Opposite ends of life #2

Opposite ends of life #2

The original post Opposite Ends of Life, in La Antigua Guatemala DP, was published on May 23rd, 2006 and it was about a little girl and an old lady helping each other cross the street. It is an interesting shot, if I may say so, you should see if you haven’t done so already.

Today’s entry is about different women and their opposite position in the spectrum of life.

On the left, we have a young woman, tourist, disinhibited, sunbathing in a bench at Central Park. As Ian McEwan says, the pickiness of pure chance and physical laws created a better future for this young woman by locating her birth place somewhere in Europe or North America, with access to better education and the possibility of middle or upper-middle class family with enough buying power to pay for trips abroad. I believe the reading of the picture can give us an even deeper hindsight into her background.

On the right, three young indigenous women stroll with their very conservative hand-woven dresses, probably looking for customers to whom they could sell their handicrafts. The same randomness and chaos in the universe set these young Guatemalan women in the cradle of a poor family in a poor country with almost no access to education, certainly with no access to travels abroad.

The French have a saying for this: C’est la vie!, that is life or like the Spanish song goes Así­ es la vida de caprichosa

What is your reading of the photograph above? What sort of story can you invent for the scene above?

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© 2007 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • world is the same, people are divided into many layers, like the onion.

    shanghai daily photo

  • Jing said the truth. The photo is very well captured and honestly I’m not able to invent different stories from your that is believable

  • “The sun beat down. Hot and humid. My sisters and me walked past the newly built town hall as we made our way to the market. We spoke of many things. The corn harvest, our new dresses but most of all we spoke about Carlo’s new wife. A wife he returned with from his journey to the northlands. She was a brazen woman. One that didn’t understand our customs. A woman with no shame and embraced the power of her voluptous body. We giggled when suddenly we noticed her sitting on a bench. What was she wearing? Her confidence embarassed us as we averted our eyes, hushed our voices and turned to the cross the road.”

  • i doubt that the woman is any more happy or content than the 3 ladies walking by. one thing can be noted the walking women have compains and the lady on the bench is alone.

  • I think it’s such an interesting shot, Rudy.
    It’s always interesting to see the diference between 2 cultures. We’re not saying which one is happier, they’re just different as they’re grown in diferent places… I think there’s some writting mistakes here… sorry

  • Very thoughtful commentary with the photo. Indeed, it reveals two worlds, so close, yet incredibly far apart. Being a shy, reserved, let’s-go-with-the-flow type person, I can’t help but be surprised that the tourist doesn’t try to fit in with Latin American customs a tad bit more. I’ve always been told (and have tried) not to wear shorts and to dress with more care than I would at home when traveling in Latin America. But…I tend to worry too much. This lady is certainly carefree, which can be a good thing. I imagine the indigenous women are very accustomed to seeing such tourists — as La Antigua is such a popular tourist destination. I would VERY interested in knowing their thoughts about the tourist, if they spare her a thought, during their daily routines.

    I was struck by your comment: “almost no access to education.” I had forgotten this, if I had ever known it. I seem to remember being told when visiting Guatemala that most indigenous men in Guatemala speak Spanish, but many women do not. This would seem to support your comment about lack of education. It’s so sobering. Disturbing.

  • LD

    Great picture, Rudy.

    My guess– from the tiny shorts (and I suppose the really white skin)– is that the woman is a tourist who hasn’t been there long.

    Maybe afterwards, the three women will go home and sit on the plastic patio chairs they use as kitchen furniture, hike up their “cortes” and laugh, as they play the role of the ‘gringa.’

    Maybe the gringa just arrived in Antigua and has finished a full day studying Spanish. She was trying to be adventuresome, travelling all by herself to another country. And she wants to take full advantage of that hot sun and return home with a tan. But maybe, just maybe, she’ll get tired of the whistles from men and the comments she doesn’t understand… and tomorrow she’ll put on a pair of long pants.

  • Jing, wow what an honor to have you visit this part of the world. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    Fabrizio, thanks for visit and comment. I am sure other people will fill in the stories.

    Edwin, my man, what an awesome tale you’ve webbed. You have given me a magnificent idea; I will try to write short tales about some of the photos I publish, not as good as yours, but I will do it for the fun of it.

