Tomorrow is my last day in San Pedro La Laguna around Lago Atitlan. San Pedro is a place with two vastly different worlds… in the tourist sector, it’s billed as being a hub for drugs. Which I’m sure it is. However, the day after I came here, I started taking Spanish lessons and I moved in with a family outside of the tourist area, so I’ve experienced a very different San Pedro than many who come here might. Except when I go to the internet café, I rarely see a tourist. My host family has even taught me a few words in Tz’utujil. It’s hard to not feel good when you pass a stone-faced local person, make eye contact with them, say buenos dias, and watch them break out in a genuine smile.
Yesterday, my teacher and I took a little motorbike ride to a neighboring village called San Juan, where they have lots of volunteer projects going on. It’s smaller than San Pedro and the mayor has invested a lot of money into the town to increase its attractiveness for tourists, hoping to borrow some of the crowd that comes here.
I also heard some stories about some of the Mayan healers here. Apparently, San Pedro is well known for its curanderos de huesos, or bone healers. From what I heard, there are also 5 strong energy vortexes in San Pedro, but I haven’t been to any myself.
I’m really appreciating my time here… little by little, I observe more of the local culture and learn more by watching and asking questions. For instance, most women in this town do not drive due to the machismo type mentality. I’ve only seen one woman driving since I’ve been here, and the man sitting next to her looked unable to drive.
I’m staying in a house with a good view of part of the hill, and I see people trekking up this steep mountainside all the time. Even huge trucks and old school buses manage to climb up these mountains, but I would hate to be driving behind one.
Certain parts of the touristy area, to me, have a strange vibe. I just feel awkward for some reason… like I went into a popular place that has a book exchange, and I put the new book under my arm but forgot it was there and I asked the owner (?) where it went. He said wow I’ll have two of whatever you had!
Anyway, if you are interested in the local culture here, or anywhere else, dig a little deeper. There is so much to be found by those who come equipped with curiosity, humility, and open-mindedness.