At a time when few Mayan girls were going to school beyond third grade, our weaving partners used to talk about their dreams for their daughters. “I would like my daughter to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher… anything she’d like to be” said one mother. “I want her to have more opportunities than I did so that she will never live in poverty…” said another one. Visiting their communities, we would always emphasize the importance of sending their daughters to school (and not only their sons). “Who knows,” we said, “maybe your daughter will be the scientist who finds the cure for cancer, or maybe she’ll be a poet, or an archaeologist - or an astronaut.” The women laughed at this last possibility!
It’s happening! The impetus to education is spreading like fire among the women who work with us. This year, thanks to our generous donors, Mayan Hands gave out 40 scholarships, most of them for high school. High schools in Guatemala offer areas of specialization, and the girls are choosing different fields, such as accounting, tourism, medicine, education, business administration, and marketing. And, for the first time, we have two University scholarships! We hope many will follow.
Mothers and daughters gathered at our yearly scholarship reception event in mid March 2015. It was moving to see the shy little girls of the past transformed into self-assured young women, meeting girls and mothers from different communities, switching with ease from their native Mayan languages to Spanish and back, translating for their mothers, talking with excitement about their studies, their goals, and their lives. The mothers smiled at their side, proud of their daughters’ accomplishments. The girls know their education is a gift from their mothers who chose to send them to school rather than keeping them home to support the household economy.
It was a celebration pervaded by mutual admiration, love and respect between mothers and daughters. We were delighted to find out that, in addition to being serious about their studies, many of the girls are learning to weave, make baskets or felt wool from their mothers. These are valuable skills, the girls say, and it’s important to learn their mothers’ trade. Some of the girls brought in beautiful cloths they had woven themselves. What a joy to see this continuity of tradition and respect for the values of their fore bearers. We are optimistic about the survival of Mayan culture into the future, within the context of more and diverse opportunities for young Mayan women. Who can predict the new lofty heights they will bring it to?