During May of 2010 eighteen members of the Lycoming community traveled to Central America, following the route of the Maya through El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The group visited archaeological sites at Joyas de Ceren, Copan, Tikal, Yaxha and Lamanai, museums and cultural centers, and small villages and markets where Mayan people still live and work. Students studied photography, painting and art history.
Central America reminds you that you have chromatic vision-Guatemala is for seers. When I commented to a professor on the beautiful pinks, greens, oranges and blues that make up the storefronts and clothing we saw, he offered this: "Everything is so lush here; the manmade colors have to compete with nature". Paint is layered and layered. Instead of covering the few-year-old oatmeal with a more risque eggshell like we do our houses around here, the most explosive yellow might get a new coat of an even-more-explosive cerulean blue. In Central America, the things that came before add a sense of depth and richness to the surface-they aren't meant to be erased or forgotten, but added to.
Our group visited several towns and villages whose people were directly descended from the Mayans. In San Antonio Palopo, one of these towns along a lake in the highlands of Guatemala, we saw colorful textiles, men blocking off a street so they could use the road-surface to mix cement for building, stray dogs, groups of people standing in the backs of trucks, and vendors going about their day. I was fortunate enough to capture one such vendor-a young woman in traditional garb holding a broom-while she took a break from sweeping long enough to lean on the pillar of her shop. Behind her were stacks and stacks; white with red diamonds. The pillar was a deep blue. I tried to capture some of her dignity in the painting I made. Perhaps that is what struck me most in Central America: how beautiful the newness of a place is when it isn't simply trying to cover up the old.Bill Mauro
My eyes opened up to the world as I recovered from a case of culture shock. You can't just learn about a culture in books that claim to be unbiased; you have to experience another culture. Having had the opportunity to share meals with two Guatamalan families, I feel more humble, and I'm going to miss torillas at dinner. I was amazed by the exquisite architecture and colors throughout Central America. Everywhere I looked there was another church with glorious stain glass windows, people dressed in beautifully colored native clothes, or a teal painted building or two. And then there were all the Mayan Ruins we got to see and climb! When you get to the top of a temple and look out over the landscape, no words can describe the view nor can photos do it justice. Hearing distance calls from the Howler Monkeys only added to the amazement!Joanna Pallas
Crowded chicken buses, dogs that follow you everywhere, a classroom filled with preschoolers that are so precious you just want to take them home with you, eating with a host family while trying to understand each other using hand motions, climbing ancient ruins, beans, rice and corn, loads of bug spray, late night swims in the pool, museums, the night life, are just some of the things I was able to witness in Central America. It was an experience of a lifetime.Lindsay Stern