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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala

(Pronounced: SAHN-ta Mah-REE-ah day Hay-ZOOS, Gwah-te-MAH-lah)

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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

We are spending time in an enchanting colonial city of the old Spanish empire, a place called Antigua, Guatemala. From here there are several small mountain towns of interest, one of them being Santa Maria de Jesus, nestled on the falda de la volcan - the base of Volcan de Agua. 

 

Many busses leave from the market daily to Santa Maria

Many busses leave from the market daily to Santa Maria, and tickets are 3 Quetzales per person for the 15 to 25 minute ride. If you want to climb the volcano, Santa Maria is where you start.

 

Laundry day. No Maytags here.

Laundry day. No Maytags here.

The bus dropped us off at the town’s ‘Laundromat’ -- a series of concrete tubs with running water. There must have been 15 or so women doing their day’s laundry, in a similar manner of centuries ago.

 

A little laundry day humor, and shy for the camera

A little laundry day humor, and shy for the camera

Most of the women here were amazingly open and friendly. I asked one how often she comes to do her laundry and she told me twice a week. She has a PILE of clothing and bedding for the whole family and she washes it here. Afterwards, she carries all of it home to put on the clothes line to dry. 

 

This is 'modern equipment' here

Actually, in ancient times, laundry was hammered on the rocks located in streams and the shores of small lakes. This is 'modern equipment' here with dependable running water and specially formed tubs lined all in a row.

As with much of women's work in these Mayan mountain towns, it provides a time and place for mothers, sisters, neighbors and friends to work together, exchange information about people and daily events.

 

Could they be any cuter?

Could they be any cuter?

These children are so innocent and beautiful! They were just as fascinated with me as I was with them.

As is often seen, young boys and men wear western style clothing while young girls and women wear traditional dress. It is very common for young children to care for their siblings for long segments of the day while their mother tends to housework; cooking, shopping, cleaning, or weaving.

 

Open plaza with Volcan de Agua in the background

Open plaza with Volcan de Agua in the background

Santa Maria is known for the Katchiquel Maya Huipiles - blouses made from their woven textiles. In this small marketplace there were vegetable and fruit stands as well as displays of used Maya clothing. Previously owned Huipiles sold for 200-300 Quetzales, $25-$38 USD each. They were remarkably heavy in weight with the amount of threads used to make them.

 

A Mayan used clothing store

A Mayan used clothing store

If you look closely, you can see the Huipiles the Maya women wear, as well as the embroidered or woven aprons with lace and their woven skirts. Young girls wear woven skirts too. The all purpose woven cloths on their shoulders tied in front are used to carry children or groceries on their backs.

The woman in the forefront of this photo who is examining the embroidery of a blouse invited us to her home to see the textiles she had for sale.

For most Maya, Spanish is their second language, and of course, we don't speak Katchiquel. So we communicated as best we could in Spanish.

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A simple Maya home

A simple Maya home

Full families and several generations live in these small dirt floor homes. Mothers, daughters, sisters, sisters-in-law, infants and children live alongside chickens in cages, looms, an outdoor grill and and an open air living room. The men are out in the city working.

Famous woven textiles of the Maya

Famous woven textiles of the Maya

The woman from the market shows us her loom and a weaving project she is currently working on. Intricate patterns and bright colors make up the distinctive style of Maya textiles.

A piece this size can take a month or two to finish.

We often saw similar set ups with Thai women weaving in their homes while their children looked on. This woman was explaining her weaving while carrying her nursing infant on her back.

 

The ever present mound of masa, corn tortillas grilling

The ever present mound of masa, corn tortillas grilling

Corn is sacred to the Maya and is considered food of the gods. Tortillas are eaten at every meal and the constant, very familiar slap-slap-slapping of masa between the palms of women and girls is an ancient tradition.

 

Carrying corn stalks on his back

Carrying corn stalks on his back

Boys and young men have their daily tasks also. Here a young boy carries a load of dried corn stalks through the streets of Santa Maria. Firewood is transported in the same manner.

 

Maya girl with bowl of corn kernels

Maya girl with bowl of corn kernels

From an early age, Maya children are taught the skills of their gender. This young girl in traditional wrapped skirt, woven apron and lace blouse carries cooked corn kernels to their next stage of being ground into masa. From there the masa will be used for tortillas, beverages, sauces or other Maya dishes.

Preparation of sacred corn, in one form or another, takes up much of a Maya woman's day. It could be planting, watering, harvesting, husking, removing the kernels, cooking, mashing, or kneading into masa. Once the masa is made, then it is used in several manners of their cooking; prepared in drinks, sauces or the ever present grilled tortillas.

 

Enjoying a frozen, tasty treat

Enjoying a frozen, tasty treat

The world of the Maya today is a blend of ancient custom and somewhat modern convenience. Streets can be made of either cobblestone or contemporary pavers. Women dress in traditional costume but can be seen using cell phones. Walls (such as the one shown behind this man) and fences are made in the conventional manner, and doors are wooden or hammered metal. Inside a home there is a good chance of a running water source - most definitely a gift of the present day.

 

Friendly, open and curious

Friendly, open and curious

Every Maya woman wears a variety of woven and embroidered textiles. Their aprons were some of the most decorated I have ever seen with countless pockets and lace. Their huipiles were heavily embroidered reflecting personal beliefs (certain animals and flowers hold spiritual significance) or tastes.

Centuries ago when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived, they assigned each village a series of colors to wear so that their village was identifiable anywhere they walked. Santa Maria's colors are mostly reds, oranges with shots of purple. To this day, each village tends to stick to the designated colors of their village, but some brave or unconventional women choose to widen their selection.

We were most surprised at the openness and friendliness of the Maya women in this village. They were willing to engage in conversation, were not afraid of our camera, and were as curious about us as we were about them.

Children are carried on their mother's backs as you see in this photo.

 

Women of two generations

Women of two generations

Each of these women wear their customary Maya dress. The younger woman's apron is more flamboyant than the older woman in the background of this photo, with a brighter color, lace and more pockets.

This older woman, for her to be carrying her own firewood, must be single. She is either widowed or her husband is ill. While women's work seems never ending, the heavy lifting is often done by the males in the family: husbands, sons, brothers. Of course it is entirely possible that her husband is in a large city working and she is left to gather her own firewood for her cooking stove.

You can bet that everyone in the village knows her story.

 

Can't resist a bargain!

Can't resist a bargain!

In the city of Antigua, these same avocados go for 40 to 50 cents each. The woman here was selling her avos for 12 cents each - the best price I had found in either Mexico or Guatemala.

While living in Guate we ate avocados at almost every meal. For breakfast we'd have sliced avocado and fresh fruit and cheese. At lunch, restaurants routinely put guacamole on their luncheon plates, and at dinner we often would have hot soup with avocado slices in the broth.

Avocados are trans-fat and cholesterol free, filled with vitamins, nutrients and phytochemicals. Of course here in Guatemala, they taste great as well, and couldn't be any fresher!

Stay tuned because from here we go to an organic macadamia nut farm in our most amazing story of an Incredible Nut Case!

For more information, stories and photos of Guatemala, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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