Monday, May 22, 2017

1966 REPORT TO EX-MISSIONARIES FROM CENTRAL AMERICA - "Color & beauty a disguise !"


Key Historical Reports in chronological order: CLICK on # of interest
#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.  NEXT:      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

by Cordell M Andersen

By 1966 I had put together a slide program on the Guatemalan culture, using two slide projectors and a sound track recorded among the Indians in Guatemala during the  previous 4 exploratory trips.  the program had become quite well known with presentations all over Utah Valley.  Those ex-missionaries in charge  of the annual Missionary Reunion had heard about it and asked me to present the 45 minute long program in the Reunion at the time of General Conference.

I felt that it was crucial to not just entertain, but to inform the missionaries of the life and death problems of the Indians in Guatemala that we as a group could do something about.  So spent an entire day, taking apart the whole program, and putting it back together just for this one critical opportunity. 
The first part would be to show the beauty and the color of the   "The Land of Eternal Spring--The Land of the Mayas,"  and especially its people.   The 2nd part would be to show graphically that the people we had grown to love during our missions had serious life and death problems, and present my ideas about what we could do about it.

Many ex-missionaries, wives and some children filled  a chapel's cultural hall,  In addition two ex-mission presidents and their wives were present.  
The Master of Ceremonies initiated the program with a long introduction.   He then introduced and asked to speak the two ex-Mission Presidents, Wagner, and Hancock, and then followed their quite long speeches, with more comment of his own and some ill-advised jokes about missionaries having gamboo and having to dash out of visits to corn fields, etc..  I couldn't help but almost cry, as I was going to try and encourage -ex-missionaries and their wives to go live under such difficult circumstances!  
He then turned, introduced me, and said, "YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES!"

It was frustrating and as I stood I wondered  "What the heck I was going to do?" 
I explained what I had planned, but then said,
  "With the time limitation, I'm going to skip all the colorful cultural stuff & sounds and just cut to the  important life and death part and its conclusion!"

Immediately there were groans and protests insisting on the color & the culture.
"Okay," I replied.  "I'll quickly go through the color & culture basically with no time consuming explanations, and quickly get to what's a matter of life and death!" 

So, that's what I'll do here too..... just with simple captions, and be back when we get to what's really important as I did that night 51 years ago.

This tree is called "Springtime--Primavera"  and for some is a symbol of Guatemala known as 

"The Land of Eternal Spring"

NOTE:  From here on you will see my crude effort, before computers & such,  at that time to put into 2-1.4" square glass slide mounts two and sometimes 4,  35mm. pictures.  You'll notice in a moment that some of the slides faded terribly, while others in the same mounts got through the 50 years alright.  

With jungles and rain forests on both Atlantic & Pacific Coasts with at least one area that some call "The Orchid Capital of the World!" .

In between the two coastal plains are high mountains some that for 6 months are arid and dry, and others that are eternally green, such as Alta Vetrapaz.

As with the people, the geography and climates of Guatemala are likewise  varied, actually having everything from tropical rain forests, to arid cactus deserts, and high alpine mountains--all within a country only half the size of Utah.

On the Mexican border to the northwest, we begin to see the long chain of high volcanoes, the one seen here is Tacana, around 13,350 ft. high.  Nearby is the highest in Central America, Tajumulco, at 13,850 ft.

The Spanish conquest is depicted in a mural in the National Palace, representing the conquest of the Mayan people,when most of their records were burned, and  their civilization left in ruins.  

It was a religious conquest too, with all becoming Catholics, at least in name as seen above in Chichicastenango, where in 1551 an anonymous Indian, who had learned to write in his dialect from the Catholic priests, wrote down what he could remember in a book entitled THE POPUL VUH.  His manuscript went unnoticed for almost 3 centuries in the archives of the Catholic Church. Eventually it was found, translated into Spanish and German, and in 1950 into English. It is recognized by the Mayans as their Sacred Book.   Important words in the Preamble became the basis of our method of teaching and helping Indians overcome the darkness and begin to have what we called 

The Indian's Catholic/Mayan religion is kept alive  by Indian Brotherhoods, they call Cofradias, we see above involved in a procession.  

