category: Emilys Guatemala, Jims Guatemala

Hello all. It has been over a decade since our return from Guatemala, and much has happened. I always suspected that once we were back in the US, the flow of our lives would change and we would return to the pace, concerns, and general flow of American life.  I also worried that I’d forget the Guatemalan people who touched us so profoundly.  It turns out the the former happened, but the latter did not.  Despite the distractions of returning to an office job, holding a mortgage, and so many other things, our hearts and minds still regularly drifted back to Guatemala. I still call Pedro every year on his birthday, and we talk for hours, even though my Spanish gets worse and worse with each passing year. Emily still exchanges brief WhatsApp messages with Reina on occasion, getting updates about her kids and the family in Temux Grande.

The last two weeks, however, have been hard. As you must be aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people all over the world. Guatemala is no exception, but what’s different there is that they have much less access to medical resources than we do.  In addition, they live a very social life much different from ours- large, multigenerational households are the norm.  For those with less resources, it even includes things like a dozen people sharing two beds in the same room every night. These conditions put them at increased risk of transmission for diseases like COVID-19.

It is with a heavy heart that I report the August 20 death of Nas Palas, our dear friend and patron during our time in Guatemala. He was instrumental in bringing us to Temux, was a leader of his community, and was a kind and caring father to all of his children and grandchildren. It is a devastating blow to his family, and to ours. He was 70. Reina reports that her dad died of COVID in his home, surrounded by his family. I have so much to say about him, I owe him so much, but anything I can say would feel so incomplete. Rest well, Nas Palas. Xewan.

Upon hearing the news, Emily and I both checked in with those we still know in Santa Eulalia to learn more about what’s going on. According to Pedro, who now works part time in the health center, the Santa Eulalia community has been experiencing about a death per day for over a month. In the health center, they have no masks or face shields. People are trying to stay at home, but still need to go to the market to get food. Schools have been closed since the start of the year, and kids are sent a packet of homework once a month. His sister, the nurse Lucia who helped us so often, is still making rounds to help people, and Pedro reported that it looks like she and her son Ronald both have COVID as well.

That was about a week ago. Last night we heard more terrible news: Ronald, her son, has now died. He was a really sweet kid, always kinds to others, friendly, and inquisitive. I seem to remember he told me once (when he was 9) that he wanted to be the first Guatemalan astronaut. He fell ill with COVID about a month ago, and after a week at home, they sent him and his mother all the way to the central hospital in Huehuetenango. He was there for 20 days, on oxygen, before he died. Emily and I are crushed. He was such a lovely kid, the kind of kid who gives hope to the future of Guatemala and brings light into the lives of people who meet him. He was Lucia’s only child.

Pedro says they are all still numb from the loss of his nephew, and are just focusing on surviving day by day. Lucia is still in quarantine.

I don’t know if anyone will read this post. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve posted anything, and I suspect that many of our 400 or so readers have probably moved on, changed their contact info, or switched over to more modern forms of social media entirely. But I wanted to put it out there just in case. I feel like the readership of this blog became our extended Guatemalan family, and that you might appreciate hearing the news.

Peace and health





Posted by: jfanjoy