Friday, July 15, 2011

Past Preterit and the Past

Yesterday morning I finished filling up my first notebook, and started learning the Past Preterit tense.  It’s a good thing to learn how to speak in the past, as trying to tell stories and share things that have happened using only the present tense isn’t so great:  “I am born in Canada.  Then I move to Michigan where I go to college.  Last year I visit the Dominican Republic.  I live in Virginia.  I leave Virginia in June...”  You get the picture! 

It’s hard to believe I’ve finished three weeks of language school already!  On the one hand, I feel like I’ve learned a lot, on the other, I’m realizing just how much I need to learn!

Church in the center of town
(loudspeakers on top blasted music all day)
Yesterday afternoon, I experienced a different kind of ‘Past’.  A bunch of us from school piled in a minivan and headed to San Antonio Aguas Calientes.  At one time, there were ‘hot waters’ there, but they have cooled off.  The name remains. 

Beautiful fabrics at the Coopertiva
San Antonio is a pretty little town around 20 minutes from Antigua known for weaving Mayan cloth in bold colors.  We went to a Cooperative started by Mayan women to help give their families (and especially their daughters) a better life. 

The woman who gave the presentation spoke in a clear, slow voice, so I was able to follow most of what she said.  She showed us a large cloth (approx 1 yard X 1 yard) called a ‘sute’.  Each sute is handwoven and unique.  Different colors have different meanings.  For example, green represents the quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.  The purple is for the color and smell of the sea.  The sute she held up took one year to complete.  Some can take as many as two years! 

Sute as baby-sling
A woman will use her sute for her entire life.  It can be tied to make a bolsa (purse), folded to place on one’s head for church, wrapped around you for warmth, made into a sling to carry a baby… it was fascinating to watch how quickly she was able to make it into the various things.  It made me wish I had some of my large shawls with me, to experiment with these new ways of tying! 

Sute as worn by a senorita (single girl)
She showed us the way an unmarried woman wears it, over her shoulder, and told us how in the old days, a young man would grab it off of the girl, and in this way ‘claim’ her.  It was very bad for the girls, because it meant they pretty much had no choice whom they would marry. 

Our guide had been married at 16.  One of the reasons for the Cooperative is to help provide for the education of young women so they can go to school and not get married so early. 

After the demonstration, she asked for volunteers.  I was one of them, and I’m glad I was!  A couple other Mayan women came and helped our guide, and we were all dressed in traditional Mayan clothing. 

Getting ready for the wedding.
My 'son' is next to me.
The top the women wear is called a huipil, and depending on how intricate the design, can take from 2 months to a year to complete.  The skirt is called a corte and is a long piece of fabric which is folded and tied with a cloth belt.  I never would have been able to figure it out on my own!  Over my shoulders was placed the sute which my daughter-in-law would have woven for me.  On my head another sute was placed. 

The entire Bridal party ready to head to the church
for the boda (wedding)!
One gal and guy were dressed in wedding wear.  It was fun because they are actually married – with four kids!  Their two daughters participated, and I got to be… the mother-in-law (the mom of the groom).  I think my ‘son’ was my age – or maybe even older!  I got to sprinkle flower petals over them as they knelt and wish them many children.  It was a good day!

The past is far more tangible here than back home in the U.S.  It’s a little jarring sometimes to see these old buildings, all the ruins, and women in traditional Mayan clothing, and then see signs for Internet Cafes and people checking iPhones.  But, somehow it works. 

Walking down the cobblestone streets, munching on a piece of pan dulce (this insanely delicious bread which tastes like cake!) and seeing the mix of past and present is a gift.  What a blessing to experience so much! 

Until next time, I hope each of you has a great day in whatever place (and time!) God has placed you.


  1. I am really enjoying your learning time. Keep on learning the language so you may serve. Thankful for you and praising God. Many hugs and loves! Sara G.

  2. Beautiful pictures! I "may" be a little bit jealous ;0)