The following was written by Aaron Bates, Pueblo Partisans representative, after his recent return from Guatemala.
Eva Pop Caal and Francisco Cuz, and the Tanhoc community as a whole, invested a tremendous amount of energy into the November 11, 2011 ceremony. The ceremony was preceded on November 10 by a Catholic mass (led by the local Father Demetrio, who spoke very well of our Tanhoc project, and of Tanhoc’s future responsibilities) and a Mayan ceremony.
Community turnout for the November 11 ceremony was quite widespread. One notable exception was the Secretary of Tanhoc Board, who was absent due to a need to address a personal issue. A delegation of five people from Fondo de Tierras was present to accept the check. The Petén director of the agency underscored how this was a novel project, which had achieved what, in many communities, is considered unachievable. Father Gama and Sister Mary Fey, two members of the Catholic Church who have a long history in the community (including providing Francisco Cuz his original middle-school education) were present, and were warmly welcomed by the community. Their presence was meaningful as they, over a 20-year period, had laid the groundwork on which the project was able to succeed. Mario, a well-respected community worker from Instituto Nacional de Cooperativas (INACOP) was present, with a delegation from the Los Limones Cooperative.
The check was symbolically presented by José María Reyes, one of the few current community members who was present when the Cooperative was founded in the late 1960s. Tom Grauman spoke, addressing the community’s future challenges, particularly care of the environment, personal debt, community responsibility and social cohesion. This was translated into Q’eqchi’ by Francisco Cuz. Well-received, a copy of the speech will be given to the Board. I spoke about the positive effect that our relationship with Tanhoc has had on, well, us. This was also translated by Francisco.
In addition to the significance of the land payment, it was highlighted that illiteracy in the community has been decreased by 80% during the six years of our project. At the beginning of our project, the illiteracy stood at 45%. At the conclusion of our work this rate has fallen to 9%. These remaining illiterate women (and all are women) are said to be older, and are unlikely to undertake studies at this point in their lives.
More photos of the ceremony are found here.