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Debrief of Xela

Yesterday, in a group activity, each of us were asked to answer 4 prompts about our time in the city of Xela: Xela inspired me because; From Willy and Jay I learned; Martin showed me that food; My Spanish teacher inspired me because. This post is a collective of the responses from the group.

Xela inspired me because it was the first Guatemalan city I traveled to that I was able to stay in for more than a day. Each day, walking to the Spanish school or to the hotel or wherever I was going, I discovered something new that taught me a little bit more about Guatemala. Xela inspired me because I learned to be independant and make responsible decisions in unfamiliar areas, I am now a lot more confident in my own traveling skills. Xela was very lively- it inspired me to not be lazy and go out and do something at all times. It is such a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Xela inspired me to be more friendly to people on the street and to greet others as much as possible. The overwhelming sense of community and hospitality also inspired me. Between the abuelita of our hotel noticing if one of us skipped lunch and the entire staff making an effort to learn each of our names, it truly felt like a home away from home. Xela inspired me because it was a bustlingp and lively city surrounded by such natural beauty. There was a liveliness and personality to the city that could be felt through the many colors of the buildings and views of the surrounding mountains. Xela inspired me with its beautiful mountains and clouds that surrounded the city. It inspired me because the people were so welcoming and kind, and it was extremely inspiring to see the hometown of one of our instructors.

In Xela, there is a space called the Red Kat that functions as an undefined cultural space as well as a safe space for returned migrants. At the Red Kat, we worked with two of the owners to learn more about migration and cultural identity. Willy and Jay taught me that butterflies do not have a flight path yet still migrate together. Willy and Jay taught me more about the challenges of immigrants living in the US and how people have to work to prove themselves to others when they are not born in the US. I learned about how difficult it must be not being allowed to migrate to the US to see your own son, as well as how important digital communication can be for others. Willy and Jay taught me the importance of learning and understanding the true history and knowledge of our ancestry, not the white-washed version. We all have invaluable and inherent knowledge within ourselves that we do a great disservice to by not uncovering. From Willy and Jay I learned about the negative stigma surrounding returned migrants and the injustices they face not only in the US but in their home country as well. I also learned about how things as simple as food and cooking can help people connect with one another. From Willy and Jay I learned that the hardships of migration do not end at the border. They follow kids into the classroom and people back to their home country. From Willy and Jay I learned that cultural identity, like any other identity, can be extremely fluid. This fluidity creates a need for multipurpose spaces filled with resources, connections, and cultural diversity- three things that make their establishment as a whole both meaningful and wonderful. From Willy and Jay I learned that identity is complex and depends on perspective. We may not even think of ourselves as Americans until we leave the country, in the same way that Guatemalans may not think of themselves as “Latin American” until that label is imposed upon them. And the label “American” is misleading because all people who live in the Americas are “American”.

One day while we were in Xela, our group worked with a man named Martin who runs an urban garden in the middle of the city. Martin showed me that food does not have to be grown only in agricultural fields in the countryside, but that it is important to create green spaces within cities where food can be cultivated and distributed locally. Martin showed me that food grown in local gardens provides opportunities for many people. He showed me the countless hours it takes to provide the food we eat everyday. Martin showed me that food is way more than just something to eat- rather it can serve as a medium for us to connect with the earth and the people who devote themselves to working it. Martin showed me that having a connection to food at its source is a necessity that most do not have access to. Working the earth not only provides us with a sense of gratitude for the food we consume, but also an appreciation for the effort put forth in the cultivation of our nourishment. Martin showed me how important it is to know where our food is being produced and who is sourcing our food. He also showed me the ways in which I can appreciate food more.

I was impressed by my Spanish teacher in Xela because she contined to be patient with me, even when I made the same mistake six times in a row. Through Spanish, she taught me about Guatemalan culture. I was impressed by my Spanish teacher because it couldn´t have been easy for her, a non-English speaker, to give an English speaker her first ever Spanish lesson. My Spanish teacher in Xela impressed me with her kindness and her willingness to help me understand. I was impressed by her patience while I tried to explain words I didn´t know. I was also impressed by the conversations we had about complicated issues such as climate change and the government. Jorge, my Spanish teacher, impressed me with his immense knowledge of socio-political, agricultural, and economic problems in Xela and Guatemala as a whole. While some of our conversations were difficult to follow, he always made an effort to make sure I understood. I was impressed by my Spanish teacher because she asked me what grammatical topics I struggle with and then provided me with ample activities to practice them. She also did a great job of interspersing dense lessons with light conversations and games of scrabble. I was impressed by how strong my Spanish teacher was losing two of her family members from covid- her mom and her sister. My Spanish teacher made me really happy and surprised me with how similar we were. At first, I was scared of her because she was my teacher. Now I feel as though I can consider her my friend. My Spanish teacher inspired me to learn poco a poco.