LHI Blog: Voices from Chajul

Posted on Oct 13, 2011

“Learning from the Elections,” by Mary Ann Skender, LHI Volunteer

I arrived in August to volunteer with Limitless Horizons Ixil (LHI) — my first visit to the Ixil region. Expecting to focus on educational opportunities in the classroom, I learned the most where I least expected it — the election.

The climate as the September 11 Guatemalan presidential elections drew closer felt increasingly tense: frequent rallies, marches, and protests seemed out of place in the normally peaceful Ixil region. There were also the visits to Chajul from political parties where party supporters were given things like lamina (metal roofing) to increase party loyalties. Everywhere, everyone that I met had a vocal opinion on the election, which was notably a bit controversial in Guatemala.

One day while visiting a local family in Chajul for boxbol (the favorite local food), the conversation turned, of course, to the elections. Our 22-year-old hostess, Josefina (an LHI scholarship student), began to discuss her opinions on the elections, both local and national. She spoke passionately about her ideas, whom she supported, who she thought had the best chance of winning, and how she shared what she had learned with her family. A past school project had put her in contact with the town alcalde(mayor), a project that clearly shaped her thoughts on politics. Her opinions were well thought-out; her ideas clearly connected to the hopes of what would better her community. As she talked, I saw how this election connected to families living far from the political epicenter of Guatemala City.

I was drawn to get involved with LHI because of their commitment to education. Seeing first-hand how these educational opportunities are embraced by the youth in Chajul, empowering youth to learn and teach and become involved in their communities, is why I will stay involved with LHI after I leave Chajul.

Stay tuned! A presidential run-off election between the top two candidates will be held in Guatemala on November 6.