Travel # 8: Following the Route of the Maya, December 2015

March 30, 2020

In December 2015, Carol Clifton and I began our adventure of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, as we traveled the route of the Maya with the group Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). This organization always includes history, geography, culture, examples of everyday life such as eating with a host family, making crafts, and visiting schools.

In all three countries, we also learned about the relationship of the indigenous people with the Spanish, the plantations, the mining operations, the attempts at coups, protests, and fighting for independence. At the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the big fruit companies such as United Fruit, formed large banana plantations. Struggles toward forming a constitutional democracy have continued while the military presence of the U.S. government and big American companies have exerted control. It was not easy to be confronted with these facts.

Highlights included:

Visiting the San Salvador cathedral where archbishop Romero was buried. He was a spokesperson for the poor, practicing liberation theology. While celebrating mass in a small chapel, he was assassinated. In the Museo del la Palabra y la Imagen, we visited an exhibit focused on human rights during the armed conflict, with diverse perspectives on El Salvador’s tumultuous military history and how it has affected the people. There was also an exhibit of a woman who ran for President as a way of calling attention to the fact that women did not have the right to vote.

Walking through the ruins of Copan (Xukpil), the most elaborate city of the Maya.

Going up the mountain trail to the village of La Pintara, where 350 people live in the village where the women make cornhusk dolls, and the men and boys work picking coffee. The people living here had fled violence to this inaccessible area. Our guide presented a family member Bernadino with an eco-filter to produce clean water. In the village we met Sara Jacqueline, an 8th grader, who walks one hour to school and back. Though she has been chosen as a future leader, she helps her mother weaves scarves. She loves science, literature, and English. It is due to ten sponsors that cover her expenses that she has been able to attend school. It was meetings such as these that helped us form contacts with the people and learn first-hand about their struggles.

Learning about the kite rituals having to do with the Day of the Dead. However, in current times, different groups vie in competition for the best kite.


Riding on a crowded chicken bus, riding down curved roads as if in a roller-coaster.

The vegetable wholesale market in Solala’ with the men and women in colorful garments.


A personal highlight was my visit to Escuela Caracol in San Marco on Lake Atitlan. I left the group to do other activities while another guide Antonio and I hired a boat for the day.  Joshua Wilson, one of the founders of the school, was a student in my high school training program at Rudolf Steiner College. I had been sponsoring a student, Yonaton, for a number of years, and it was exciting to meet his family and see how Yonaton had benefitted from the contributions I and others had made for his education. Invited into their simple home, I felt like a Queen Mother as his mother Anna presented me with a beautifully woven stoll, white with design.


Then Antonio and I had time to connect with another of my special interests – weaving. We went to the plant dying workshop and met weavers, before crossing the lake again, this time with a rough crossing that left me sore for days. After connecting with the group in Pana, we found the shop that sold yardage, and I chose fabrics to make a quilt for my granddaughter. Here is the hand-sewn finished quilt made a year later.


Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places in the world with its volcanos ringing the lake.

From my journal>

“We drove to Santa Apollionaire where we met with 71 year old Vassila who has been making clay pots since she was 12. What was fascinating was how she turned the pot she was forming without having a wheel. She is the last one making pots the way it was done in the olden days. She is regarded as a national treasure. Despite the many wrinkles, her face is beautiful.”

We were given money and a piece of paper with the name of a fruit or vegetables. We went to a vegetable market and shopped. I was responsible for limones. Then we drove to Belinda’s house, and we participated in the cooking of the meal, at least part of it. Guacamole on a tostada, delicious. Pepitas, which we roasted and then mixed with salt and lime. A group boiled hibiscus for tea. Dessert was fried plantains. The family had cooked all morning, made peina – a soup made with all the veggies, then mole made with the same except for garlic and onion, and of course chocolate. On the plate with the peina was rice which we put into the bowl, two boiled potatoes, a piece of green squash, meat- pork or chicken, and cooked green beans. It was delicious. We drank the hibiscus tea. Dessert was fried plantains with mole and also sliced papayas, watermelons, or pineapple. It was a great meal. We gave Belinda presents. We were ready for a siesta but no luck.“