One comment from a High Uinta friend who saw this video:
I just watched this video, and I can hardly believe such an amazing story. It is mind boggling how much good you were able to do even in the parallels of danger. You are truly inspiring. I'll be sure to pass along the word, thank you for sharing this.
The CHIQUIGUITAL VILLAGE SCHOOL PROJECT by Cordell Andersen
A Breathless & Heroic Adventure Up Where Cattle Rustlers & Guerrillas roamed!
We are seeing the
where I pursued
work to rebuild a
school burned down by the Guerrillas
Early on August 29th our Director, Federico Veliz, had has pickup loaded and was on the way up into the mountains south of Valparaiso, through the Najquitob Village, and on to the end of the road at Pancalax where the men from the Chiquiguital Village were waiting for him to go to work hauling construction materials through the mountains to their village--2 hours distant over mountain trails.
In the beginning (1968) the entire trip was following slippery trails from Paradise Valley up to Naquitob and on to Chiquiguital--at least a 3-4 hour hike. Eventually we helped build a narrow 4 wheel drive road up to Naquitob. A few years later the government improved that road, as you see in the above picture, and over the years pushed it on into the mountains to Pancalax cutting the hike to Chiquiguital down by half.
Federico greeted the volunteers and began getting them organized into two teams. The second would have to wait for him to get down to civilization and bring in another load.
The first team soon began loading up and soon were on their way up into the mountains towards their village. The stronger were carrying 100 lb. bags of cement. Others, 40 lb. bags of lime, and other materials.
We note that pretty well all of them are using tumplines to carry their loads. A tumpline is a rope that secures the load with the weight carried by a cloth, but usually a leather strap across the front top of the head, using the spine rather than the shoulders as standard backpacks do. This is used very commonly in Mexico and Central America to transport heavy loads across uneven terrain. This was pretty exclusively used in the opening up of the West by the mountain men and fur trappers to carry their loads. An interesting story of fairly recent date is of a Mexican Indian delivering a piano using his tumpline!
Above we note, as they continue up the narrow trail--that can get real slippery when it's raining, the now typical foot-gear of the volunteers, rubber boots, usually with no socks. Back in the beginning of our adventure in 1967 almost all of them were barefoot, or at best with sandles made out of old tires. In these remote areas many elderly people still go barefoot. FOND REMINISCES
Not only is this great effort reminiscent of early adventures pursuing cattle rustlers over these same trails, but also of when we first met Federico Veliz who was a teacher in the remote Pambach Village. Chiquiguital, from Pambach, is located up the zig-zag trail and over the pass you see in the background.
In those early days in the 1970's we trained two of our students as "health promoters" and sent them on horseback into the mountains to find and treat the sick.
They were Pablo Xona and Ricardo Cho we see above ready to head into the mountains. I notice Pablo is wearing my High Uinta rain parka....really needed in a land where, when being sent there in 1958 (to Alta Verapaz area) as a missionary, was told it rained 15 months a year! When living there a decade later I kept track one year and found it was only 13 months of rain that year.
They met Federico and learned they needed help to build a school. Eventually we sent teams of our volunteers on weekends to Pambach to meet the people and learn of their needs. They carried a portable generator (150 lbs.) between two, with others carrying a 16 mm. movie projector, etc. and taking turns with the generator, and showed there the first movies every seen in Pambach. After the evening show they returned to Valparaiso, hiking all night to report for work on Monday morning.....INCREDIBLE VOLUNTEERS!
My manager, Miguel Max, represented me and the Foundation making an agreement with Federico (on the right) to help them build their school.
We began making trips with our team of volunteers carrying construction materials and staying a night in the village....and of course the generator and movie projector had to be part of the effort as the people of Pambach were hooked on movies! Here we see a team of two from Pambach, taking turns carrying the 150 lb. generator.
Rather than awkwardly carrying the generator using its handles between two, they preferred using their tumplline, as you see here. I recall vividly a bunch of us resting with our (light) loads at a point where there was a short-cut trail straight up the mountain, rather than the switch backing one we would use. This incredible volunteer from Pambach appeared and didn't even hesitate, but went straight up the mountain taking the short-cut!
It became for me a great example of how much more effective it is to help Indians help themselves, rather than using us wimpy gringo volunteers that would take incredible expense to get to Guatemala--to just take the easy switch backing route (a metaphor).
Of course I'll have to admit that these couple of "wimpy gringos," also on the trail to Pambach to help in the work, often come out of these kinds of experiences being enthusiastic contributors to keep the work going--supporting their Maya/Poqomchi brothers and sisters who can get most tasks accomplished with a little guidance, and financial support. Hey, JOLENE (my sister), and RICH (my son), please forgive me for joking (seriously) about you and most of the rest of us gringos. The point being PRAISE FOR OUR TOUGH Mayan brothers and sisters who work incredibly hard, and THE IMPORTANCE OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT from us to help them get the jobs done!
Above we see Rich again--this time with a load in his orange colored backpack, led by his brother, Dave, carrying some tools.
Again, on another trip to Pambach, we see Dave in the middle--it looks like with a load using my World War II Army surplus rucksack (I still use it for hunting with a bit of re-construction).
In addition to helping construct the school in Pambach, we always offered medical services....here with Miguel Max examining a little girls eye and below injecting a sick woman.
Here is the finished school we helped them build....against all odds, as the owner of the land all around Pambach wouldn't let us through his property to do this project, and made "death threats" against me and Federico.
