On October 29th, 2014, Karla Lara and company stopped at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice on their national tour to play music and talk about social justice issues for a special ¡SOLAS Presents! event. Karla was joined by guitarist Dany Morales and pianist José Antonio Velásquez Mejia.
Karla is a political activist, singer/songwriter, and advocate of women's rights. She began singing in 1985 with the Choir of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and with musical groups likes Rascaniguas and Cutumay Camones. She is part of the National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras and has been a prominent voice in the Honduran Resistance Movement. She travels the world performing and raising awareness for social justice issues in Honduras and beyond.
Dany began his musical career at the age of 13 and is currently seeking his bachelor's degree in music at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. He is especially interested in jazz guitar, and has collaborated with several musicians and musical groups in Honduras, including Hibriduz and Tambor Negro. He is the co-founder of the Crescendo Music Conservatory, an institution dedicated to teaching music to children and adults.
José began his studies in art at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, but eventually entered the National School of Music specializing in percussion and piano. He has collaborated with popular musical groups in the region, as well as with symphonic orchestras. Like Dany, he became interested in jazz and joined forces with several musical groups in Honduras.
Dany and José began collaborating with Karla in 2010 and 2007 respectively with the intention of spreading messages of positivity and equality through music.
I began the second half of my K’ichee’ Maya language immersion last Friday – today is my first internet in 5 days. I woke up to a 7.1 earthquake at 5am. I have fleas.
But I’m learning a lot.
That is to say I’m taking a lot in. My retention rate however, leaves much to be desired. I’m in Nahualá, Guatemala – a K’ichee’ community about 30 minutes from Quetzaltenango/Xela.
My normal day begins with a feeling of immense thirst, which is no different than the thirst developed from sleeping for eight hours in Albuquerque. But here in Nahualá, sink water is not exactly potable. And although New Mexico has some of the highest levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the country in their drinking water, I decide not to chance the Nahualá tap water; partly because the program told us not to, but mostly because on my second day there we visited a little cow barn where we were able to practice some K’ichee’ vocab. Upon arriving to the
cow barn we students grinned at the opportunity to finally utilize animal vocabulary. I pointed and yelled “waakax” (which means cow) excitedly. When I looked back for adulation, our Nahualeño teachers were instead looking at the “ja’” (river), which was full of “kiik” (blood) from slaughtering the cows.
Bottled water has been a staple.
Following the “ronojel q’iij” (every day) thirst of water, I get my washcloth and walk downstairs into the courtyard. In the courtyard there are two washing stations with spouts – one for food and dishes, one for bathing and laundry. There is a maid at each one every morning when I wake up, no matter how early. Leaning against the bathing sink is Dorka, washing the family’s clothes. Her real name is Dora, but Naan Talin (Mother Talin) can’t pronounce a Spanish “r,” which sounds more like a “sh” in K’ichee’, so she sticks a “k” in to make it easier.
Dorka is a small girl between 8-12 years old. Some days she seems much older, like when she’s doing her chores. But some days she looks at the other kids playing and she can’t be a day older than 7. She never tells me her real age, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind to me when nobody is watching. I wet my washcloth and rub it over my face. “La utz awach?” (How are you?). She stares at me. She knows I know she won’t respond. She won’t respond because she thinks it’s a stupid question. She won’t respond because I’ve already been around two weeks. I shouldn’t be asking such simple questions anymore. She won’t respond because to her, it’s obvious. Of course she’s not “utz” (good). She’s washing people’s underwear.
“Xinkoosik,” says Dorka. I scrunch my face, close my eyes, and put my left hand on my forehead. I don’t know what she’s saying. “Na weta’m taj” (I don’t know), I say. She draws her soapy hands out of the water and looks at me angrily. “Chaakuyuu numaak” (Pardon me/sorry), I say. She waves her hands in the air “Xinkoosik!” I squint my eyes and stare at her deeply and mumble “Xinkoosik…Xin-koos-ik. Ahhhh! La xatkoosik?” (Are you tired?). She looks, smiles quickly, and picks up the knob of soap again, “Jee, Xinkoosik”.
I smile and give her a thumbs up. It’s not until I get back to my room that I realize that I gave her a thumbs up to her telling me she’s tired. I wonder if 'thumbs up' is a thing here. Nonverbal communication is a HUGE deal in Nahualá. In any conversation it’s normal to point using your lower lip when referring to objects in the room. When speaking about trees, it is custom to lift one’s palm, flattened to the sky. When talking about a dog, or other animals, it’s customary to point to the animal with all five fingers in a flattened, spread fan manner. Then, there are all the derogatory hand signs that are made.
Due to my proclivity for that which is interestingly crude, it has taken a mere week to learn most of the vulgar words and hand signs in K’ichee’. Of course these are rarely used, and only ever among close friends. The Nahualeño teachers help me out with that. Later that day at school during our 15-minute-long break that frequently runs to 30 due to impromptu soccer games, I huddle in a corner with aXuan and aTe’k, and ask them about vulgarities as we sip coffee and eat fresh sweet bread. I convince them it’s because I want to more fully understand K’ichee’ and its intricacies. It works. aTe’k shoots me the five fingers in a flattened, spread fan hand sign. I think about it for a second. aXuan whispers “tz’i’” (dog). Oh.
He’s calling me a female dog.
Most of what is to be learned about cuss-words in K’ichee’ is similar to that in English and can be easily guessed.
Tz’ikin (n) bird
Pruta (n) banana
B’aaq (adj) thin; (n) bone, needle
All these mean essentially the same thing. But the most interesting are the ones that aren’t so obvious.
T’oot’ (n) snail, vagina