The eleven of us boarded planes in Denver, New York, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and we came together in the charming Spanish colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala. They call Guatemala the Land of Eternal Spring, and we could immediately see why. Bougainvillea blossoms of all colors brightened every nook and cranny of this cobblestone street town, and the purple flowering jacaranda trees graced the sky and complemented the purple decorations still hanging from Semana Santa celebrations.
It was the beginning of our journey through this incredible country full of beauty despite a long and complex history. Sue Patterson the founder of WINGS and expat resident of Guatemala for nearly 20 years helped us understand this history and the current socioeconomic context of the country in which Reading Village has begun its work. In contrast to our surroundings, the picture she painted was not necessarily pretty. She gave us insights into the corruption of the government, the failed justice system, health statistics worse than some African countries, blatant discrimination against the indigenous Maya, the second class status of women and the neglected educational system.
“Guatemala,” she told us, “is both beautiful and broken.”
Conversation with Sue gave us much to ponder on our three-hour trip along the Pan American Highway to Panajachel on the shore of the stunning Lake Atitlan – the town where we will stay for the next several nights.