TODOS SANTOS CUCHUMATÁN, Huehuetenango:
It is rainy season. For some reason, this did not occur to me when I was packing to come to Guatemala. Thus, I packed my trailrunners rather than my hiking boots, my chacos, and one pair of light cotton pants. Waterproof though my trailrunners may be, they don’t hold up overly well in the thick, clay-y mud in these parts.
One of the main roads in Todos Santos is torn up. It heads up the hill to a couple of hotels, lots of houses, and the clandestine internet cafe. According to Luke, the British coordinator of the local language school and resident tourist liaison, it has been torn up for months. Rather than close said road off, there are slick, muddy paths on each side of the 4-foot deep trench which allow people to pass. The paths run right along the edge, and are reinforced by the cobblestones that have been torn out of the street and tossed to the side. On the outer side of the paths are barbed-wire fences. In other words, in the “West,” this road would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
In Todos Santos, however, the road is business as usual. No one freaks out about the potential drop into the trench. Men walk up and down the steep hill, working, chatting, and otherwise going about their daily lives. Women daintily pick their way over the muddy, slippery cobbles, small children in tow and babies strapped to their backs. Somehow, they manage to climb up and down this road without getting an ounce of mud on their shoes (which, by the way, are much more feminine than my chacos or trail runners).
I, on the other hand, cling gingerly to the barbed wire along the edge. No matter how carefully I choose my footing, I end up with mud covering the hem of my pants and soles of my shoes. I am clumsy.
Meanwhile, on the highway there are a number of small landslides thanks to the rain. One, Luke and I encounter while hiking through a nearby village. There is a large boulder and a pile of smaller rocks in the road. Two cars are stopped on either side of the slide, and one car that made it through is also stopped. All of the male passengers from the cars have gotten out of their respective vehicles and are clearing the road.
On my way out of Todos Santos, my micro stops abruptly behind a truck. There is a long line of vehicles ahead of us. All of the men get out of the micro, and after about 30 minutes return. The line of vehicles moves again, alternating directions, around a huge mud pit. Apparently, another vehicle had been stuck in the mud, and the men had all helped to push it out.
The rain continues, and the newspaper warns of flood possibilities in Todos Santos and elsewhere in Huehuetenango. Construction continues as usual, though. The buses either run or they don’t, as usual. And I am cursing my packing decisions, as usual.