Thursday, June 16, 2016


EVENT #6:  Photo/essay
The Valparaiso Community Hall
En español...bajo construcción--tengan paciencia!
We begin our "back to the past" tour with our brothers & sisters from the Valparaiso Community (in Guat. called "caserio") at the sign, inspired by Daniel Choc in 1973, where the highway from Guatemala City to Coban, passes by the edge of the Valparaiso Plantation.  It is a crossroad where the road to the school,  the community & plantation leaves the pavement--and continues on to the Chixoy dam & reservoir--the Chixoy River, among those in the know, believe is the ancient River Sidon.
Said, "Crossroad" came to be known--and is still known as, "El Cruce del CID--The CID Crossroad."  To perk up your interest a bit more, knowledgeable archaeologists, even believe Valparaiso to be the ancient, fortified City of Helam! 

From the school we cross the bridge and make a sharp turn to the west and head up the hill.  The right fork leads to the plantation.  We take the left. 

 By the way, do you notice the mound in the very middle of the photo below?  It is part of what French archaeologists determined was the main religious complex in the ancient city.  

We now come up into the community that was land I separated from the plantation back in 1981, and with the help of the Foundation, we together created the community, where all the residents of the plantation came to be independent, owning their own property and homes. 

Best  insert below a Google Earth view of the area.
In this satellite view, we see in the middle left center some large white buildings, which is the LDS chapel complex that was created in the 90's when the Church purchased property from 5 of the original "colonos" to whom I had given their 2.5 acres of land each for having been long-time residents of the plantation.  

Best, insert below a view of the Chapel complex.  
For a good summary of the HISTORY, click on that link and you'll be able to see a quick YouTube review of a very long 50 year history. 

Now, let's continue on to the Community Hall.

 We were greeted by the traditional fireworks display with firecrackers, and "bombas" (mortar seen on the right) sometimes done with the hope of scaring off evil spirits!  You'll have to judge whether it worked or not. 

The first embrace, just by chance, was with one of the important originals, Federico Poou, who is mentioned quite a bit in the Historical Review. 

Then with his wife, followed by pictures with Domingo Max, another original "colono"  & wife also joining them for the photo shoot seen  below.

Then Domingo's sister, Chavela joined them.  Chavela was pictured at the end of the photo/essay done on the early festivity that day at the School.  

Since it is so important in the history, I'll insert next a paragraph from my encounter earlier that day with Chavela and her daughter, Elvira.  
"Then an important encounter and hugs from Chavela and her daughter Elvira. The History Review relates intensive work with Chavela's daughters, Marta & Elvira, all of whom eventually joined us at the Central House and were with us until the Guerrilla War put an end to a lot of things. 
But, it was an event with Elvira, when a baby, who reacted negatively to a medical treatment, and died.  Yet, restored to life through prayer--which Biblical-like event, began the trend of people at Valparaiso and in surrounding areas,  beginning to realize something was going on at Valparaiso that could be trusted! "

Some wanted their picture taken to remember the event, and most of them follow.  With some my memory fails me a little with names--especially the younger ones who were children, or not even born yet, when my ownership of Valparaiso ended.  So please forgive me for not identifying everyone. 

Here I'm having a great reunion with Mauricio, who in the later years was  helped  continue his education by creating a small broiler project he took care of, the profits of which helped us make possible his studies in nearby towns. 

Happy hugs with Cecilia who was with us at the Central House nearly from the beginning--and to the end, with her picture appearing a number of times in the Historical Photo/essays--like making a "volcano-like quantity of tortillas."  Her daughter, "Tina" was born during all those years at the Central House.  Later she served an LDS mission, and is now expecting her first child. 

Felipe Laj was pictured and mentioned in the morning event at the school, along with important history about his father, Felipe.  

Here he is with his wife, children and mother.  

Then a nice reunion with one of my closest youthful helpers in the last years, Esteban Laj, Felipe's brother.  
If you've been following the history, you've met him already in a picture with Mauricio, but they were disguised with soap suds in a picture I used to show the people of Valparaiso had finally come to believe in the existence of "the invisible world of microbes,"  that caused "bad odors, rot, and disease," and began taking seriously being CLEAN.  I'll insert that photo below......

