Getting Active Among the Volcanoes – Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala

Living local

An aerial view of San Juan la Laguna

At San Juan la Laguna, a choppy 20 minutes away in Juan’s boat, I did a short hike up to a hill called Cerro de la Cruz to take in the view and enjoy the evening breezes. Afterwards I visited the local coffee cooperative. There were freshly washed yellow beans left out to dry on every available level surface. Workers kept arriving with fresh sacks of beans to have them weighed and get paid for the day.

The view offered by Cerro de la Cruz Hill

As elsewhere in Central America, this high-grade, organic, soly sombre (sun-and-shade grown) coffee is exported to North America, Europe and Japan where it’s toasted for the fairtrade packagers, retailers and coffee shops. Workers might earn as little as 50 quetzales (3.90) for a day’s very hard graft.

I stayed overnight in San Juan, sleeping at the home of Juan Mendoza, Gloria Encarnacion Cholotio Mendoza and their six kids, aged from 20 years to 18 months. We dined on chicken and vegetables and chatted about work, food, gender, traditions and politics. Juan told me the military dictatorship killed lots of indigenous lake-dwellers during the 1980s. He said his parent’s generation were caught between the government and the guerrillas. “They [the guerrillas] came to force us to join them. I had to learn how to shoot a rifle when I was just 15. They used kids as soldiers. During those days, you wouldn’t go out in San Juan after 6pm, after it got dark, because you might just disappear.”

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