Thursday, June 25, 2009

Into the Highlands

Getting to Nebaj, Guatemala, took about 5 hours of windy switchback mountain roads...but it is really a world away from the other places we have been. It was hit particularly hard during the 36-year long civil war. Although it has rebounded more quickly than some other areas we visited, it is a lot different from the urban and/or touristy areas we have been.

One thing that really sticks out about Nebaj is how traditional it is. The population is predominantly Ixil Mayans, who you will notice are quite absent from my photos. Although their clothing is beautiful, most Maya people don't like to be photographed. Also, when you travel in a group of 12, you don't want to be Those Tourists who all have cameras out all the time...so I'll see if I get some pictures from others in the group. We did get permission from some women in Chajul, so I'll post those soon! Anyway, not only do the women all wear traditional Mayan clothing, but it is all pretty much maroon skirts with light vertical stripes. Different regions have different colors and patterns that they wear.

People in Nebaj are also a lot more weary/leery of strangers. The people here have been through a lot and it shows in their response to outsiders. No one was rude to us, but we did have one misunderstanding at a meeting where speakers were very uncomfortable about giving their names to us, let alone talking to us. Instead of well marked and lit offices, like we have seen so far, we have had meetings in unmarked building basements and the like. It made me wonder if you could ever live here long enough to be accepted by the locals. There is a language school here, so there are some foreigners, but not many. Some people in our group really disliked Nebaj. Although I didn't dislike it, it is hard to become attached to a place where the locals are almost impossible to get to know, or even talk to, and regard any stranger with suspicion.


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