Guatemala – A Kaleidoscope of Contrasts

I woke up on Sunday morning in paradise at a beautiful resort in Santiago on Lake Atitlán. There are 37 volcanoes in Guatemala and three of them dominate the view across the lake. It’s truly spectacular. Take a peek in the video below!

Overlooking Lake Atitlán

We have been well fed this week, but the lavish abundance at the resort was jarring after the gracious, humble hospitality we experienced up to this point. Don’t get me wrong, this respite was refreshing and restorative – a time of Sabbath in a week of learning, observing, and wondering. But the stay at Jardines accentuated the stark contrasts that make up Guatemala:

Poverty / Abundance
Conflict / Peace
Death / Life
Presence / Disappearance

Despair / Hope
Blemished / Pristine
Catastrophe / Resilience
Deforestation / Restoration

I’m sure my fellow travelers could add to this list.

So, it is with all these things swirling in my mind that we embarked on a trip across the lake (think S.S. Minnow) to Santiago Atitlan.

Once on dry land, we walked up a hill and piled into awaiting tuk tuks, (which I affectionately named Frog and Toad’s Wild Ride), that took us to the Park of Peace – a memorial of the December 2, 1990, massacre of 13 villagers. The citizens were protesting the presence of the army in their community – an army funded by the United States. Our facilitator Emerson related the tragic and disturbing history that led up to this tragedy. I invite readers to study up on this history as it will help inform the immigration conversations for those who would rather root out the causes of migration instead of building walls, both physical and societal. The Park of Peace (Parque de Paz) and Emerson’s presentation were very moving.

Mural in Peace Park in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

We then piled back into the tuk tuks and wound our way to the Church of Saint James the Apostle in Atitlan to learn the story of Father Stanley Francis Rother who was executed in the rectory on July 28, 1981. He became the first U.S.-born martyr and was proclaimed Blessed (beatified) on September 23, 2017, in Oklahoma City. Again, I urge readers to google Father Stanley Rother and learn about this inspirational man – a shepherd who did not run away.

Take a quick ride in a tuk tuk!

After a morning filled with history lessons, we had a time of shopping and drinking Guatemalan hot chocolate (yum!) before returning to the boat for our ride back to Jardines del Lago – and that list of contrasts still swirling in my mind.

Kaleidoscopes create images using three mirrors, and the images reflected in the other mirrors form the vibrant patterns we behold as we view through the eyepiece (yes, a very simplified description). As we view the contrasts and contradictions through our Guatemalan kaleidoscope, the effect is one of fractured beauty. But let us remember that a feature of kaleidoscopes is that the patterns and shapes shift. I wonder, can the work of the Mam Association and CEDEPCA and the New Castle Presbytery Guatemalan Partnership shift the vision for the future of the people here?

The days I’ve spent with our partners here in Guatemala have me thinking that things are indeed changing, and new and exciting patterns are emerging. The contrasts can be shaken up… rotated with grit and determination to produce a new future. May God take the broken and the beautiful pieces that are Guatemala and create a future where people don’t just survive, but thrive.

~ Nancy Long of Hanover and Covenant Presbyterian Churches

5 thoughts on “Guatemala – A Kaleidoscope of Contrasts

  • A wonderful description of the many contrasts that beautiful Guatemala offers. Thanks for sharing and thanks to you & the others whom are on the ground observing, learning, posting & inspiring support of this ongoing mission. 🙏

  • What a fabulous & poetic way to describe your trip in GUA. I’ve done this journey & felt as though I was back there again.

  • Your videos and comments took me back to my feelings when I traveled with a mission group several years ago. Thank you.

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