Last of all,  the older of the Laj brothers, Domingo, who I always felt had the same humble spirit of Daniel Choc.  

Wow! Then stepped forward Josefina, who you came to know a little in the report about the "GIRLS," and them dancing on a water cistern high above Lake Atitlan in the fascinating CHUINIMACHICAJ Village. 

She then gathered those of her family who were able to attend--including, on the right, her mother, Elvira.  Josefina's husband, who we called "LIC" (Federico Ical) was working and unable to attend,  but you know him also from the following three photographs.......

 Lic, the youngest, and his brother, Alfonso, were brought to us by their father, Ricardo, after first losing his wife, then his tiny son, Tomas, then his parents in a terrible dysentery epidemic.  He said, "I'm now sick, but the boys are still healthy, Please raise them and keep them alive."  To the left you see them as they were on arrival--30 minutes later, you see them on the right. They understood only Poqomchi & Agustin volunteered to be with us to help with them. That began the literal avalanche of needy children being taken in and "THE CENTRAL HOUSE FAMILY" was born.
Years later, Lic became the first from Valparaiso to graduate as "a professional," a CPA.  Just yesterday was posted on Facebook a message from Jaime Moran, reacting to the report on the SCHOOL making reference to "profesionales." He said: 
Jaime Morán Gracias don Cordell por construir la escuela.  De alli  salimos muchos gracias. No hay como pagarle por tu gran amor por Valparaiso
Jaime's mother is Macaria, another of the "GIRLS," seen on the left in the photo above Lake Atitlan. 

We goofed with "abuelita"  Josefina's 93 year old grandmother, but here she is, having got there a bit slowly....and a tad late for the family photo, but I was grateful she is still hanging in there along with us "old folks."  Oh, her name is Fabiana. 

Another happy reunion with Paulina--also daughter of Felipe Laj, married to Gerardo Jor, now the LDS Branch President, and to my left,  SOILA, mentioned in the History, as a 10 year old having escaped an abusive home  above Valparaiso in the Najquitob Village, hiking the 2 miles to the Central House seeking refuge, where she continued for years growing up in our family.  Next,  the "Biblical-like miracle baby" ELVIRA, already mentioned. 

Margarita, seen above on our left, was the first girl to begin attending classes with my daughter, Julie.  Here she is with her sister, Carmelina.  Their mother was one of the three widows, who also received their section of land in the community we formed, and for whom, with Foundation help, constructed their homes--a "HEALTHY HOME!"  I'll insert below its portrait. 

We've already mentioned Paulina.  Here she is with her husband, Gerardo Jor, and their family.  Gerardo is the son of Julian Jor who in the beginning was the youngest of the "colonos."  Well see him and his happy smile in just a moment. 

 Here I am with a few "little buddies,"  who wanted their picture with me.  I should have found out who they were attached to in the community--like great grandchildren of those I worked with for years. 

Other cherished friends jumped into the picture with me next.  Macaria in the yellow quipil, her daughter, Romelia, on my right, and others from the family. 

After I sold the Valparaiso Plantation, I was asked to help Romelia in her quest to become the Indian Queen of Santa Cruz Verapaz--as had others over the years, like Cecilia, and Josefina.  Best insert a picture of her at that time....I believe in 1996. 

Next in line was Feliza Jul,  on the right, another of the originals at the Central House.  Agustin, her brother was the first, and through him we learned of the terrible situation they lived in with an alcoholic father.  So soon, Feliza joined us, along with sisters, Cecilia and Rosalia.  Here she is with one of her daughters. 

Another of those we are calling, originals, was Carmelina with terrible need,  having an alcoholic mother.  She grew up in the Central House, and was part of a group of young girls who entertained many over the years as a singing group.
I'll insert below the earliest picture of the children we began helping, and then a picture of them grown up quite a lot. 

