Time Travel

My post today is not related to children’s books, except that illustrating children’s books led me to study Spanish. But it is a story, and a true story at that.

At the beginning of February I went to Guatemala with my friend Deborah Mersky to study Spanish at La Cooperativa, a wonderful school in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan. Here is San Pedro himself in the town square.san pedro

The night before I left I came across some photos that my great uncle (Karl Paschkis) had taken in 1953. They were taken in Santiago, another town on Lake Atitlan. I took the photos with me.santiago guatemala 1953santiago, guatemala

The teachers at the school instantly recognized the people as being from Santiago because of the fabric in their clothing, and they thought that some of the same families might still be selling their wares at the market.

One afternoon Deborah and I took a small ferry across the lake to Santiago.boat on Lake Atitlan

The town sprawled over the hill. Over 30,000 people live there now. Deborah and I showed the photos to several women at different stalls in the market, some of whom spoke only Tz’utujil, a Mayan language.  No luck. So after a while we gave up and went to see the church. In a courtyard behind the church several women were sweeping up leaves. I showed them the pictures. One woman was so excited that she practically grabbed them from me. She held the pictures to her chest. She knew the people in the photos and cared about them. We spent some time explaining who took the pictures and when, and trying to understand her relation to the the people in the pictures. I am still not totally sure if they were friends or family (madre o compadre) because Spanish was a second language for all of us and everyone was excited.

I told the women to keep the old photos – I don’t think they would have given them back to me in any case. Then Deborah took some pictures. Three little boys ran across the courtyard to get into this photo.santiago

I can hardly believe that we found these people so quickly in a town that big with photos from 60 years ago. Maybe in 2073 someone can go back to Santiago and find these boys who will be old men by then, or someone who knew them.

11 responses to “Time Travel

  1. what a wonderful story!

  2. Outstanding!
    I often look at old travel photographs and wonder about the people in the background.I dream of returning to find them and hear their stories.
    YOU did that!
    Those old, beautiful images cast you into a great adventure. Nice.

  3. Talk about six degrees of separation! A lovely story inspired by your good and generous heart, Julie.

  4. Wonderful story! The people are beautiful – thank you for bringing them to our attention.

  5. ampaschkis@juno.com

    thanks for the time travel….and for seeing Uncle Karl’s pictures again….maybe you will hear from others who have had a similar experience. Also loved the Saint with the “propellers on his head and the chicken with the bird on its…so both could e ready to take flight….AND the clouds over the mountain over the lake….mpaschkis

  6. Julie, this is so amazing. I remember taking that boat across the lake to Santiago in 1965 when I was working in Guatemala so those photos were particularly poignant for me. I love that you took them with you and that you left them there with those to whom they meant so much. I also love the bird sitting on the rooster’s head in your first photo–what a grand and whimsical lookout post! Thank you for sharing your photos AND the story.

  7. Just saw the photos you told me about — amazing story!
    What a great trip you had — I remember how beautiful it was when I was there years ago !!

  8. Great story and I wasn’t surprised you made a connection – that is so you!!!
    Abrazos, Mason

  9. Charming story and wonderful photo of you with the women and boys. So glad you were able to make that connection.

  10. What a heart warming story!

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