Peasant Autonomy
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Story 159

Ixcanul, Guatemala – 2015

The volcano

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(Photo: Doron Derek Laor)


Although she carries quite a big pile of branches on her head, Juana walks briskly and determined up the slope of the volcano. A few steps behind walks her daughter Maria. As quickly and with a same load on her head.
Juana knows what is passing in the mind of Maria, even if she doesn't say a word. Maria wants to go away from here. But why? They have always lived here, already for generations. Near the volcano, their holy volcano.
So often she, together with her daughter, has brought offerings to the volcano. To thank the volcano for everything life has given them. To ask for protection, for fertility, for prosperity.

Yes, life is hard here. We have to toil for the landowner. The coffee beans don't bring in much. But what do you expect to find in the city, my daughter? Do you know how they talk about a Maya in the city? You are just an outcast. When you are lucky. Otherwise they will think you are a cheap whore. Here, near the volcano, you are someone. You belong to us. Here, the souls of our ancestors are living. We are not rich, but we have a piece of land, we have a pig, we have a house. Yes, it is small. But what do you think you will get in the city? You don't even speak Spanish. Perhaps, you will have to sleep on the street.

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(Photo: Scott and Emily)


Tomorrow, I will go to the volcano, alone. I want to talk with the volcano. I will bring along offerings. The volcano has always protected us. Now the volcano has to help me again, has to tell me exactly what I have to say to my daughter. To convince her not to go to the city. She is too fine for the city. Too attractive for the first malicious, dirty man.
The volcano has always given us everything.


Ixcanul (2015) is a feature film of Jayro Bustamante, which portrays the peasant life in Guatemala. Without romanticizing; beautiful and hard at the same time. So many youngsters think about leaving the countryside.

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= the next page: 'Let me leave' - a village in Rajasthan, India – 2015, story 160.
= the Table of contents, story 159.