Saturday, May 27, 2017

History... NEVER SEEN BEFORE PHOTOS & HISTORY: MIRACULOUS ACQUISITION OF VALPARAISO PLANTATION -- 39 Poqomchi Families - 240 people - 40% of Children DEAD Already....Sick & Dying in Every Hut --SURVIVAL FOR US & THEM THE CHALLENGE: HOW WE DID IT?

#1.  Winter  2000/2001 "Mayan Cultural Center & Museum of the Holy Man
#2.  Summer 2001 "Year in Review" & Financial Report for 2000
#3.  NEW - IN COLOR - Winter 1989

#1.   How It All Started  &   A Decade of Preparation to Avoid Failure
#2.   Como Fue El Comienzo & 10 Años de Preparacion para Evitar el Fracaso
#3.   1966 Expedition to Izapa & 3rd Exploratory Trip
#4.   1966 Report to Ex-Missionaries - "Color & Beauty a Disguise"
#5  1966-67 Last Exploratory Trip & Ready to Go  & Role of Andersen Samplers
#6.   Leaving UT. & Arrival in Guat  8/19/1967 - Traveling Movie - Poultry Farm
#7.    Photo/Essay of first year at Valparaiso, never seen before
#8.    YouTube video: First movies (8mm.) atValparaiso by Bob Allen & Lou Bernstein
9.       "          : 1979 & 1980 8mm. movies by Foundation
10.     "          : KSL TV Dimension Five  1981 documentary
11.     "           :  Documentary of Corn Improvement Program--650% yield increase
#12.     "      :  The Complete History video
13.     "          : 2016 Documentary shown on National TV in Guatemala
14.       "           :  Etc. gradually added to even after Foundation closes
"The basket filled to overflowing"
We arrived in Guatemala on August 19, 1967 - by September we started the traveling movie--CINE CHAPINLANDIA, but little profit forced us in December to seek a better source of income and so we become owners of a Farm--GRANJA LA CABANA,  but through January continued the traveling movie too.  However, Manuel's alcoholism forced us to end the traveling movie tour, but learn from the incredible experience & use of the movie tool to even greater advantage  in  Coban, Chamelco, Carcha, Santa  Cruz, Tactic, & San Cristobal.

By that time my father was prospering with 80% of the profits from ANDERSEN SAMPLERS, selling instruments like hot-cakes that I had put together, and he sent me a bonus of $5,000, plus my portion of the profits at years end as a 22% owner of the business.  So I had the capital to quickly turn the farm into the 1st commercial poultry farm in Northern Guatemala.
During that same period, from December through January I was contacted by a Mrs. Garcia and her two daughters who seemed obsessed that we become the owners of their plantation--Valparaiso,  that was in Santa Cruz Verapaz.

Below we see a good portion of the 600 acre property, the aerial photo taken years later after we had constructed a lake,  cleared off trees and mowed with a tractor the area in the middle of the picture--revealing mounds of an ancient Mayan city.

Below is another view of the area mowed revealing the mounds, along with the Central House area on the left, followed by the lake and the dirt road leading to San Cristobal Verapaz.  It is the road I had traveled in August 1966 after my photography at Izapa , exploring & fishing trip and while coming down with malaria after the night photo-shoot in the jungles of Izapa, Mexico.

The Garcia family had a year before been asking Q.85,000 ($85,000) for the property, and even had some people interested, but who required that all the 240 resident Indians be removed from the property as they had the reputation of being the "biggest drunkards, laziest workers, and most dishonest among all the Poqomchi," but the legalities and cost of doing that was more than difficult. So, when approaching me they had come down to $35,000 and were anxious to make a quick deal.

I hiked all over the property several times and was enthralled with visions of what I could do there, and wrote my father about it. In some respects it was what I had gone to Guatemala looking for--in harmony with one of the two guiding dreams I had in Coban as a missionary.   He was excited, and immediately replied, saying, 
I quickly wrote back, asking the question, 
"BUY....but WITH WHAT?"

The  then empty "basket," was quickly filled again by him offering me another bonus.  

