Last week, I experienced Guatemalan culture for the first time, through Go Eat Give’s Destination Guatemala. Before the event started at El Quetzal, a Guatemalan restaurant in Chamblee, GA, I got the chance to interact with a few people who had travelled to Guatemala, and were excited to take a nostalgic trip back to the country they had fallen in love with for a night, through Go Eat Give. Before that day, I didn’t know much about Guatemala, besides what I had studied in school about the Guatemalan Civil War, and the media accounts of poverty, drug, and gang violence plastered on T.V. in recent weeks, covering the unaccompanied minors from Central America. I was eager to learn more about the land and culture.
While guests were getting settled in, photos from Guatemala and traditional music played in the background. The photos showed the rich biodiversity in Guatemala, including its plush rainforests, mountainous highlands, and clear blue lakes including Lake Atitlán . We then feasted on a Guatemalan dinner buffet that included arroz y frijoles (rice and beans), ensalada (beets and palm salad), Pepian de Pollo, Jocon con Pollo, Vggie Chile Rellenos; and for dessert Mole con Platanos Fritos (plantains in a mole sauce) and Rellenitos de Platanos (fried mashed plantains stuffed with sweetened black beans), which was washed down with horchata and tamarindo. Some of my favorites foods included jocón (chicken stewed in green tomato sauce), and pepián (chicken stewed in a pumpkin and sesame sauce).
The event featured two speakers: social entrepreneur Stephanie Jolluck and the Consulate General of Guatemala in Atlanta, Rosa Mérida de Mora. Jolluck has adopted Guatemala as her second home and is the owner of Coleccion Luna, a co-op located in the Guatemalan highlands that creates beaded jewelry, hand woven textiles, bags, and belts. She has formed an equal partnership with Guatemalan women, and proceeds from the business benefit the community to alleviate poverty, preserve tradition, sustainability, and promote cultural diversity and understanding. The fabric of her textiles came in many bright colors, which are found in the rich landscape of Guatemala. The handicrafts were a big hit of the night, and many guests took home items from Collecion Luna.
Rosa Mérida de Mora spoke of the work of the consulate within the Guatemalan community in Atlanta and the southeastern region. She described the strong work ethic of the Guatemalan people whom are largely agrarian. Many Guatemalans in the southeast have continued this tradition in the States, harvesting the crops that we consume everyday. Although many Guatemalans work hard in the United States so they have a chance to provide a better life for their families here and in Guatemala, they face hardships. Over 60% of Guatemalans in the United States are undocumented which causes them to live in shadows of American society, as they risk being deported if they get caught driving without a license. Although Guatemalans have contributed so richly to American society, it is heartbreaking that they are treated so poorly due to many anti-immigration sentiments in Georgia. I hope this event encourages people to keep an eye on the news about the effects of anti-immigration legislation.
After the speeches, guests put their dance moves to the test. A traditional Guatemalan dancer showcased cultural Mayan dances, and many guests jumped in, not afraid of learning a new dance in front of complete strangers. The highlight of my night was definitely watching everyone dance along to the beautiful Mayan music.
Destination Guatemala was a great event because many people who had been native Guatemalans and tourist of Guatemalans came out and spoke about the land and culture they loved so much. Witnessing the passion and love that others shared for the country encouraged me to begin a way to plan my own trip to Guatemala. In the meantime, I look forward to learning Thai culture at Go Eat Give Destination Thailand next month.
~ By Go Eat Give intern, Amaka Ifeadike. Amaka is a recent graduate from Emory University. She loves to travel, teaches Spanish, and most recently lived in Buenos Aires.