a spiritual adventure

photo 1Hetty’s designed and backstrap woven scarves drying in the Guatemalan sun.

When I read my friend Hetty’s link yesterday on Facebook, http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=0e0040b32e42475084626b978&id=4909d7c3c3, I wished I had a little extra pocket change to take off on this wonderful adventure with the world’s most interesting travel guide.  Last night I asked her how she decided to add this spiritual piece to her tours.

Some years ago, when she was lost her executive position at Carter’s, Hetty traded in her MBA earned career to go back to the work of her original Masters degree, weaving, honed years prior in Guatemala.  Since connecting with women weavers in Sololá, she has helped them with retail and marketing planning of their business cooperative, designed for them and taught them how to negotiate and sell their goods at better prices.

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She traveled back and forth between Boston and Lake Atitlán, bringing down her garmento friends who offered their expertise as well.  Out of this grew regular “tours” that she led to the undiscovered parts of the Guatemalan Highlands, always including a visit and meal with the weaving women.  As time went on, she hired Dolores to help introduce her to other interesting but little known parts of Guatemalan culture.

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Hetty grew up Jewish in Brooklyn, and is the quintessential New York deal-maker; fast paced, “Let’s get it done”, “What is the purpose of this?”.  And while she is spiritual, she is not a practicer of religions of any sort, nor is she particularly interested in them. So when Dolores invited her to go and see the tourist-centric deity Maximón, Hetty would always demure, preferring to spend her time meeting with artists or visiting schools and children she sponsors.

Her curiosity finally piqued, on the last trip Hetty made the choice to put Maximón in the schedule.   An amalgam of Christianity and Mayan beliefs, Maximón is feared more than revered.  Legend has it that while the men were out in the fields working, he slept with all their wives, resulting in the removal of his legs and arms.  He is most often seen with a cigar or cigarette in his mouth, and receives many gifts of alcohol and tobacco.

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Hetty and Dolores entered a house where the Maximón effigy was for the year (he moves to a new location every year before Maundy Thursday), there were other people, tourists and locals, paying homage to the deity as well. There was a fire going and it all seemed rather serious.  Hetty watched, interested in a sociological sort of way.  She asked if she could take a photograph, they said she could if she paid them money.  The photograph above shows a fire that was being tended in the house.

As she moved closer to Maximón, it was easy for her to tell who the Shaman was.  She could see and feel his presence.  She wanted to be near him. So being Hetty, she sat next to him.  And had her picture taken.

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She took it all in, sitting very close to Maximón (below, he is to the right of the Shaman, wearing clothes) as well.  And she was moved.

photo 9Upon departure Dolores said “Ah, finally, you were ready” to which Hetty replied, “It had nothing to do with being ready, I was just not interested until now”.  Dolores smiled.photo 3

The next day, back at Lake Atitlán where they were staying with the group, Dolores offered her own spiritual blessing for all of them, which she performed by the side of the lake at sunset.  And they felt it.  And they were hooked.

So Hetty has tweaked her next Guatemalan trip to include a spiritual component;  Kripalu yoga, a visit with the Shaman, and of course, Dolores.

For more information on Hetty’s work, http://www.craftsforacause.org/Hetty_Friedman__Crafts_for_a_Cause/The_Guatemala_Project.html 

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