A few years later the guerrillas moved into the area recruiting and forcing the people to help them, and coercing cooperation by destroying the school and killed some of the villagers, placing them between a "rock & a hard place" as the Army in their desperation to keep Guatemalan from becoming another Cuba also did terrible things in Pambach to stop the cooperation with the guerrillas and win the war.
The guerrillas also attempted to recruit me into their ranks as they knew I had experience in the Army, and also Federico Veliz, with the threat of assassination if we didn't
accept. I moved my family back to the U.S. and couldn't live at Valparaiso for several years, and only made quick, unannounced visits to Valparaiso to keep the business going, finally learning that a friend became the leader of the guerrillas in the area and he defended me telling his troops to leave me alone due to our years of effort to help the people. Federico was transferred to another area, and for years had to be very careful..
So above in the foreground we see the ruins of the school we helped build, and in the background the new school we eventually helped them build.....but then with a road into the area to carry materials.
Above is a relatively recent photograph of the students in front of the Pambach Village School showing the educational materials the Foundation provides every year to thousands of rural students in the area. For a Success Stores report that includes the Pambach story, go to: Schools/kitchens & libraries. NOW BACK TO THE CHIQUIGUITAL TRAIL
It was on this trail in 1974 that the cattle rustlers took our cattle south towards Salama at night. Armed, and with my "posse" of the most astute Indians I could find, we followed the trail and asked along the way any people who lived near the trail whether they had seen cattle being moved south. Once in a while we found someone who said they had heard it happening late at night, so we continued towards Chiquiguital where the leads pointed south into lower lands of Salama where the green of Alta Verapaz ends, and it turns into the hot, thorny, desert like country of Baja Verapaz.
As I reported in the previous post introducing the Project at Chiquiguital, we eventually had to drive around to Salama and hiked 3 hours north towards Alta Verapaz, found the cattle, and with the help of the police put the rustlers behind bars.
Years later my lawyer became the one who had defended the rustlers, and then I learned "the rest of the story," one part of which was that they wrapped the hoofs of the cattle with pieces of old blankets used by the poor and moved the cattle at night as silently as possible without leaving hoof prints.
We are still seeing rhe first team as it winds its way towards their village.
Along the way a young man comes down the trail from Chiquiguital--
A JUNIOR HIGH STUDENT AT THE VALPARAISO SCHOOL heading for his afternoon studies.
Federico is making his second or third trip and meets the second team waiting to go to work.
UP THE TRAIL......noticing that this team has several young boys
Now downhill towards the village....by the way, a "village" in rural Guatemala is rarely a cluster of homes all around a central park and church, but rather the school, and usually a chapel, but the homes are scattered all over the mountainsides where each lives on the property they cultivate for subsistence.
They arrive at the school, and head for a temporary warehouse they have built for the construction materials.
In addition to helping them build 3 classrooms, we will help construct additional and modernized sanitary facilities.
The women and children greet their husbands, and have ready for them some delicious "sacic" the traditional food from the Poqomchi area--a sort of corn gruel, heavily spiced, and with turkey meat, along with small corn tamalitas., all prepared in the school kitchen by other volunteers as we see below.
Afterwards they will meet in their chapel to give thanks for this project getting started.
Their Catholic chapel was built with the help of the Nuns from the College of the Defenseless (or Abandoned) from San Cristobal Verapaz, Alta Verapaz
The people from Chiquiguital are very poor to say the least, but there are a few families that even by rural Guatemalan standards are extreme poor as we see here. Many homes nowdays have tin roofs, but some still have roofs of the only material in the area that is abundantly available--sugar canes leaves. It only lasts for at most a couple of years.
They do have crude structures for their animals--usually a few chickens, turkeys, and of course a dog or two. They are turned loose during the day to forage for themselves, but the chickens and turkeys are shut up, as in these mountains there are predators--weasels, foxes, coyotes, etc. The poultry are also kept in the coops after planting their corn or the young plants would all be eaten. So for a month or so egg production stops and many of their chickens get sick.
The women help as much as they can -- in these pictures weeding the black bean plantings, but their home tasks are very hard: Cooking and making tortillas three times a day over an open fire in their usually one roomed thatch hut, then down to the creek or spring to wash by hand clothes, and much more. Children are a crucial economic need.
The home we see here is more typical with walls formed by wood posts (of a tree that will not rot in the humid ground--but which has become rare in many areas). Between the wood uprights are tied on cross pieces of "carrizo," a bamboo type plant lashed on with vines from the forest, and then filled in with mud usually mixed with some straw that helps hold it together. The roof is sugar cane thatch as I have explained--that permits the smoke from the open cooking fire to filter up through the leaves, leaving a black coating on the entire inside of the thatch.
As we proceed with the school construction, we will undoubtedly become involved, as much as funds permit, to help a few of the most needy families like the one we are seeing here.
The task of hauling construction materials is done....at least for the initial materials for which the Foundation provided $2,500. We're about half-way there as far our commitment goes, and have hired a couple of experienced brick masons ("albañils") who Federico reports to me are working from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. So I expect any day now some updated photographs that I will add to this post as soon as I get them. PLEASE HELP ALL YOU CAN THIS HEROIC EFFORT ON THE PART OF OUR GUATEMALAN BROTHERS & SISTERS... .THEY ARE DOING ALL THEY CAN & NEED OUR GENEROUS HELP SO THEIR CHILDREN WILL HAVE BETTER EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES & A BETTER CHANCE TO ACHIEVE "THE GOOD LIFE."