The Guatemala Files, Part I:
We left Guatemala City with the temperature at 14 degrees but by the time we reached Santa Barbara (where Father Pablo’s church is) we had managed to get to 34 degrees. The countryside was lush and beautiful but the threatening volcanoes poked their heads above the clouds and issuing a billow of smoke from time to time to remind us that mother earth has control.
There are 32 volcanoes of which 4 are active at the moment. Earthquakes and tremors are a constant reality in this paradise of nature.
Fr Pablo was overjoyed to receive us and immediately the conversation turned to the days he spent in Ireland and in
Balally. “How is Doña Betty?” – was his first question as we sat down to sip the water. After the reminiscing which included a few commentaries on the fact that even in wintertime the temperature in Sta Barbara is always around 30 degrees. We chatted about Fr Pablo’s Parish. It’s a two hour drive from one end to the other and includes 32 villages with their respective chapels and communities.
The main Church, Sta Barbara, (which was the one burnt down) is also the hub of many charitable activities. Fr Pablo
showed us the huge store of food and personal items from which he distributes to his community. He told us with great
sadness- “Most of the babies I baptize suffer from malnutrition”. The contrasts in the country are shocking and
very apparent in this rural area.
As we passed through the mountains we watched the coffee collectors carry huge sacks of coffee up the mountain. One
tiny little man had a 70kg sack on his back bound to his head by an enormous strap and he plodded up the hill doubled over
by the weight. We then saw 10 and 12 year olds with bales of wood tightly bound to their backs and stretching way above
their heads. I thought of our Confirmation children in school and their parents sometimes carrying their schoolbags. Here a
mother with a huge bale on her own back and the two children carrying their wood, dressed in their native clothes, heading
for the mountain where their home is…. To be continued