- Our Town
Mayan human-rights activist comes to Bowen
Among the local treasures that will be for sale at the craft fair in Collins Hall on December 14th and 15th, you will be surprised to find beaded jewelry, hand-made by Maya-Quiche women in Guatemala, our third neighbor to the south. Julio Alva Cochoy, a Maya-Quiche Human Rights activist from the town of Santa Lucia near Lake Atitlan, will be visiting Bowen to sell their jewelry In 2007, Julio founded Maya Skills an organization that supports Mayan women whose husbands, sons, fathers and other family members were victims of the brutal war which ravaged Guatemala from 1960 - 96. These women had no opportunity to get an education, growing up during this time of violence. Many of them had to do manual labour to support their families of origin when they were as young as six or seven. Now these women meet regularly to support each other and as they talk, they create beautiful necklaces, bracelets and ornaments like brightly-colored humming birds and dream catchers. The sale of this jewelry helps support these women and their families and bring their standard of living above the poorest of the poor in Guatemala
I met Julio last year in Vancouver and have since visited him and his family in Guatemala, where I have an education project. I have had the privilege of meeting some of the women who make the beadwork that Julio has brought from Guatemala I heard first-hand, their stories of terror and injustice that were captured in Julio’s book, “Voices breaking the silence of Utitlan,” published in 2006 with funding from the United Nations. Julio will have the opportunity to share a glimpse of his story at the little red church on December 15th: His uncle Filipe Alva and his cousin Gaspar were murdered by the army. His cousins Domingo and Pedro were kidnapped and “disappeared.”. Julio has struggled to overcome his anger and hatred of these perpetrators of Mayan genocide His journey to a place of peace and hope is truly inspiring.. It is a rare opportunity to meet this Human Rights activist and to see the beautiful work that the women of Maya Skills have created.