I offered the Garcia family $20,000, and they came down to $30,000.  I persisted offering $20,000 saying that it's only production of crude sugar, had it only worth $20,000.  They then came down to $25,000, and eventually to $20,000, and held their hands out to receive the money.
I then reminded them it would take me a week or so to get it, but only a down payment of $5,000, followed by  two years running with no payment, then a $2,400 payment, and then  monthly payments of $200 until paid off--with no interest charged on the unpaid balance! 

They accepted the terms if I could pay them $6,000 down.
So,  on February 2, 1968 we quite miraculously became the owners of the Valparaiso Plantation, the entrance to which at that time is seen above.

Below is the picture we have quite unfairly shown of the "haunted Central House."  Quite "unfair" as we are actually looking at the crude sugar refinery portion of the house blackened by the continual wood  fires to boil the sugar cane juice down into crude sugar, called "panela," the production of which is seen in the following pictures after we get two glances of the sugar cane fields.

The heart of the sugar refining process is the cane crusher seen below, moved by a 16' diameter water wheel behind the wall, moved by water from the reservoir David is observing up above the Central House.  The water wheel will be seen in the first 8mm. movies we will have available in a few days on the Foundation's website.

These pictures are the first we have ever shown of the "panela" production which was the only money making operation on the plantation, that I was told was a year around thing that would provide year around employment to the 39 resident Indian workers or "colonos." 

From the crusher, the cane juice goes down a small tin trough to a rectangular holding tank, and from there released into a half moon shaped condensing vat just barely visible on the left, underwhich is the fire that boils and condenses the juice down.

When the consistency is just right, it is dipped out into the rectangular wood trough and stirred until just right when it is then put into the molds as seen in the following two pictures.

After cooling in the molds, the panela is then packed, using sugar cane leaves and is ready for sale. 
Over several years we learned that sales followed a quite consistent cycle:  One good year with high prices....which had producers increase production, but then:  A bad year with a market flooded with cheap panela.  
The other problem was, that the harvest and production of panela  didn't last a year....maybe, because we pushed production which had the harvest end in just 3 months! 

 That created a serious problem with no way of employing the 39 workers, who worked in two teams, each working 2 weeks, and then having 2 weeks off to work in their fields of plantation land which they had a right to use--as well as getting all their building materials, and firewood off of plantation land, as long as they worked their two weeks of obligatory work for the plantation.  
In a couple of pictures I'll show what we did to solve this problem of keeping them all employed in something that would also produce a profit to support the family.

Above we see workers loading panela into the pickup, with the camper still on. On the left we begin seeing--firewood--that we started producing to survive the quick ending of the sugar cane harvest.

On the right is the Central House, and  below we see the family, along with some friends from Coban, having like a picnic at Valparaiso as the family continued to live in Coban.

The fellow on the right is Alfredo Rodas, who for many years was the LDS Branch President in Coban, and the town postman.  I had employed him to help me with the traveling movie, then help with the poultry farm, but soon his help became critical at Valparaiso, as being a resident originally of San Cristobal Verapaz, he spoke Poqomchi needed to work with the people at Valparaiso, most of whom didn't speak Spanish.

The family with us that day, is the family of Joseph Smith, the fellow we see on the right, married to Aldina who had three  children who are mentioned later in the Historical Review.

Above and below we are seeing Richard who because in Spanish he was Ricardo, we came to call him RicarDITO, the last part stuck...with many of us until today.  So he is "DITO."

Julie, of course in the background.  Dito, spent the first half of his life on the last exploratory trip--from like 2-1/2 to 5 months old, camping out.  then was 11 months old when we arrived in Guatemala.  He is one of the 3 little boys pictured in the July 1971 ENSIGN article.

Here we are seeing the area that was swampy and had drainage ditches into which cattle would get stuck, so we decided to build a dam and drainage system and produce here the lake that has been seen in previous reports.

In my efforts to find ways to help the Indians it was easy to note that corn was their staple, the summer variety called "veranero" I am examining above.  It is planted traditionally on December 25th, and is a small plant that produces a harvest in just 4 months.  Then in May with the beginning of the rainy season they plant their main corn, a white corn with a giant stalk that  is 10 or more feet high, only producing one large ear of corn, but taking 7 months to do it.

