Completing Our Promise

Tere and I have just finished delivering two copies of Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives to each of the artisans, plus a specially made version that Tere did for each one with her or his own story in Spanish. (It looks just like the big book but thinner and spiral bound, with just their own pictures and story.) Every one of these deliveries filled our hearts, gave us stories I will share with you in future blog posts.  Right now, for my own pleasure, I want to bask in the beauty of the shared reactions of the artisans.

Explaining to María Raymundo, in her own language Ixil, about her copy of the book with her story in Spanish. Her kids will read and translate it for her.
Explaining to María Raymundo, in her own language Ixil, about her copy of the book with her story in Spanish. Her kids will read and translate it for her.

The single most important response, expressed with smiles and/or tears, is that they are grateful to have a way to share their stories with their children and grandchildren, that when they are gone their families will have a tangible way to remember them. The value of that could not be over-stated.



Susana López's delight at suddenly seeing a beautiful picture of herself.
Susana López’s delight at suddenly seeing a beautiful picture of herself.

We were surprised at how few looked for their own pictures first. (In the culture I know best, most of us would have looked for ourselves first.)Most started at the beginning and paged through the entire book, savoring all of the pictures, admiring the work of other artisans and communities. A surprising number knew someone else in the book, which was fun. Some who are more business-savvy jumped on the chance to use this to promote their work; others barely have any concept of what a book even is, so looked at it as a new kind of animal. They were impressed with the quality of the book and some said that now they understand why it took so long, and it was worth it. We were very touched that in one way or another, they all expressed the hope that we would come back. Now that the work is over, can we keep the friendship going?

Catarina Aguilar's husband Gabriel and daughter María remembering Catarina.
Catarina Aguilar’s husband Gabriel and daughter María remembering Catarina.

Sadly, two of the artisans – Antonio Ramirez Sosof and Catarina Aguilar Cruz, died before they got to see the book. That only added to the gratitude their families have for this remembrance. Domingo Asicona said that since he is now 91 he is glad we made it before he died, and was sad thinking we might never see each other again. But throughout we got reminded how many had parents who lived past 100. In the case of Vicente Lainez, he had told us his father died at 106; it never occurred to us to ask about his mother until she walked in! She is now 97, he told us. It’s hard to make sense of a world where so many children die, most people are old by the time they reach 58, and yet so many live past 100.

Receiving the books was a family affair. This is Ana Ceto, her husband Tomás, two daughters and two granddaughters.
Receiving the books was a family affair. Tere is showing the Spanish version of Ana’s story to Ana Ceto, her husband Tomás, two daughters and two granddaughters.

And finally, one of the new stories we heard was from Ana Ceto’s daughter. She said that when her mother was young they were mostly barefoot, even in the cold, so they cut the bark off a tree the size of their foot, stuck a stick into it, and made what we would call flip flops, their protection from the frosty ground.

Stay tuned … There are 20 artisans, plus the historic political activity going on in Guatemala right now, and so much more. This is fun.


10 thoughts on “Completing Our Promise

  1. Having been to Guatemala on a Rotary project, I am SO happy to have found your book and connecting with you! I feel so much closer to this beautiful country and her people through you! My hope is to go back again one day soon! Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to read the book!


  2. Deb and Tere:
    Reading your comments reminds me of a story I have heard: That around the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, there was no Italian language…but rather the languages of a myriad of villages on the Italian peninsula. Then along came an author who produced the first cookbook of foods from all over the peninsula and due to it’s popularity…it became the de facto first book of the entire language as cooks from all the villages began learning and using the words of the other villages. It seems your book may have taken many somewhat isolated artisans, and just by its existence, created a community… now, at the very least, each of the artists will see and to some degree be influenced by the work of others… it will be interesting to see where it all can go.


  3. Howard, interesting indeed. Given the speed of communication now, and significant changes that came about during and after the war, and the presence of Spanish as the umbrella language, what you say is a process well underway, and yes, having a huge impact.


  4. Congrats to you both- how enormously satisfying, what good work and deeply satisfying joy to all parties. Spreading joy-. Very Big YAY love Mary Anne


  5. Hi Deborah, I want to follow your blog. And I will order the book for sure. May I ask why there are exclamation marks between the words? Or does it have something to do with the transmission of the messages from Guatamala and the US. Thanks for all you have done for the weavers. Helen Hart, remember meeting you a long time ago 🙂


  6. Hi Helen, I remember you well! As for the exclamation points, I have no idea. No one else has said anything about that, so I guess you are just special. (Well, even MORE special.) I’ll ask my blog guru and see if she has any clues. And if anyone else has such a thing, please let me know.


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