Week 3 in Todos Santos – 13th July 2015
As we left our hotel in Chiantla, we set off via mini-van approximately 2 hours up in the highlands towards Todos Santos. When we arrived I noticed the traditional Mayan attire, which was equally beautiful and unique. The sound of marimba music, locals shopping within mini stalls and children looking around, is what I first saw and heard as I stepped out from the van, and prepared to meet my home-stay family who I would be spending the week with!
One thing I noticed about Todos Santos, is that is was very traditional from what we had experienced before in Guatemala. The most common language spoken was Mam, with a variety of dialects and the general area of Todos Santos is split up into 69 smaller rural communities. I had no idea beforehand, that my time in Todos Santos would be the most memorable and incredible experience during my stay in Guatemala.
This week consisted of business research and interaction with individuals from remote communities situated within Todos Santos. Our core goal was to research if catalogue sales entrepreneurs work sustainably given the resources SolCom operates within. This meant me and my colleagues would participate in door to door sales and raise awareness about the upcoming campaign we were holding and general water purification systems. This proved as a challenging w
eek as most individuals spoke Mam, so local entrepreneur Ingrid, would translate Mam into Spanish for me and my colleagues to record research results. These research results were used for our upcoming business model, we essentially split up into teams, where I worked on a Spanish presentation with fellow colleagues.
During this week, we also worked with conALFA, a local women’s group, which was very eye opening for me. Our aim was to create new economical and healthy cooking dishes the women could freely use. Working with many women was very interesting and one of my favourite experiences, as we each got to cook a certain dish for them, which they seemed to enjoy! On our final visit, the women had surprised us with a dish they made, which was very heart-warming and delicious of course! Experiences like these really emphasized how important empowerment is for communities and how it is essential to build trusting relationships.
As the week went past, campaign day arrived which was a very important day for the local entrepreneurs we were supporting. I was working with another participant in showcasing the stoves we had for sale. At first it was difficult to start the fire on the mini rocket-stove and so many friendly locals began to help us with this complexity! One of the many great things about Todos Santos is that everyone is very friendly and welcoming, and so the local men helping us with igniting the fire, was by far not an unusual matter! We used the stove to boil water and mix this with chocolate to serve hot chocolate to locals and potential customers. This technique was used to show how versatile the cooking stoves are and it was definitely an enjoyable experience.
Our time in Todos Santos sadly came to an end, which was very saddening since we made many close relations here. We were accustomed to early starts and short evenings, as following our home-stays routine this became the norm. I dearly miss playing football with the children in the street and strangers saying ‘Buenos Dias’ in the morning as I walked down the road. Everyone knew each other in Todos Santos, and the warm hospitality we experienced will never be forgotten. We got to experience first -hand how our families would boil water for consumption and use other innovative ways to make new dishes. This experience also brought to light how poverty can be defined from a multidimensional perspective, yet individuals living within this circle are so content and grateful for what they have. Todos Santos truly was an eye opening experience!