by Hannah Perkins
Every September rich colors of celebration and proudly displayed white and blue flags faded from the summer sun brighten up Guatemala’s rainy season. Guatemalan patriots prepare all month long to celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15th.
Guatemala declared independence from Spain in 1821, after two previous attempts. Unlike other countries who have fought tireless battles to become independent, Guatemala gained independence relatively peacefully due to instability in the Spanish monarchy.
Although as a whole, the Guatemalan people love to celebrate any holiday, Independence Day is a celebration all its own. Dancing, fireworks and colorful parades cover the streets. Communities gather to listen to children who have practiced their instruments for months, while satisfying their bellies with street food.
It is a celebration of freedom at a national and a personal level. “I had a father who said women were only made to have children and nothing more,” said Otilia, a Friendship Bridge client. “Today it’s different.”
An entrepreneur, Otilia started a business making jarred preserves to create more freedom for herself and opportunities for her family. Friendship Bridge partnered with Otilia providing a microloan and education. “The best moment was when I made my own invention,” said Otilia. “My carrot, papaya, and pineapple marmalade. It turned out perfect, and it’s my specialty.” With technical training offered by Friendship Bridge, Otilia has found incredible success. “My dream is to some day commercialize my business,” said Otilia. “So I’m very excited. The doors are opening for me!”
Today Otilia, an independent businesswoman, stands proudly admired by her husband and children. “My children tell me, ‘Thank the Lord for having a hard-working mother, a strong mother, an entrepreneur,’” said Otilia. “It is good.”
It’s time to celebrate. Happy Independence Day!
Friendship Bridge is a registered 501©(3) nonprofit organization creates opportunities that empower impoverished Guatemalan women to create a better future for themselves, their children and their communities through microfinance, education, and health services. Friendship Bridge works primarily with indigenous populations in rural areas where the rate of poverty in Guatemala is the highest.
Hannah Perkins, Friendship Bridge Communications Intern, hails from Maine and recently graduated from Susquehanna University, with a degree in Communications, Multimedia-Broadcast and a minor in Women’s Studies.