Guatemala Day 9 — and Home Again

Saying good-bye to Rambo, our guide, and Gato, our driver

Saying good-bye to Rambo, our guide, and Gato, our driver

I got home at about 1 AM last night, and now, after a decent night’s sleep, better than any I’d had in Guatemala, I am ready to start the day.

I wrote this while on the plane home from Guatemala City yesterday:

We concluded our program this morning (Monday) with three beautiful rituals. First, Stacy facilitated our sacred space. She had a pitcher of water and four glasses, each representing either fire, air, earth, or water, four of the Mayan elements we had learned about from the two welcoming ceremonies we had participated in with the midwives. Stacy invited us each to come up and reflect on something we are each taking home from this trip and how it relates to one of the four elements, and then to pour some water into that cup.

Some of the responses were about the land, about the volcanoes, about our having to be so conscious this week to use only bottled water to brush our teeth or drink, about breath, and words, and the candles in the welcoming ceremonies themselves. We mentioned names of the people we had met and places we had been.

Secondly, Mark continued our tradition of reading our own Torah — the memories from the previous day’s adventures.

Then Adina and Lilach led us in a very powerful, tearjerker good-bye ritual with each other. Half the group formed an inner circle facing those on the outer circle. Those on the inside closed their eyes. Those on the outer circle responded to the following prompts (there were many more, as well) by putting a hand on the shoulder of the people who had fulfilled them, as they circled those in the inner circle:

You taught me something this week
You exhibited spiritual leadership this week
You made me think about something in a new way this week
You made me laugh this week
I will stay in touch with you to keep me on the path of justice
I believe you have moral courage

With my eyes closed, feeling all of those hands either touch my shoulders, warmly grab my shoulders, hold and massage my shoulders — it made me cry. Then I got to move to the outer circle and thank others in the same way, for being fellow travelers  in the cause of justice.

And then, poof! The first group needed to leave for the airport, leaving four of us behind for the second shuttle.

  • I am thinking about Claudia. I asked her what had politicized her. She told us that when she was a baby, her grandfather’s house was bombed while she was asleep there. She was peppered by glass, but all survived. To this day, she is afraid of loud sudden noises. (This is a problem as firecrackers are set off regularly to celebrate birthdays and holidays.) She also told us how her father, a physician, hid other physicians when they were being targeted. It didn’t matter if they were on the right or the left.
  • I am thinking about Juana, the young midwife with an entrepreneurial spirit, who has a beauty supply business with a couple of relatives, how she thanked me for my song, and her beautiful smile.
  • I am thinking of Archavia, who, though illiterate, plans to vote in the upcoming election, and how she trusted me with her sacred story because our eyes had met and I’d asked her her name, and we connected across boundaries of culture, class, and language.
  • I am thinking of Flor, who became politicized when so many girls in her class got pregnant and the nuns offered nothing but ostracism.
  • I am thinking of Christian who told us that he had been sexually abused.
  • I am thinking of Ayida whose dreams were fate and who delivered her own sister.
  • I am thinking of Delia who said that every midwife undergoes a spiritual trial.
  • I am thinking of Luis, the head of the CCDA, who is running for Congress in the upcoming Guatemalan election. May he win and not be corrupted by a corrupt system.
  • I am thinking of all the women who shared their stories of being doubly discriminated against — for being indigenous women and for being women — and all of the sexual violence they have suffered, and how they now know that that is not their fate, that they can stand up for their rights.
  • I am thinking of the midwives who usher in new life in with their commitment to serving their people as healers and spiritual guides and keeping ancient traditions alive.
  • I am thinking of the proud Mayan history and civilization of building majestic cities and their incredible ability to read the heavens, and of being now second-class citizens.

Already, emails were flying to each other this morning amongst our group. Some folks missed their connections, some got home safely. I recommended a film I saw on the plane called Guten Tag, Ramon, about a Mexican man who is unsuccessful in getting to the U.S., so he goes to Germany (the film has interesting Holocaust references, as well). Jill recommended the film Granito, which she watched on the plane, and now I have ordered it — it’s a documentary that “reveals the thirty year struggle to bring Guatemala’s ex-dictator Ríos Montt to justice for genocide against the Mayan population.” And Margaret started reading the book The Locus Effect, which I will now have to read, as well, about how to address poverty. You can go to for more information, but it seems that the authors were in Rwanda after the genocide there and write about how the end of violence is integral to the end of poverty.

I will keep reflecting on the aftershocks of this trip and how I keep moving along on the journey.

Me with R Faith Joy Dantowitz and Rabbi Stacy Friedman, both my rabbinical school classmates, plus I was friends with Faith's sister growing up and my brother was friends with Faith

Here I am with R Faith Joy Dantowitz and Rabbi Stacy Friedman, both my rabbinical school classmates. It’s amazing that the 3 of us were AJWS fellows together. (Plus I was friends with Faith’s sister Debby z”l growing up and my brother was friends with Faith Joy — though she has now been renamed Fe Alegria, which must make me Pamela Alegria!



4 thoughts on “Guatemala Day 9 — and Home Again

  1. Welcome home Pam! Looks like I will be coming into the New York area over Columbus Day weekend (my LHS class will be celebrating our 50th birthdays together that Saturday night 10/10/15 in NJ). Not certain what my schedule will be (just confirmed the date yesterday), but any chance that you will be in town, that I can see you, that I might be able to stay with you? I saw a play called “Bad Jews” last week with my friend Jill. I hadn’t read anything about it beforehand – found it very engaging. Have you heard of it? xo,h

    Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2015 13:58:31 +0000 To:

  2. Pam- thank you for sharing these beautiful, heartfelt blog posts with us. What an honor and a privilege to have been chosen for this journey. I look forward to reconnecting with you in the Berkshires soon. Fondly,Rachel

  3. Pam, Welcome home! Thank you so much for this gift. It has been a joy to read every day and be able to follow your incredible journey. I want arrange for you to come speak at my congregation and especially with my high school kids who are so ready to change the world!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s