Here are typical ears of their summer corn, which my experiments proved was much more nutritious than the white corn that basically had little nutritive value.  the veranero at least was rich in Vitamin A.   So, soon on we began a process to improve their native summer corn, both in yields, and in quality, and eventually showed them how to select their seeds and gradually over 6 years improve their yields by 650%, with consistent improvement also in vitamin content.  Later I made a documentary on the project, that we'll make available on the website when I can get to it.

Drunkenness, a total lack of wholesome  and fun activities, and ignorance, with most of them illiterate, the nearest school located 2 miles up a slippery trail to the Najquitob Village, had us from the very beginning using our movie projectors to show them the first movies they had ever seen.

Soon some of them began accompanying us to nearby towns where we showed movies to the communities using the white walls of the Catholic Churches.

This was the nearest school -- in the Najquitob Village, 2 miles up a slippery trail.  Half of the boys attending were from Valparaiso, but when it was raining, school was forgotten, as well as when their father's needed them to plant, or harvest corn and other crops.

Zoel Gomez, was one of the two teachers.  When we formally opened a school at Valparaiso, he became our teacher and for many years was considered the most effective, even though he only had 3rd grade education himself.  He spoke Poqomchi, and was a simple man, close enough to the level of his students that he became very successful with children in the lower grades.

From the beginning I had to be involved in stopping drunkeness,  intervening in resultant fights, and treating the wounded.  For years I saved a white shirt--like as a trophy-- I had on one Sunday, but which had the pocket ripped, and was blood spattered when me and those loyal to me had to fight off invaders

Then we had to deal with the end of the sugar cane harvest after just 3 months.
We had our workers report with their machetes and axes, and began clearing land and producing firewood.
This was also the first attempt to "mechanize" by teaching them the value of a chain saw, wedge and special ax with a sledge hammer on one end. 
The best of the workers went to work on a big log, and me with the chain saw, then splitting into firewood with my wedge to get each section started.  I had completed an entire log cut into sections, and split into firewood before the worker had even got through cutting off one section.   One alert worker --FEDERICO POOU--accepted being taught how to use the chain saw.  He eventually was one the few who accepted full-time employ.

Here some of the workers are loading the firewood into my pickup.

This one, above,  Julian Jor, was the youngest of the "colonos,"  and was the first to accept fulltime employment--beginning as a "student" going to school half-a-day learning to read and write & basic math, and working half a day, but earning more than the colonos were earning for an 8 hoiur day.  Later on Julian became the supervisor of the calves and dry cows.

In the Historical Review, when retelling how we established at Valparaiso the largest dairy in Northern Guatemala, Lecheria Las Victorias, I tell the story of me always going to Coban alone to sell firewood, and insisting on unloading it myself for the customers, and then hefting  myself 100 lb. bags of feed and fertilizer to load the truck for the return trip to Valparaiso-- and while offending some upper-class, educated Ladinos, unknowingly I was gaining the trust of the man who later made possible the miraculous deal of becoming owner of the dairy.

I recall the name of this elderly colono as EUSEBIO, but I'll have to go to my shed and files to find the first census I did at Valparaiso to find out of which family he was.  

When the census was made in January 1969, Eusebio had passed on, but luckily I jotted his name down after the name of his widow - Isabela Caal. 

Below is a photograph of Isabela Caal, Miguel's grandmother, providing me with more hot tortillas.  Carlos and Margarita, uncle & aunt of Miguel,  are also seen in this picture.

Below in the Central House Family picture is seen the Grandma, Isabela Caal, the short lady on the middle back row
Right in front of Grandma Isabela, is Alfonso, another of Miguel's uncles. Alberto is another, right in front of Maria.  Margarita is on the front left-middle.  Miguel wasn't in the picture as he was very sick at that 

I remember well who this one was, Pablo Caal, father of Santiago Caal Pop.  Santiago was one of my first vocational students who later became an LDS branch president, and the Supervisor of the Lecheria Las Victorias--the Dairy.

And, here is Chavela, the mother of Elvira--the first miracle baby restored to life, and also of Marta, all of whom came to live with us for many years at the Central House.

