I am writing this update from on airplane flying somewhere over the gulf of Mexico on my way home to Boston. Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the entire day in Santiago, along with board member Robert Henderson and our two interns Sarah Messmer and Anita Chary.
The purposes of this trip were multiple: (1) Move forward discussions on the acquisition of property. Talks with the owner of the building we are attempting to purchase have gone well. Unfortunately, the legal proceedings to acquire a property in an indigenous town like Santiago, where most properties are not truly deeded, are quite complex. We met with community members to select a lawyer and determine how to proceed. Things are going well, although we suspect that we will not finally close the deal for another 6-8 months or more. In the meantime, we have located a smaller vacant property and the owner is willing to rent it to us at a very reasonable rate. We will be moving into this space in the next month or so. Pictures will follow. (2) See patients, as always! (3) Pay our “tojik.” In Maya cosmology the concept of “toj”–debt, responsibility, payment, duty– is extremely important. Remembering where one comes from and considering where one is going is a critical action that must be performed at regular intervals. The proper way to do this is by participating in a type of ceremony called a kotz’i’j (“flower”) or xuk’ulen (“kneeling”). We have been unable to perform one of these ceremonies for some months, as our friend and collaborator Roberta, who is an ajq’ij (“keeper of the days”), had been gravely ill. It was a great pleasure, therefore, to see her well and to reunite for a special ceremony in which the names of all of our patients were read aloud over the fire by Wicha, our Santiago field manager. Photos of this occasion will follow soon!