I would like to introduce you to Francisca. At 66 years old, she is one of the older women in her village of Ichmul. She lives with her husband, Marciano and they have 3 children, 11 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Francisca is typical of many of the Mayan women in that she is fairly shy, naturally generous, very hard-working and sweet-spirited. She, like many other women in her village, is open to hearing about the gospel, especially when others aren’t around; however, her culture and fear of what her husband would say often keep her from completely opening her heart to the Gospel. When asked, she requests that as you think of her, you please pray for her health and her family. Francisca used to like to sew, but is unable to do so now because her vision has been damaged by her diabetes; however, she does weave beautiful hammocks and cooks well (I had the privilege of being invited for huevos y tortillas)!
The Mayan religious beliefs are deeply tied into their culture which entails an odd mix of old Mayan religion (think Sun God, astronomy, etc.) along with a form of Catholicism that is not typical of what we would see in our country. The people live in villages amongst the jungle and are generally very poor. Their homes are cement block buildings or “palapas” which are wood huts with thatched roofs (see photo) mostly without electricity; however, some have electric (though it is not what we would know as being “up to code” with exposed live wires, etc.). Dogs, chickens, pigs and turkeys roam the streets and yards with many of these being feral (there is an especially large population of wild dogs). The Mayan men are in the position of power within this culture which would not be as bad if it weren’t for the fact that there is a high rate of alcoholism among the men. When the men are in town and are drunk, they can be verbally or physically abusive to the women and children. Most of the time, adult women stay in their homes except to run errands and therefore, they have much less socialization than the children and men. Part of this is because of the hard chores the women have that are necessary for things such as cooking and washing, but also because of the way their husbands rule.
Certainly not all of the men are alcoholics, but most all of the men have to travel to find work. They often work in corn fields or travel even farther to work in the bigger villages with some men going all the way to Cancun for weeks at a time for work. This can also be hard on the women. Despite the tough things that the women have to endure in their culture, they are very creative; sewing and weaving beautiful patterns in clothing and hammocks, etc.. The young girls also seem to have this same innate gift for the use of color that can be seen at the Mission House when they make sequin and other crafts.
-- Shelly Mountjoy, © August 2017