At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’d just like to start with: what a week!
On Monday, Lucia went down to the U.S. embassy to promote the right to vote outside the country for presidential and congressional elections, as well as to explain to the social movement here the various initiatives undertaken in the United States to support the request of TPS for Guatemalans in the United States presented by the Guatemalan Government last June.
You can read more about it in Spanish at La Hora’s website: http://www.lahora.com.gt/notas.php?key=83369&fch=2011-03-25.
This is where MIA wears two hats: working with our own mission and also as a part of the Red para la Paz y el Desarrollo para Guatemala.
We had a pretty successful day at the all-boys’ school in Zone 8. The boys are enamored with our facilitator, Manolo. Already the boys “aww” when we leave. There’s always “discipline” issues, but usually we can channel all their vivacious energy into our activities. (No small feat this, with classes of about 40 ten-year-olds.)
USAC classes on Thursday were fun times. We assigned a reading on the role of women in the history of the Maya-Quiché, based on their presence in the Popol Vuh, which generated a lot of interest and discussion. The students had a lot to say about how societies develop their social norms and where these norms might come from. During the course of the workshop we talked about people who influence us, and in our responses we got everything from Daddy Yankee to Álvaro Colóm (el señor presidente) to our mothers and fathers, and even our kids.
The students’ homework for this week is to get together their midterm project: an interview with a person who influences them in a positive way and an oral presentation about this person. I am really, really excited to hear more about the students’ backgrounds and learn about the people who have made them who they are. I think one of the students is even going to talk about Lucía as her “persona influyente”!
On Friday, Carlos and I headed over to el INCA (Instituto Normal de Centro América), the all-girls’ school where Angie studied (see my previous post for more on Angie’s story) and where we give our workshops on Fridays. We were feeling some pretty mixed emotions because this was going to be the first time we would see the girls since the death of their friend and our former student.
I’m not sure what exactly we expected to hear from the students, but what we saw was nothing like what I had expected.
When we turned the corner to go towards the school’s main entrance, three girls standing in the sidewalk said hi and explained to us that the students’ association was occupying the building and had cancelled classes for the day. They took us to one of the girls guarding the entrance and the girls there (students of 6to magisterio, 15-year-olds) explained to us and to some parents who had gathered around that there was nothing to worry about. Everyone in the building was safe and no one was being held against their will. All students would be let out at the normal end of the school day at 12:30.
When we asked if they could tell us more about what was going on, they explained that (and this paragraph is all more or less translation and paraphrasing) after Angie’s death, when the students of the three highest grades decided to march in protest to the Palacio Nacional, where Ban-Ki Moon was visiting with the president, their principal forbade them to leave school grounds. But the girls wanted justice and wanted to make their voices heard and so they left, with 16 teachers (none of whom had pressured the girls to leave). The principal was ticked off and has since declared that 4 of those 16 teachers are essentially eligible to be fired (even under Guatemala’s employee protection laws) for “abandonment of their posts”. The students are outraged by this abuse of power and have taken possession of their school in a non-violent way to speak out against the principal’s actions and in fact, ask for her to be replaced instead of the teachers.
They let us in to see the girls’ and as far as I could tell, there was no one being held against their will. The girls were letting the younger kids go about their classes and recess as usual on their side of the building (their was even a sound system to play music for the kids during their recess). The other side of the building, where the older students have class was basically a scene from last year’s student power protests but with younger actors. The girls were sitting on the floor anywhere they could find shade, and a bunch of them had gathered in the central courtyard under the (scorching!) sun to listen to girls from 6to explain their demands and join them in chants of “El INCA unido jamás sera vencido!” And “ Qué queremos?” “Justicia!” And “Voz y voto”, because those are the two things that in the current system, our girls just don’t have.
Check it out for yourself: