Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Tortilla Servitude

Blue tortillas, San Felipe de Jesus, near Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

The sight of girls and women making and selling tortillas all day, every day, in Antigua, is ubiquitous.

My airbnb hostess explained that some - many? - of the girls are lured from the countryside to the cities, such as Antigua, with promises of a better life than can be had in their impoverished rural villages. Often, the girls' parents willingly send their daughters off with the tortilla head hunters, so to speak, believing the promises.

Too often, the girls end up working for miserable earnings, living in miserable, crowded quarters, making and selling tortillas. All day, every day.

The making of tortillas all day, every day results in:
  • The girls' and womens' skin permanently damaged from chronic exposure to the lime in the masa, the corn dough that is the basis for the tortilla. 
  • Tendon injuries due to the repetitive hand and wrist movement involved in shaping and flattening the tortilla. 

It looks picturesque, it looks quaint, it looks "cultural." 

Is that girl on that corner, selling tortillas, a girl trapped in servitude? Or is she an entrepreneur, or the daughter of an entrepreneur, with a promising future?

I barely glance at her when I walk by; she barely glances at me while she sits by her cloth-covered basket of tortillas. She's an extra in my movie as I am in hers.

What's her story?

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