I’ve had the great good fortune to do quite a bit of international travel in the past couple of decades. There’s a shelf in my workroom of notebooks I’ve jotted in on various trips–Peruvian highlands, Amazon Basin, Oaxaca and Chiapas in southern Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala. Especially Guatemala, much on my mind these days as I leaf through Deborah Chandler’s new A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala.
I line up my notebooks from early Guatemala travels and trip back in time. Here are notes from my first visit there, 2005, just hanging out with Deborah and her partner/co-author Tere Cordón. Well, hanging out isn’t quite right. We went from Guatemala City to Antigua to Panajachel to Quetzaltenango by way of the southern route with its spectacular fruit stands, to the vast market in Chichicastenango, with a side trip to visit Deborah’s friend Rosario, whose daughter ran a small molino (corn grinding mill,) in her little village. Other unexpected stops along the way, but my I can’t read my notes. NOTE TO SELF: Do not keep trip notes in pencil. They will smudge and fade. Some of your best adventures will become mysterious.
Then there was the trip with my comrades from ClothRoads in 2007, following so many of the same paths I had taken with Deborah and Tere, but with a luxurious night overlooking Lake Atitlan in a little stone cabin with very squeaky beds. We laughed and laughed about those beds, but I didn’t write that down. I just remember it. NOTE TO SELF: You don’t have to write down every little thing, but I guarantee you will lose a lot of worthy memories if you don’t. And retain some that will leave you scratching your head.
Then there was the trip with Mary Anne Wise and a group of women from Friendship Bridge, a crazy textile-buying trip through the Ixil Triangle, culminating in a festive party celebrating Deborah’s 60th birthday. Wine and hors d’oeuvres atop an elegant restaurant in Guatemala City, a whole different kind of experience. Must have been ten years ago? NOTE TO SELF: Attach a date to every entry. Don’t think you will remember.
There are more. Trips with Joe Coca photographing Deborah and Tere’s book, Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives. They were working trips, but what work! Visiting weavers and spinners in their homes, meeting their families, understanding the arc of their traditions, the challenges of their daily lives. Practically weeping in Rabinal with the crowd of weeping worshipers as a tableau of the Virgin Mary tottered down the street to meet her crucified son. I’m a religious heathen at best, but couldn’t help getting caught up in the emotions of the throng.
Why am I telling you all this? (And I could go on . . . ) Because these trips have been such a joy, and you can create your very own with Deborah’s new book, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala. It contains all the basics, but so much more. Go to Guatemala with this book, with or without a friend or two, and just take it all in. Just go. And come home with your own trip notebook, because your trip will not be like any other.
Available now, only from Thrums Books.