On the left they are: Agustin, Margarita, Rosalia, Alfonso, Lic & Miguel Tul.
On the right: Rosalia, Margarita, Carmelina & Soila.
Here I am with Olivia, daughter of Julian Jor, and her family. 

Then we come to one of the first "vocational students," Pablo Xona, who thereafter became an employee and Paramedic who would go on horseback to the villages to treat the sick.  Among other things he opened the way for our projects in the remote village of Pambach, and later, among other things, served for a time as President of the LDS Branch. He is pictured in the SCHOOL activity, shown in the review of Education, specifically in the construction of the government school--receiving a bag of soda pop from Olivia. 

I'll insert below a shot of him and Ricardo Cho leaving on horseback to treat sick in the villages.  

Here Pablo is with his wife and one of his daughters.  His wife, on greeting me with a warm hug, broke down and wept and for a minute or so and wouldn't let go! 

An important part of Pablo's family is Juan Pablo Xona seen below.  He was one of those in charge of the program, and who presented me with a beautiful gift, pictured further along.    
Communication began between us several years ago through Facebook, and I learned about his sacrifices to get himself an education, and then help those younger in the family to get an education too.  In my speech, he was mentioned as having had a special reputation in his childhood & youth. 

Carmelina, came forward again, wanting another photograph, as she had done at the SCHOOL.  In that report I tell her tragic story as a child, and our efforts to help her.  If you missed that, click on the above link and learn about her story.  

Here I'm struggling to remember names.....I almost have it on the tip of my tongue! 

No problem remembering  LORENZO CAAL MAX, we see here with his family.
In the early years, with all my students, we would daily go to the soccer field and run timed 100 meter dashes, and for years I beat everybody--but recall vividly that Lorenzo was the first to beat me!

It was also on a trip back from Patzicia passing through Guatemala City that I stopped at an Evangelical Book Store to buy him a BIBLE.  On return to my nearly new Toyota 4x4 diesel pickup with a nice camper shell (seen below without the shell)  on the back covering a load of machinary, Christmas gifts,  and a PA system for a school......
........I was car-jacked,  scrunched between a 9mm pistol in my left ribbs, and a .38 revolver jammed into my right ribbs, and off we went they saying directly their intentions to kill me--but I was a fast talker, and they finally let me go, just with the shirt on my back and a dirty handkerchief--under which I had my emergency fund.

After reporting to the police, I got on a bus and traveled back to Valparaiso, walking in the dark to the Central House during a torrential downpour--and never saw my beloved truck again, and I still owe Lorenzo his BIBLE!  
Since I was on a Foundation trip, the trustees promised to get me a new truck....but there has never been extra money to do so....GREAT MEMORIES! 

Then came my portrait with Jose Laj, his wife, Mariita, mother-in-law Agapita, and daughte, Reina Esperanza.....with a million memories flooding my mind. In the SCHOOL report I related more details about my 50 year long friendship with these fine people.

Agapita was another who broke down and cried and for a time wouldn't release me from  a wonderful embrace!  

With these young ladies it took me a moment to remember the oldest.....but it finally came to me:  AMALIA, Agustin Jul's daughter.  Her father, seemed to have inherited his father, Diego's alcoholism problem and passed away a few years ago.  

But it was good to see Amalia and family.  Here I am with the expanded version of the  family. 

 Now we come to JULIAN JOR, who has been mentioned several times.  He was the youngest of the original 39 "colonos," or resident Indians.  And he actually became the first out of them to accept full time employment--which in the beginning none of them wanted!  
Another fond memory of Julian is that he was in 1973 part of a group of 26 LDS Priesthood bearers, and the last to learn how to read and write in the literacy classes we sponsored. 

 It was a proud moment for him, and for me, when in a class in which we would take turns reading a verse from the scriptures, he was successfully able to read his for the first time--that gave us 100% for the group....and I have always been willing to bet it was the first group of Indian men in an LDS Church unit, with 100% activity,  and a 100% literacy rate--probably in all of Latin America! 