The above photo has to be of one of the first dances held at Valparaiso.  The central couple dancing is Matilde, who became the mother of Oscar Rene, who was the translator for Garth Norman in our meeting this past February--translating from English to Poqomchi.  Her partner is Carlos Yat Valdez, who along with his mother Carmelina, and little brothers, Moncho and Ruben, lived with us for many years at the Central House.  Carlos was my visiting companion seen in the 1971 ENSIGN article.  He later was for a time an LDS branch president, and to the end was the Manager-Administrador of Valparaiso.
Others in the photo are, to the left, Alberto, and to the right, Margarita--uncle & aunt of Miguelito.  They all grew up with us in the Central House.

Here we see, on the right, Carmelina, Carlos & Moncho's mom, then MIGUELITO, next to MARIA, then I  guess a missionary, then FERNANDO MORA, who several times was a volunteer with us from Guatemala City, and who we sent on a full-ti,me mission to Nicaragua. Apparently the dance & celebration was for MOTHER'S DAY - in Latin America, May 10th.  

And, at the same activity, DITO trying to play the Karate Kid,

Last of all we see Dave, maybe 8-9 years old, with MARIO SALAZAR.  Mario was the one who smooth talked through Mexico and into Guatemala the safe passage of the large diesel generator donated to us and brought by the Explorer Scouts from Oakhills II Ward in Provo.  Later Mario as a full time missionary organized  and operated a school in the Patzicia chapel, smooth-talking the Mission President into believing that  such was his calling for two years--school supported by the Foundation.  That was all prior to the 1976 Great Earthquake, and all the things that developed afterward  summarized in the Historical Review and in Newsletters.
An edited combination of the first two 8mm. movies made at Valparaiso by Bob Allen in 1969, & Lou 
Bernstein in 1970
Note:  It will take me a few days, so be patient.

Friday, May 26, 2017


#1.   How It All Started  &   A Decade of Preparation to Avoid Failure
#2.   Como Fue El Comienzo & 10 Años de Preparacion para Evitar el Fracaso
#3.   1966 Expedition to Izapa & 3rd Exploratory Trip
#4.   1966 Report to Ex-Missionaries - "Color & Beauty a Disguise"
#5  1966-67 Last Exploratory Trip & Ready to Go  & Role of Andersen Samplers
#6.    Leaving UT. & Arrival in Guat  8/19/1967 - Traveling Movie - Poultry Farm
7.  COMING: Photo/Essay of first years at Valparaiso, never seen before
8.       "          : First movies (8mm.) atValparaiso by Bob Allen & Lou Bernstein
9.       "          : 1979 & 1980 8mm. movies by Foundation
10.     "          : KSL TV Dimension Five  1981 documentary
11.     "           :  Documentary of Corn Improvement Program--650% yield increase
#12.     "      :  The Complete History video
13.     "          : 2016 Documentary shown on National TV in Guatemala
14.      "       :  Etc. gradually added to even after Foundation closes


On about July 9 we were packed and ready to leave.  The pickup was 2,000 lbs. overloaded, but I had put  overload springs on the back, and purchased the best tires available--Michelin radials that weren't common yet......
There was just barely space on top of our load in the camper for us to sleep.  We drove to my folks place on Ash Avenue in Provo, Utah to say goodbye.  That's when their elderly neighborhood, Sister Cannon, came out and with a sarcastic smile made the famous prediction of our failure:  "I'll give you 6 months and you'll come running home with your tail between your legs!"  I swore, silently, that I would die before giving her satisfaction.  


After a tearful prayer with mom and dad, we headed south towards the Nogales, Arizona border crossing taking about 2 days to get there. 
A photo/essay on this segment of our history can be seen at the following link:

You can also get details from the photo/essay:


We were stopped at the Mexican border and told we  couldn’t pass through the country with so much stuff. l had made a vow I  wouldn’t give in to the bribe system, but do everything with complete honesty. The border officials admitted that there was a legal way to do it, but I  would have to go to a customs broker. I tried many and they all just shook their heads, suggesting giving bribes. After another talk with the border officials I kept making the rounds of custom brokers, finally finding one who said he could do it, but that it would take from 1 week to 6 months. We unloaded all the prohibited items in the broker’s warehouse and drove 250 miles south to San Carlos Bay you see  below  where we spent a week.

