If the heavens hadn’t opened and dumped last week, I would be in Guatemala now, working on a photo shoot with Joe Coca and authors Deborah Chandler and Terésa Cordón. But the rains came, here in Northern Colorado and in Guatemala.
Our neighbors in Boulder got a full year’s worth of destructive downpour in just a couple of days, and here in Loveland the runoff from the mountains to the west has been sufficient to put us on an island. All roads to the airport closed, all roads to Kansas and Wyoming closed, the road to our little mountain cabin washed out for the long term. I won’t go into all the details; you probably saw it on the news. It’s a strange experience for those of us who have lived in a virtual desert for most of our lives.
At the same time, the rains were coming down in Guatemala City, washing away roads and whole neighborhoods. Getting to the areas we had planned to go seemed difficult, if not foolhardy. It put me in mind of Hurricane Stan in 2005, when my husband and I were stuck in a plane that kept flying back and forth between Guatemala City and Nicaragua, unable to land either place as the earth washed away beneath us.
Whole villages were buried alive. I won’t dwell on the horror of it, or the tragic stories. Rather, let’s reflect on the heroism of people who rushed in to help. Not just the Red Cross and the many NGOs, but hundreds of ordinary people who interrupted their own lives to help reconstruct the lives of survivors. Deborah and Tere worked tirelessly to bring aid to the weavers of Mayan Hands, raising money for shelter, looms, clothes, and other essentials for those who had lost everything.
In the aftermath of Stan, my friend Mary Anne Wise was so touched by the event that she has dedicated much of her professional life since then to bringing new skills, new markets, and new hope to Guatemalan women. Visit her website www.culturalcloth.net to see some of the splendid, hopeful rugs she has taught them to design and hook using recycled fabric and patterns from their own traditions.
I had the pleasure of working with Mary Anne and Deborah, along with Raymond Senuk, to create a book, Guatemalan Woven Wealth, that accompanied a trunk show to benefit Friendship Bridge, a microcredit organization that funds business opportunities for Guatemalan women. This little book is a sort of survey of Guatemalan textiles, old and new, and some of the traditions behind them. Most of the proceeds of sales have gone to Friendship Bridge. Copies are available at ClothRoads, along with some quite wonderful textiles.
I’m constantly struck by the beauty and craftsmanship that so often emerges from the hands of people who live arduous lives. I look forward to visiting some of those people—after rainy season.