A number of active volcanoes are still alive, eruptions famous for destroying towns, such as happened to what at one time was the Capital of Central America, Antigua, ruins we see above.

Guatemala is a land of contrasts, with modern cities, such as Guatemala City--today with Walmarts, McDonalds, and everything else you can imagine, then  colonial cities, such as Antigua, and in the majority  the rural Indian towns and villages.

Here we begin to see the terribly faded transparencies.  The cars will tell you when the photograph was taken....if you know cars.

In the towns, the open air markets are the Indian's way of commerce as you see above.

Then again, in the homes we see the stark contrasts, with modern homes complete with piano, and with Indian maids to keep them clean.
Then on the other extreme are the Indian's homes which from my earliest recollection I called "incubators for disease & death," with dirt floors, an open cooking fire on the floor, and especially back 50 years ago, with not even outhouses, much less running water, and electricity.

The contrasts continue in every aspect of life such as transportation  as seen above, and below.

The contrasts persists, especially with the people, basically with two cultures:  The Ladino, which is basically European/American, as seen above to the left, and below to the right;  and the Indigenous Mayan cultures with dozens of variations all over the country, both in dress, and in language.

Among the Ladinos, there are great variations, with relatively poor Ladino people such as the girl above on the left, and then the very wealthy, educated Ladinos such as seen below that includes in this case both Spanish and German descent.

Above we see two contrasting couples, Indian/Mayan on the left from Lake Atitlan, and Ladino on the right.

The contrasts never stop, with our friend  Olga on the left, who quite obviously has a lot of Indian blood, but who considers herself a "Ladina," and then the "Inidian" woman below selling in Coban's market, but who has likely more German blood than Mayan, but is classified as an Indian.

In religion, as mentioned, most are Catholics like the church on the right above, but the Indians persisting with their Mayan religion at holy sites in the mountains seen below;  then, in growing numbers, are seen Mormon chapels all around the country....with which we can come back to the Ex-missionary Reunion, and some of us seen below when we worked in Central America:  Elder Rod Pulley, on the left, then Elder Paul Searcy, Elder C. Jess Groesbeck, and your's truly.  During my mission I resorted to my beloved flat-top haircut, and now 50 years later have it again in my attempt to not grow old!

After breezing through the color & culture, I reminded the ex-missionaries of the historic "prophetic" tour of Central America of Elder Hugh B. Brown, then an Assistant to the Twelve, but soon after a member of the First Presidency. He had prophesied in several places that the time would come when many of us would be in Central America again helping in important ways, and asked the question: 

Shortly after the Brown Tour, his prophecies taken by me very personally, I was moved abruptly from Nicaragua, to what was called 
"The Siberia of Central America," -- COBAN, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, but as some might have noticed in my historical review, it became for me SHANGRI-LA, where I felt I had to return to dedicate my life. 

I was thrust into the middle of the colorful and beautiful Indian/Mayan World that easily becomes enthralling, even mesmerizing as we see below in the Annual Indian Folklore Festival  held in Coban when Miss Indian Guatemala is chosen! 

I then burst the bubble of those who had spoke before me in the meeting....they speaking happily about all the converts and the  "prosperity in Christ"  that had been brought to the Indians by us missionaries & mission presidents.

Let me explain what I did, as done a few years later (1985) by the Indian Queen from San Cristobal Verapaz, Marta Elena Hun, we see  below entering flanked by the
"brethren from the Cofradia." 

Marta Elena, shocked the thousands at the Festival because she was wearing Indian clothing that was tattered, repaired with patches, and faded.  Her quipil or blouse was made from a sugar or flour sack, with some of the faded printing from more than 100 years ago  still visible.
She spoke in Spanish and in Poqomchi to a stunned crowd curious to know what was going on.  She spoke humbly, but eloquently saying,
 "My clothing tonight is symbolic of the real life of my people, because the colorful and beautiful clothing you come to see in the Festival,

Marta Elena went on to explain the poverty....

... their huts that educated people wouldn't even put their animals in....

.. homes that were "incubators for disease and death!"

Entire families--grandparents, parents & children all bunched together on wood sleeping platforms and huddling together to keep warm!

