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Melchor Free School
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I first met Sandra on a communeta van going from Melchor de Mencos to Sta. Elena. She was running a work crew of 12 men on a dig. I asked how a young woman in Guatemala could run a work gang of 12 macho men. “Well, the first week was pretty rough,” she said, “but then they found I could figure their pay, and they couldn’t!”  The job was a pretty responsible one for a 26-year-old woman, but the pay wasn’t too great. And I’ve come to the conclusion that Sandra is just about the most intelligent Guatemalteca I’ve met in my 10 years down here.

Sure enough, within a couple of months, Sandra got a new job with the state of Petén. It started by them giving her huge tomes of law she had to understand. Back at the conclusion the civil war some 10 years ago, the government promised several hundred or thousand guerrillas small parcels of land. But in the Petén, these men couldn’t prove who they were/are. Sandra is in charge of determining their eligibility and then helping them prove who they are in order to get their land.

As such, she has had to visit many small barrios in the Petén. She saw the squalor first hand, over and over again. It was about 8 months ago that she voiced her project to me. The thing she really wants to do at this stage of her life. In all these barrios, the families can’t afford to send their kids to school. Sandra wanted to have a totally free school, so many of these kids could grow up being able to read, write, do simple arithmetic, and speak English. I asked Sandra how she’s going to teach English when she didn’t speak it. “It will be a learning experience for all of us,” she replied, “but they all need to speak English.”

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