nuevo San Ildefonso
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