Mam People

Mam People
Mam, one of the Mayan languages spoken on the Mesoamerican territories.
Etymologically, Mam connotes “Ancestors” or “Deities”,

something like “The People of the Ancestors”.
Something embedded in the culture; when one enters a house of a Mam family one bows in reverence to the elders first, no shaking hands here.

The Mam People inhabit three provinces in Guatemala: Huehuetenango, San Marcos and Quetzaltenango; and one in Mexico, with a heavy presence in the U.S. of A.

The province of San Marcos was scarcely populated during the early 1800s.
My grand father in the photograph tells the story of how they arrived to the lands of San Marcos.
In the early 1800, the governor of the province now San Marcos wanted to populate those lands and he offered inexpensive lands for the peasantry. That’s when his grandfather bought some land and moved his family from the province of Huehuetenango to the area.

99 years can tell a lot of stories.
Yeah, my grandfather is just a few months of hitting the hundreds.
Every time I visit, I sit next to him and ask him to tell stories: dozens of stories of the civil war, he has clear memories with dates, places and even hours of the events. When he was young he enlisted in the armed forces, he tells of a story when they had to march from the province of Quetzaltenango to the borders with Mexico next to the Tacana Volcano in the 1930s, a good 150 kilometers, and there were no roads then, the army was very poor and they all were barefoot.

He also tells the story of when he took a couple of international photographers to the summit of Tajumulco Volcano, perhaps the first photographs from the summit. A rather funny story at the end, the U.S. currency wasn’t very strong then. He recalls being paid with U.S. Dollars. He complained but the photographers had no local currency. The bills he got were worthless with no place nearby to exchange them and he put them away and eventually humidity ruined them.

San Marcos is a province with almost unexisting wild life; rarely one might see small mammals up in the mountains.
He used to walk hundred of kilometers from the slops of Tajumulco Volcano to the low lands of the south (the coast) and on the road he tells of all kinds of animal, deer everywhere, coyotes, playful monkeys would attack and mess with travelers. All that now gone.

© 2015, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

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