May 23, 2007
The economy of Salacuim is completely based on agriculture and the majority of the activity is centered around corn. We live in a special area of Guatemala because it's possible to get two corn harvests per year, where the majority of the country can only get one.
To help describe how important corn is to the people here, "La Gente de Maiz" (translated: the people of the corn) is a common nickname for Guatemalan people. The word for the ever-present corn tortilla in the native Q'eqchi' language, "wa" is the same as the verb "to eat". Basketball practice can be canceled if the concrete court is being used for corn drying. Each family sends a mother, grandmother, or daughter with a bowl full of corn to the gas powered "molinas" (corn-grinders) three times a day to make "masa" (corn paste) for the tortillas for the meal.
This morning I was invited to help with "la siembra" (planting) of our neighbor's plot of land. I felt honored to be able to help with an activity I found to be rich in tradition. The custom is to eat breakfast with the land owner in the morning and work until the planting is done. When the work is finished, all are invited to share in the "caldo de gallina" (chicken soup) lunch which is the popular celebration dish for people here.
The work was all by hand. Only using a 2 meter long stick with a metal point on the end to pierce a hole in the ground and an over the shoulder bag to hold your seeds. It takes a little practice to throw your seeds in the tiny hole with out leaning over, but I figured it out after an hour or so. We were 6 "sembradores" (planters) to cover 12 "cuerdas" (roughly 21 square meters, or about 25 "varras" in local measurements), and it took us about a half of a day to finish the job. If I had been a hired worker, I would have earned 15 quetzals, or just over 2 dollars for my work.
Here are some pictures of the action:
Teodoro with his perfect, consistent seed pitch.