A Visit to the Co-operatives of San Juan

san juan shore
former San Juan dock and thatched roof shop

February 9 dawned clear and calm, meaning the lake was free of whitecaps – propitious for any boat trips on Lake Atitlan. Embarking and disembarking can be trecherous otherwise. A merry group  – Patricia, Susan Webber, Linda Fry and Trisha Vogel – met at the pier at Santa Cruz for a trip to the village of San Juan, approximately a half hour trip, with our intrepid boatman, Ramos. We arrived at a pier that had been inundated by last year’s storm, seeing what had been small shops and a dock surrounded by water hyacinth and water fowl.

Juan's tuc-tuc
Juan’s tuc-tuc

After arriving at the pier, we hired a tuk-tuk driver, Juan, who is a huge fan of FC Barcelona, to drive us up and down the winding, steep  lanes and by-ways of San Juan. Our first stop was the Co-operativa de café, which is formally named “La Voz que clama en el desierto” the voice crying in the desert.  Coffee plants flower somewhere around May 1- May 5 and the village of  San Juan collectively climbs a steep mountain across the way to give thanks, their “Dia de la Cruz”.

gourmet cappuccino
gourmet cappuccino
We saw the coffee beans spread out on tarps to dry in the sun before being roasted and ground for sale and export.   Of course, we had to sample!  In this remote village in Guatemala, they served us Latte, Café Americano and Cappuccino, all made of organically grown and roasted coffee beans. Need I say it was delicious?

Miriam demonstrates dye colors
Miriam demonstrates dye colors

Then, Juan drove us up the winding streets to the area where there was an abundance of women’s textile co-operatives, where we had an introduction to cotton dying processes, briefly watched one weaver at work and then proceeded to pick  out shawls and ponchos and cloth reams from all the wondrous patterns and colors, both bold and pastel.  The hardest part of the day: choosing what to take!  We all had the same problem at one of the co-operative art centers where many of the talented San Juan artists show their oil and acrylic paintings of various aspects of village life, women weaving, gathering crops and selling them at the market. The colors, as you will see below, were mostly vibrant primary colors, Guatemalan rainbows on canvas!  Again, the problem was deciding what to buy and “How many Quetzales do I have left?!!”  All in all a very successful and exciting excursion.  Trisha dice, “Hasta luego, amigas y amigos!  Ven aca!”

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