Cajolá is a community an hour away from Xela where we met with one of the community leaders, Ellí, to talk about the history of the community and the struggles the community is facing. The community has been pretty independent of the government since the police and military were kicked out 32 years ago, as well as the corrupt judge that was serving the town. Since then, the community leaders are in charge of caring and protecting the community. While some may think it is very radical to not have government officers there, the community is actually very safe and peaceful, apart from times when foreigners disrupt the peace. Disputes and felonies are minimal and are solved through the community leaders. To me, Cajolá is a great example of community at its finest. When a community decides to work together and dictate their own future, great projects can happen, such as the weaving cooperative, honey cooperative, chicken cooperative, and education program they have started.
Through the weaving and chicken cooperative, the women in the community have been able to create jobs and sustain their family. Because of forced migration to the US, meaning there are not enough jobs or ways to continue to sustain their family as breadwinners, there are a lack of men in the community. So women were left behind to take care of the household. The women who are involved in the cooperative are finding ways to provide an extra income that is small, but helpful to their family.
What I liked the most about this community, however, was the community pre-school that teaches children in their native Mayan language. The Reggio Emilia approach allow the children to pursue their interests and allow them to think independently by learning through investigation and experimentation. The children learn about the earth by planting vegetables and about Mayan cosmovision. They learn to read and write in both Spanish and Maya Mam. The teachers of the school that met with us were 4 woman that were interested in educating younger generations and preserving their culture. The school is one of the projects for also providing job options to the youth so that they do not have to migrate.
Although the community struggles with a high rate of migration, the projects that the youth of the community is putting together is helping to create sustainable jobs that are proving successful. The success comes from cooperation within the community though. Some community members are more involved in the projects than others, but the success is providing some income to families. It is impressive how much a community can do without government assistance. Although government assistance in the schools for materials would be helpful, the community continues their efforts to provide everything the community needs.