Don Miguel angel “Gato”, the former cooperative president of Nuevo Horizonte, has given us a detailed introduction explaining the various projects and the daily life here. But what does it mean to live in a such self-sufficient “utopic” community? We took advantage of various opportunities to paint a better picture during our short visit.
Waking up at daybreak no longer seems so tedious with the company of the rooster’s routine 4 a.m. call. As I carefully walked through the minefield, avoiding stepping on any fresh cow pies, I could hear the desperate cries of baby calves for milk. Nuevo Horizonte is awake, and that means work begins now. Each cow’s daily milk production is more than twice the amount needed by the calves. The ranch house is divided into two sections, the calves rounded up in a paddlock and the cows tied up on the other side. The milking process begins with letting out the calves one by one to find their mother. When the baby finished its daily portion, Señor Marcos pulled the baby aside, tied up the hind legs and the tail of the cow, brings out the bucket, and instructed me how to milk the cow. “ Uno, dos, uno, dos, como eso.” The rhythmatic alternation of the two hands and the sounds of the milking squeezing into the bucket compose the morning symphony of Nuevo Horizonte. As I knelt down and put my two hands to work, I could only play out a few weak notes like a 5 year old on his new violin. Eventually I became much better at my milking skill, but soon my sore fingers reminded me the mastery of this simple daily task is the demonstration of these ex war-guerillas’ sustainable life practice and their new war against commercial monopoly.
By shadowing Don Jorge and Señor Marcos throughout the day, I learned how to patrol the pasture and the daily operation of taking care of hundreds of cows to achieve sustainable grazing. Don Guaro took us for a 4 km hike, showing us the various plant development and reforestation project, and how their jungle experience has been inscribed into their veins, eventually becoming the determination that guided them through hardship. The impressive aquaculture tour enlightened us with mind blowing facts. But my personal favorite was footbal en La Cancha.
As a football fanatic, how could I miss the biggest event in town every Saturday and Monday night? Residents of Nuevo Horizonte and people from nearby towns all gathered around the cement basketball court for 5v5 football league. The amicability of the Guatemalans was once again demonstrated as I was welcomed by a team immediately upon introducing myself, knowing that my rustic legs haven’t kicked a ball since my fall season. Sports always unites people. Although I am the first Chinese to ever visit Nuevo Horizonte, family, friends, teachers, everyone was cheering my name. Even the following day, people will be greeting me with “Tomás, well played last night!” and inviting me to other events.
Of course, that was only my story. Each of us had our unique relationship with the welcoming community, painting different pictures of Nuevo Horizonte in our hearts. However, all of us have come to a consensus that Nuevo Horizonte is not as perfect as we thought. Although Gato has explained to us that the rules and how the community hold each other accountable, yet we discovered teen pregnancy, absence of higher education, and the lack of opportunities that still affect certain families from different sources. But the spirit of Guerilla Fighters is still alive, it lives within the memories of the generations. Here is a poem to honor that perseverance:
“No community is perfect, but in a community of fighters, the maintenance of unity, love, and respect is all the more admirable. Nuevo Horizonte is home to the resourceful, the justified, the committed in the face of hardship. Alongside people who have lived by their values for 21 years, we have learned of kindness towards strangers, necessity of community involvement, acceptance of others, and of learning by doing”
-Guatemala 6 weeks program participants
Today, we bid farewell to Nuevo Horizonte and our journey continues on to Rio Dulce.
Until next time!