Alta Verapaz, a department in north-central Guatemala, is located 289 km North of the country's capital, Guatemala City. The picturesque terrain, once home to the ancient Mayans, is dotted with limestone towers, ruins, and caves with thousand-year-old Mayan pottery.
Chisec, characterized by its rural patch of jungle & mountain ranges, is a municipality located within Alta Verapaz's perimeter. Of the 200,000 people living in Chisec, 98% are Maya Q'eqchi and speak a limited amount of Spanish. As a result, a translator is needed for communication, as Q'eqchi is the Primary Language.
Chisec's culture is reminiscent of lost times. Women wear traditional dress, consisting of vibrant hand-woven skirts, blouses, and possibly a headdress. Men work the fields as farmers, cultivating corn, cardamom, and beans. Carrying a machete & doting rubber boots, the men carry hundreds-of-pounds of corn and firewood on their heads. As for the women, their days are spent hiking to local water sources to wash clothes. When they are finished, they return home with buckets of water on their heads to be used for drinking & bathing.
The Civil War & Impact
In 1996, a 36-year-long Civil War ended in Guatemala. Because of the war, the majority of the Maya Q'eqchi in Alta Verapaz live in extreme poverty & experience poor health conditions. Today, more than 90% of these people are very poor, subsistence farmers living in mountainous terrain.