Tuesday, February 2, 2010

San Lorenzo El Tejar and Mother Organico


Today we had the pleasure of visiting San Lorenzo El Tejar where a group from the Peace Corps Healthy Schools program is spending their training period. It was our “Community Exchange” where we get to see where another group lives. Their town is vastly different from ours..it’s much smaller (I learned that San Antonio is 10,500 people strong) and it is actually an aldea (which is the next step down in size from pueblo). The girls there showed us around, we saw the church and central square. They don’t have many tiendas (maybe three, while we have dozens) and the community is mostly made up of Ladinos, rather than the indigenous Mayan community that is brightly announced in the colorful clothing worn by the women in our pueblo. Nonetheless, I was smitten with the place, it’s very hilly and the houses are more spread out which leaves room for a plethora of lush green growth. I wanted to stay the afternoon and just plop down somewhere with my binoculars. They took us up to a hill that overlooked the aldea and across to the hillside fincas growing a variety of crops. Their river was a sore spot, though. Before it even came in to view, the smell was highly evident. The whole town uses it as their trash can and there is literally a section where everyone dumps their waste. Mortifying? Absolutely. Their water supply is a spring borne close to the overlook and the whole aldea only has about an hour of water a day with which they fill every vessel they have in addition to their pila basins to last until the next time the water flows (which is never truly guaranteed). The community pila has a constant supply of water from the river, which then is directed right back with all the soil and soap of the daily laundry. It seemed to us that this town seriously needed some environmental education volunteers. We were driven back to San Antonio with the San Lorenzo clan in tow so that we could give them a taste of our pueblo. We brought them first to the mirador at the entrance to the city. This looks out across the basin where our town and that of Santa Caterina lay nestled. It's a rather pretty vista with the volcanoes in the background (but it's been fairly cloudy the past three days so we couldn't give them the truly grand view). We also walked with them through the Mercado de Artesania which was fun because they don't have the traditional clothing draped all across their community the way we do. I presented our basurera, the trash processing plant. We are unique to be one of the few in Guatemala that actively employ the process of Lombricompost..or that of using lombrises, a.k.a. worms, in the composting process. For everyone's information, the worms do not get paid. But hey, it must be a good life, being tossed into a huge pila full of rotting organic waste (for a worm, anyway). All the trash of San Antonio is picked up in trucks that circulate around the city and, for 2Q a bag, they haul it up to the dump. In their homes, the locals are supposedly separating the organic and inorganic waste into different bags, but looking into the pila where they dump the organico, it's pretty evident that not everyone got the notice. Nonetheless, 80% of all the town's trash is organic, the rest is inorganic and separated out into 15% recyclable material (scrap metal, cardboard, plastic, which several companies pay to pick up) and the remaining 5% left is burned. But see, the stuff that's burned is what the environmental councelor Sergio, from the Municipality, wants to find a solution for. Basically the dozens of employees working there every day are breathing in toxic chemicals from the burning waste, not to mention the toll it takes on Mudder Earf. The Lombricompost, which goes through several stages of decomposition over the course of 6-8 months, becomes beautiful rich abono, or fertilizante natural. It is hefted into 100lb bags and sold for 40Q. These bags of organico, rich in all the nutrients that remain steady throughout the process of being picked from a tree, eaten to the quick, thrown out, and trucked up to the basurera, are returned back to the earth to lend a rich hand to the next growth of crops. Sustainability at it's finest...and the world keeps spinning round.


  1. We enjoyed all of your posts. Keep up the good work.

  2. Yes!! at least somebody is having a great time... (las lombrises) hahaha... yes indeed our countries in latin america need a lot of environmental education, but wait you are there to save the day... one day at a time... Stace... would you mind keeping a close eye on all the maya culture stuff you can find...? please, i have a fascination wit maya culture, i think we talked about it, oh well, i'm loving all your post. buenas noches.

  3. Hey, it's Aron, Courtney's other friend in Peace Corps Guatemala. Can you email me or call some time? aronthal@hotmail.com or my cell number here is 49034317

    Hope to talk with you soon.


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