......and half of their children malnourished, sick  and dead before reaching 3 years old--sometimes because there were no medical services, sometimes because they couldn't afford the medicines, and yes, almost always because of ignorance without educational and work opportunities!

She went on describing their misery & suffering with tens of thousands diying that nobody cared about!  

......and bodies buried on top of bodies!

Then I showed them the Mormon chapel in Patzicia with the  beautiful smiles of some members, but then told them of experiences after  nice Sacrament Meetings when I uncovered babies and found always 2 or 3 that were sick and malnourished and would die if something wasn't done!

And then I took the stunned ex-missionaries, some with wives who couldn't hold back the tears, into the home of the Branch President  we see below who in some respects was even worse off than before conversion, and needed temporal help!

......and into other homes of our LDS brothers and sisters  who had come within the embrace of the gospel, but continued to suffer.

....and I took them into rural schools to observe heroic teachers trying their darndest to bring  light and  knowledge into a few lives, but they needed more support from people who cared.

I went on to describe how the majority of the LDS children at that time, like this group of over 30 I found  a few  "tears" ...sorry for that mistake but which fits...I meant "YEARS later,"  were not even in school!

It had not been enough to convert them to a new religion, 
 offering them bread, then  rather  giving them  a stone.  

I went on to offer some suggestions how we could help, and mentioned some of the things I was planning on doing, along with my young family.

As depicted in the float of another Indian Queen from San Cristobal Verapaz, Carolina Moran, I explained how we could,  above all people,  help the Mayans of Guatemala come to know their true history, and who they really are so they could  come alive knowing their true identity.  

By that time, I had more than taken up the time allotted me and the Master of Ceremonies was flicking the lights on and off subtly telling me to end it,   but many demanded I continue as all of a sudden the interest was intense.  Eventually I ended  my presentation,  but invited those interested to remain to talk to me, so .... it went on, and on.
But there were some objections:  One, said,
 "But to do what you are describing would require you having at least $100,000! "

Another said:  
"None of us have sufficient education and preparation to do something of worth!"    
My reply, more or less: 
 "I have been preparing for years, and had confirmation from the Lord that it was time to act, and believe that one, or a group, with the Spirit of the Lord, and a genuine love for the people, will be blessed with a multiplication of what is needed, just as the sparse bread and fish, in the time of the Savior, were multiplied and made sufficient for the multitude."   

The majority of those who remained to discuss the matter said,
"We are just getting started in life, with young families, and can't risk it.  You go, and be the guinea pig, and if it works, we'll follow!" 
By then, the poor janitor was blurry eyed and worn out, and begged us to all go home!
As we headed for home,  I was determined to TALK NO MORE...BUT TO ACT!
A month later we left on our last Exploratory Trip--that lasted 
2-1/2 months, only staying in a hotel one night.  

Nine  months after the Reunion, we left Provo,  the "goodbye"  from Sister Cannon being her famous prediction with a sarcastic smile, 
"I'll give you 6 months and you'll come running home with your trail between your legs!" 

After a failure to get through Mexico on the first try, we finally made it to take up residency in Guatemala crossing the border from Mexico on August 19, 1967--soon to complete 50 years of unceasing effort. 

 Fourteen years after our arrival, due to communist guerrilla death threats, I brought the family back to Provo, but persisted myself for 10 years keeping alive the family in Provo, and the business and Foundation alive in Guatemala,  by alternately spending 2 months in each country, logging 1/2 million miles of travel.  I persisted for 11 more years  and  finally in 2002 came
"running home with my tail between my legs"   
--35 years after Sister Cannon's prediction!

Note:  Soon after her prediction, she passed on,  and I believe she was permitted to look down on our efforts, and became an ardent supporter, and one of our guardian angels!

 Thanks to my family,  to Toby Pingree, and to a handful of those missionaries who have  been our partners, along with a whole  bunch of all of  you wonderful people that helped make possible bringing.....
 ......light and life to a multitude who will bless your names forever!


1 comment:

  1. Cordell, thanks for taking the time to put this history where it won't be lost or forgotten. You have done much good and it is enjoyable to fit the pieces together since I was an admiring young Priest in the Oak Hills ward and we next met in the Utah Valley Hospital in the 2000s.