Yesterday we visited 3 libraries supported by a couple in the US who founded an organization called Books and Wings. These libraries are near the southern coast of Guatemala in a very different region with a hot climate, where sugar cane and rubber trees and pineapples grow. The first library we visited was in the town of Chicacao. It was started by an intrepid university student who liberated some books kept locked up in a church in town. The principal of a local boys´school helped her find a place to put them and the library grew from there. The municipality then provided a building and the program grew…until the whole place was burnt to the ground when some paramilitary thugs who were extracting payment from the town to "protect" them didn´t get paid and they set fire to the municipal building where the library was also housed.
Marco Aurelio, the principal of the boys´school, got so emotional telling us this story that tears welled up in his eyes. They lost everything, every last thing, and are starting from square one. Flor de Maria, the intrepid university student, now teacher and library committee member, is determined to begin again though she admits there were many times they were tempted to give up. The library is operating temporarily out of the commercial space in front of a resident´s home, and when we stopped by the tiny space was packed with teenagers. They have made a deal with the municipality to eventually move into the post office building and they are waiting anxiously to move. Flor and Marco Aurelio are some amazingly dedicated people who have given us much inspiration. Sorry, no photo for this entry.
P.S. It´s quite an experience to walk through an all boys´school when all of them are outside for recess. The energy and chaos and noise is something to behold!