So I have been MIA for awhile, but determined to finish off my Guatemala posts. I apologize for the lateness.
I was very excited to be returning to La Limonada! I was enjoying hanging out with our new friends and learning about their lives in Guatemala. We were picked up by Tita and her van full of volunteers. Once in La Limonada we joined Tita and Shorty on their community visits. I really enjoyed this time exploring the barrio, meeting all the wonderful people and hearing all their stories. During this time it was also my job to get photos and footage of Tita and Shorty's interactions for the film.
As we walked through the barrio Tita described what life was like when she first came to La Limonada. She told us about the violence, and how gang members guarded the barrio boarders with guns. As we were walking to the closest border, this was the sight we saw (below). Boys playing soccer, laughing, and smiling. It was a beautiful sight to see hatred and violence replaced with friendship and joy.
We walked past them to the border of the barrio and Tita showed us the walls riddled with bullet holes from the gang wars. Tita is such a brave and loving woman. Since she has been in La Limonada she has befriended the gang members and ministered to them with her love and friendship. As she started building her schools and building relationships with the people the in the community, the violence has slowly started to dissipate.
The holes in the wood door (above) from buckshot of a shot gun, injured the woman who lived inside. She had to get surgery to remove the buckshot from her leg.
As we continued walking through the streets I saw the love and respect the La Limonada community had for Tita. Kids would see her coming and run to give her a hug and be near her. Everyone was overjoyed to be in her presence.
Shorty and Tita took us to a mural that had been painted by the gangs.
Marco, who used to be involved in a large and dangerous gang in LA before he became a Christian, described the meaning of the mural to us. The cross represents the fact that gang members realize the only way out of gang life is through Jesus Christ. The mask in the top left corner represents the mask/facade that they are living "the good life". The web represents how easy it is to get tangled up in gang life and how hard it is too get out. The jail bars represent that jail is an inevitable place you will end up as a gang member. The pot leaf represents that drugs is the only way to cope with the violence and horrors of being in a gang. The dice represent that they know they are gambling with their life joining a gang. The sun on the bottom left represents that there are some good times as a gang member. Even though young boys and men are fully aware of all the risks, they still choose to join gangs to find a sense of family and belonging in such a broken life so many of them have.
We couldn't leave without getting a photo of Shorty and Marco dressed and posing like they used to back in the old days.
After having lunch with a few of the women and their children in the neighborhood, we returned to the school. We hung out with some of the older children and teenagers so I was able to cross off more of my shot list.
I love the colors Tita has chose to paint the school. The colors create such a vibrant and joyful atmosphere.
This little boy (above) was so cute. I sat down with him while he was doing his english homework, and slowly he scooted closer and closer till he was almost on my lap.
All the kids crave so much love and attention.
After a few hours at the school we headed out with Tita, Shorty, and Kate to rally up the troops. Tita and Shorty are working hard to bring the community together by having once a month gatherings in some one's house to sing songs, and Shorty will preach. The first one was a month before we came and about 12 people showed up. We started walking down the street to the woman's house that was going host the gathering. First there was about 6 of us, but as we walked knocking on peoples doors we soon had a long line of 20 to 30 people making our way through the narrow streets.
We all crammed into the main room and bedrooms of the a small house. There must have been about 50 to 60 people.
Everyone sang and listend to Shorty preach for about an hour. After the community gathering we headed back to our apartment in a Seminiary/College complex. I have been amazed and grateful for the warm welcome and acceptance by the people of La Limonada. I was not sure what their reception would be to a white girl with a big camera. I know it would not be this easy with out Tita and Shorty and the respect they have earned from the community.