    Patsy, actually I don’t know about their feeling and their state of bliss. I was simply trying to show opposite sides of life.

    Dsole, I was trying to show the difference that can arise from a cosmic accident called birth.

    Lessie, I believe your comments and observations are more much deeper and mind-blowing than my captions. I was trying to show the difference in fate or destiny that can arise from the place you are born. I was also trying to show that the odds are against most of the women and men from this part of the world.

    LD, maybe the young tourist woman is from Canada who happen to come to Guatemala for some Spanish-language classes. Who knows what the future will be for her… maybe she’ll stay for a few years. It all depends who she meets and what choices she makes.

  • Meg

    Sad, but your comments are right on the money, I think. I’m disturbed with the way the “tourist” seems so unworried.

  • I’m glad I gave you the idea. But you do know I could only come up with my humble story because I was inspired by your photograph. do keep me in touch with this new idea of yours.

  • Meg and others, I believe the tourist is just taking advantage of the warm weather and sun, which surely is not as readily available. Besides, the laid-back atmosphere in La Antigua encourages you to loosen up yourself.

    Edwin, you are always so creative. You must be an artist, I know! 😉

  • joan

    As the three women cross the square they stop and talk to the tourist sitting on the bench. The tourist tells them in Spanish that today is her first day in Antigua. She is studying Spanish. She just finished going for a run and did not realize most women in Guatemala do not wear shorts even for running. She asks what they are going to sell at the market and whether they have any cortes or huipils that she could buy.

    The three women tell her they know a little Spanish but had to quit school to sell crafts at the market to help support their families. The tourist asks where they went to school. She asks if they had help would they be be able to go back to school. They say yes so she takes down their names and names of their schools. She says she knows a great organization that can sponsor them. She says she will help them apply and receive becas to continue their educations. She will contribute and she also has friends and family who will contribute too.

  • I keep coming back to this picture as I find it so thought-provoking. About six years ago I was a tourist myself in Antigua (hence my interest in your website) and so it has made me really think and consider the relationship between tourists and the local population.

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  • sonia

    I doubt that the girls in indigenous dress are very shocked by the foreigner. As one commenter said, they’re used to seeing all the gringos in Antigua. Plus, they probably watch american movies on cable, which they and the 2 families on either side share from the same spliced cable line from the pirated cable provider.

    So, they probably don’t care about the gringa in the short shorts. On the other hand, they themselves would NEVER be caught dead dressed like that.

    Here’s my take on the photo: Clean new tops, freshly shampood and brushed hair. I bet they study at INSOL, a boarding school at the diversificado (high school) level which many indigenous girls attend in Antigua. Classes probably ended about an hour ago. Now they are meeting up with their other girlfriends at the central park and the one in white is looking for that cute shy guy who attends INVAL (the high school for boys) that she met at the social activity the other night. She was hoping to see him sometime at the central park. Maybe if she smiles at him he’ll get up the nerve to come talk to her. She’s so busy looking for him she almost trips on the legs of the white lady.

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  • Rachel

    The lady on the bench is tired after her day of working hard building houses with her other volunteer friends. After giving up everything to come and help these people, she thinks they would show a little bit of kindness and compassion for her different sense of style, as she has been sacrificing so much for them.

    She knows that her skin is white, but she does not believe she is in a racist or unkind/ superficial place that will mock her for the color of her skin or type of clothing.

    Although she is lonely without her family and friends, and the little things that she was used to, she believes that the locals will be understanding and kind. She is worried her spanish isn’t the best, so she spends hours upon hours studying in anyway she can. She is worried about her money as she barely has enough to make ends meet, and she had to max out a credit card to pay for this trip. She knows she will be paying it off, working long hard hours for a year at walmart, but she knows it is worth it to experience another culture and try to help people.

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  • Federico Rosales-Arzú

    My point of view in post is that Antigua is such international place, becoming cosmopolitan, that the people behavior is very different according from where they come from, even the guatemalans if they are not local indigenous might have different beautiful hand woven dresses, that could be expensive – like the ones from Coban or Xela – and they behave like outsiders.
    Thank you Rudy for posting this beautiful photos, with deep unspoken concepts of life, that makes the mind wonder and make the most good stories