Below is seen the inexpensive bungalow that we rented giving the custom's broker time to do his magic.  During 5-7 days we spent there we had some of the most dangerous, but miraculous faith promoting experiences that would prepare us for the life of "crisis to crisis" that would soon intensify.  Some of that is mentioned briefly in the above 
Episode 1, but sadly so far I can't find the "long version."  For our family at least it is crucial, so I will re-write it when I have time.

Dave, to the left was 4 yrs. 6 mos. old; next, Richard "Dito" was 11 months old; next, Cristina was 3 yrs. 8 months old;  & Julie, was 7 yrs. 9 months old.

Then back to the border. No word had come. 

We  couldn’t afford to remain there spending more  of our  meager $4,273 dollars of capital. So we unloaded most of our stuff in the broker's warehouse, and  returned to Provo on about the 25th of July, just 2 weeks after leaving. Sister Cannon came out and couldn’t contain her laughter. It had only taken 2 weeks to return with our “tails between our  legs.”

I  went back to making more Andersen Samplers for the next two weeks.  Finally  a telegram arrived from the broker saying the authorization had come from Mexico City. 

So we packed up again, but this time did what I felt had been missing from the first attempt:  I sat down with my parents and had a very spiritual heart to heart conversation about why we were doing this, and what & how we believed it could be accomplished.  I then asked to be given a "Father's Blessing," which dad tearfully did, and finally we were ready the right way.

 So, off we went finally making it through Mexico and to the Guatemalan border on August 19, 1967 where we expected even more trouble. I talked to the border officials explaining our purposes and presented a folder with documentation for everything we  carried, stating up front we knew that  would we would have to pay some import duties. The officials were overwhelmed, bent over backwards insisting everything was used, and within 45 minutes we were on their way to Guatemala City without having to pay one thin dime for anything!


It actually took two trips to finally get the family and everything to Coban.  I made the first trip by myself, the family  remaining in an apartment graciously offered to us by Enrique Rittscher--one of the greatest men I have ever known.   On that first trip I found us a house to rent, got furniture ordered from a local carpinter, and made other important preparations.  I then got the family and a few things we would need, made the second trip and  finally we were in Coban, Alta Verapaz.  
The tires had held up, but all four rims were cracked from the heavy load.  I got them all welded so they would last as long as the truck. 

In Guatemala City we had gone to a lawyer to begin working on our Permanent Resident visas -- we had entered Guatemala with just temporary status.  The lawyer told me I could go to work on the first project--the traveling movie, so  within a week or so we launched that project.  As it worked out, it wasn't quite that simple, but we had to go to work, and begin hopefully creating an income to support us.

Above on Google Earth we wee the route of the traveling movie, from Coban on the right, taking two hours to get to the first town, CHICAMAN, where below you see me unloading the frame we had to put together for the 9' x 12' movie screen in each of the 6 towns. In Chicaman we used an old abandoned Catholic Church as our theater,

From Chicaman, another hour up the road was San Miguel Uspantan where we used the Municipal Hall, but there were no benches.  Another hour west was Cunen, where also the Municipal Hall was used,  but also with no benches.  
Another hour west we came to Sacapulas  where we would spend the night at the Catholic Convent with the Priests and Nuns, and when the weather was good had an outdoor performance in the patio you see below, and when  necessary used their temporary chapel--"temporary"  as they couldn't use the Catholic Church in the middle of the town as it was damaged by earthquakes and was off-limits.  
We had some incredible experiences there with the priests, and especially with a very young Mother Superior, who during one movie she found me in the camper reading the BIBLE, which started an inspiring conversation.
You can see above the high projection table I had made with two 16mm. movie projectors, so that there was not wait between reels.  

An hour west of Sacapulas our next town was Aguacatan once again using the Municipal Hall, but with no benches.  Then we would backtrack to a pass between Sacapulas and Cunen, and there turn north going over a 10,000+ pass and dropping down to Nebaj, where our theater was the covered patio between the Municipal Offices on one side, and the jail on the other, the patio was used for basketball.  Once again, there weren't enough benches.

We began solving the lack of seating by each off week--as we soon had to do the tour every other week, so we bought wood, and worked cutting  it to make benches in each town.  We hauled it on top of the camper and in each town went to work putting benches together as we are doing below.

