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La Belleza

We’ve been here in San Antonio Palopo for almost three days now. The town climbs and bends its way up the hill that overlooks Lake Atitlan. It’s a gorgeous place really, one where the beauty – la belleza – does not seem to grow old.

There’s been no shortage of experience here either. I could write of Doña Rosario, or of Kat’s birthday celebrations. I could definitely write about the dogs or the spiders or the bus rides. Or vulnerability. Here, inspiration and joy are inseperable, and within this serenity there are words to be found.

All of it felt a bit incomplete however, as I sat down to write a Yak about our time here. It was missing something clearly, something that in my mind weaves every fabric of our time here into something intelligible, something complete. At least for me it did.

So, I’m writing about beauty.

We hiked to a waterfall on Sunday morning. It was misting where the water was falling and I realized I’d most likely never again see this view like I was in this moment. It reminded me of the elusiveness of beauty. And of nature’s hidden wonder. The trees opened themselves to the running stream, kindly gifting us with a view across the lake. We could see from our perfect vantage the top of the hill we had hiked just four days earlier. It seemed symbolic, somehow.

So breathtakingly beautiful is this place that it’s quite easy to fall victim to desensitation.

All that has beauty here (and, everywhere) has a story. Every rushing waterfall and whispering stream. Every collection of green terraces growing pounds of cebolla. All the cultivated land, irrigated in cycles through the rocks and pipes. The degrees of fertility each area enjoys, what buildings and plots of land fall closest to the waterfront…all of it. Every last sight is inseparable from the past. History is constantly informing how and in what condition this beauty exists.

Staring at the fog rise from the lake, making room for sunlight, it’s comfortable to suppress the years of brutal oppression, a genocidial civil war, and a racism still manifesting itself today. All this happened here in Guate, but to forget this significance is to be voluntarily removed from any interaction with difficulty.

History can be heavy, certainly. But from what only one week has show me, this land and these people are beautiful, resilient, and strong. Nobody (and there have been those who tried) can shake the spirit from the pride that is carried here.

Esta tierra, que linda sí. Pero sin el contexto solo podemos ver, no podemos entender.

I have a goal of traveling close to the ground, literally and metaphorically. This first week, I feel, we’ve done that, and I’ve learned things I never would’ve anticipated. I also have a new family! As we become open to the history of this place, we’ve traveled close to the ground. And here, staring from the base of a waterfall out across Lake Atitlan, it’s hard to miss the beauty of the land we’ve traveled upon.