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Tara Ward, Mesoamerica Program Coordinator

People often ask me what I do on field visits and I have a hard time putting into words what they are like. 

Usually they are a slightly manic combination of meetings with partners in their offices, attending events, visiting communities, speaking with project participants, and the inevitable early morning breakfast and late night dinner meetings. 

What has become clear to me is that you have to be prepared for anything.

So on November 18th, when we arrived at the Santa Maria Linguistic Project (PLSM) office for a day of meetings, I was not completely surprised when Obispo Rosales, the Director, took us a side and told us that about 11 am Patricia and I would be participating in a ceremony to celebrate the fact that three networks of teachers, who are engaged in promoting and supporting intercultural bilingual education, have now been legally registered in Guatemala.

In September of last year, when we were visiting PLSM, we met with a small group of teachers active in these networks.   As they told us their reality as educators in Guatemala living on wages that amount to less than half of a living wage, providing supplies with their own money, and creating classroom materials out of whatever they could find, their biggest concern was over a recent meeting with the Vice Minister of Education.

About a month before, they had been able to arrange for a meeting to discuss their concerns about the implementation of intercultural bilingual education in classrooms in Guatemala.  As they were speaking, the Vice Minister interrupted them and asked if they were a legally registered association.  When the teachers responded that they represented a network of over 700 teachers, the Vice Minister got up and said if they came back again and they were not a registered organization, they would be arrested and put in jail for five years.

That was just over a year ago, and now we were able to witness the celebration as the teachers received the network's registration papers.

As we snuck in to the meeting slightly late, Patricia and I were of course shuffled to the front of the room. 

Rosa Etelvina García, the lawyer who had helped guide the teachers through the complicated registration process and a Mayan woman in her traditional traje or dress, was reading out the legal rights and responsibilities teacher's networks now have.

Inevitably, we were asked to speak and were presented with a series of gifts.

As Patricia thanked them for the acknowledgement of Horizons support, she made it clear that it was actually their hard work that made this celebration possible.  She said it was thanks to the lawyer who was willing to donate a large portion of her services, it was thanks to the teachers themselves for being so committed to their students and education in Guatemala, and it was thanks to PLSM for their dedication to promoting Indigenous language and culture.

Later on in the week , we spoke again with Obispo about the importance of this step for the teachers networks, and he said what was the most important thing is that now with this formalized structure the teachers can continue their work to promote with or without PLSM... "they can now walk on their own".