Last of all I just had to get a picture with a photographer who had been in all three activities in Sta. Cruz, and with, doña ROMELIA, who for many years was a teacher at the Valparaiso School, and a good friend. 

The LDS community seems to be quite dominant in recent years at Valparaiso, and had up on the wall a display entitled, 
 I felt more than honored to have my picture heading the group. 

The Program started by having Gerardo Jor offer a prayer.  

After words of welcome there were several  song/dance numbers performed by the Valparaiso youth.  

Then a special couple of hymns sung by a group of the LDS women, some of whom interestingly don't need a hymn book, rather have the words of the hymns on their cell phones.  

Federico Veliz, volunteer Regional Director for the Guatemalan Foundation, was asked to speak.  As mentioned,  Federico and me have worked together for more than 40 years in all kinds of projects in all the villages and rural schools of Santa Cruz Verapaz. 

Then, as done in the school, the new manager of the Valparaiso Plantation, Miguel Angel Argueta, was asked to speak, representing the owner. After his speech, he excused himself for a moment.....and I learned later, he called the new owner, Fernando Jarquin Pira, who soon thereafter began his helicopter trip from Tecpan to Valparaiso to take me personally on the tour. 

I was then asked to speak to those I considered my people and had a wonderful few moments highlighting our 50 years of history, the majority of it at Valparaiso.

 One of these days I will perhaps try and piece together what I said that afternoon, and also in the SCHOOL, and in the MUNICIPALITY, just in case anyone might be interested. To say the least it was an emotional experience to be speaking to these people for whom I had dedicated so many years of my life.....
.......and been blessed with being able to do my best to realize the fulfillment of the dream that started it all as a 16 year old youth......
........preceded that same night by the Near Death Experience that had me convinced my life didn't belong to me, and had to serve some worthwhile purpose......
.......the "dream" in which I saw myself living a very simple life, in dress, and living in a simple wood frame home, but dedicating everything I had helping a needy people......
..........that my conversion to Christ, through reading the scriptures, helped me identify as the Indian people, called by the Mormons, Lamanites.......
.....and the soon thereafter the experience of being an LDS missionary  in Central America, which experience convinced me I had to return to Guatemala among the Mayans, beginning in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. 
Then 9 years of intense preparation, and finally making the move, which was laughed at and predicted we would only last 6 months............
..........but making it finally to Guatemala and getting started with a project designed to hopefully support us, but also begin immediately serving needy people and learning more so we could begin to help effectively.........
..........but then having to shift to something more practical acquiring a small farm, and establishing there the first commercial poultry farm in Alta Verapaz, and being able to support ourselves and learn......
......but then miraculously acquiring the Valparaiso Plantation where the real work began and persisted over many, many a sense even until now in 2016.  Deep gratitude was expressed to all those present, and those who have passed on, for the opportunity and blessing of being able to put into action my faith and serve them as my  beloved brothers & sisters.  

Then there were some presentations, beginning with Josefina giving me a diploma from the Health Department for my service.......
.......which in the beginning was when medical services weren't available, or not accepted by the people, and we began doing thousands of medical treatments every year.  It was deeply satisfying to receive an award from one of my students, who became a nurse, and who now is serving her own people, and making me obsolete! 

Next a very significant award was made by JUAN PABLO XONA, and I took advantage of the opportunity to express special satisfaction receiving .......... award at the hands of "he, who when a child and youth, was the biggest brat and troublemaker, but always with a smile indicating to me he had great potential--which is gratefully now being achieved!" 
 Then, my young friend, Mauricio, presented me with a gift from the community--a very nice shirt I have proudly used on special occasions with my most important friends.   

Then, of course, the typical "SACIC"  lunch, for which I didn't adequately give thanks--as usually I insist on going into the kitchen and thanking personally the fine women who work so hard to make it a delicious success.
I said my goodbyes to Roberto Ja Caal, Mayor of Santa Cruz Verapaz, who very kindly was with us in all 3 of the Events in his Municipality, and with my new VALPARAISO, S.A. cap on, joined Miguel Angel Argueta and headed for the Valparaiso Planation.  



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