 So over the months we made and left in each town benches for their municipal halls.

In each town we would show free of charge educational movies in the schools, and with the children promote the late afternoon, and evening shows:  Each with educational movies, and then a commercial one, like EL ANALFABETO with Cantinlas, TARZAN OF THE APES, and John Wayne Westerns -- as much as possible showing movies that also taught inspiring lessons.  The educational movies I would borrow from the USIS  (U.S. Information Service), and from the Canadian, Japanese, and Israeli Embassies.  
The traveling movie was one incredible experience, that eventually had my camper converted into a traveling Medical Clinic, and a Library, as none of the towns in the vast area, with 200,000 people, had medical services, nor a library (giving away pamphlets on health, nutrition, agriculture, community development, Israeli Kibutzim, etc. 
  But in the end, the rough roads, the wear and tear on the pickup and needed repairs each tour, had us just breaking even financially, so we had to find a property so we could at least have a vegetable garden, and get a profit producing business going, like with poultry that could in short order have profits rolling in.

In looking for such a property, we all of a sudden had Captain Penny, from Florida, look for us.  He was an orchid enthusiast and had bought a 50 acre property in the middle of what he called "The orchid capital of the world," near San Juan Chamelco, 30 minutes south of Coban.  He was just beginning to develop it into a poultry farm, when just a week after he started an emergency in the U.S. forced him to leave and unload his property with me. He also sold me a .22 rifle, that began the needed   arming of myself  which persisted during all my 35 years of residency in the country.

A bonus from Andersen Samplers, made that possible as well as to build new coops, bring in adult laying hens, and get started 1,000 chicks.  So all of a sudden I had to be a fast learner , and become the "poultry expert" of Alta Verapaz, with the first commercial poultry farm.


We did have challenges, first with our 300 eggs/day, and then 1,000/day, as the people of Coban didn't want white eggs--rather brown ones!  Their experience was that white eggs had pale yolks and weren't at nutritious and good tasting.  I made an emergency trip to the city, and with my newly acquired friends and poultry suppliers, got a supplement for the feed that had the yolks coming out  almost orange which I went around town breaking  open to the amazement of all--so all of a sudden we were able to support ourselves, while learning about every aspect of agriculture.

Mom and dad soon made a visit, and above dad is helping me, along with David, who was my right hand man for many years.

Here mom is in front of the simple farm home, we used to process the eggs, and as a brooder room for new chicks.

We had one employee, Manuel Ajanel, you see above cleaning the eggs.   One day  I arrived to find his wife, Julia, doing all the work and learned there was a serious problem as Manuel had acute alcoholism.  

Over the years we were able to help Manuel with his problem, as he continued with us after selling the farm, as just two months after purchasing the farm, we became owners of the 600 acre Valparaiso Plantation in Santa Cruz Verapaz and for 6 months I  had to manage both, as well as the store in Coban and I was just too divided. So the farm was sold, and our cattle from there driven overland to begin our involvement at Valparaiso, which eventually blossomed into the largest dairy in northern Guatemala.

Interestingly there cropped up people who lived in Guatemala City and elsewhere in Guatemala, all of them gringos from the U.S., who felt they had to criticize everything we were attempting, saying our first failure was Cine Chapinlandia, and the 2nd was the Poultry Farm.   
The truth is that both were incredible successes, both as learning experiences--like the traveling movie which we continued to do for many years showing movies of educational value all over the area--at schools, at  Churches, meetings of Alcoholic Anonymous, at jails, at LDS Stake Centers, at Cooperatives, and even at the Federal Penitentiary--EL PAVON.

And the Farm, in addition to being an incredible learning experience, was very profitable supporting us, and then sold for a profit.

Manuel and Julia's story has been told in the Historical Review, but perhaps it is sufficient to mention that he eventually became the Patriarch  in the Coban LDS Stake. 

We also became  the main provider of eggs for the entire Coban market, and  got to know all the important people, and  became widely known which was to open up many doors for us over the years.  Here we are in early 1968 in front of the store we opened to sell our eggs - and of more importance, we are showing off our first Guatemalan baby, JOEY, born on January 2, 1968.