Things That Matter

Water Pollution In This Guatemalan Town Dropped 90 Percent After The Town Banned All Plastic

The residents of San Pedro La Laguna have witnessed their town’s lake go from a garbage dump to its original pristine alpine condition within just three years. Why? In 2016, the entire town and its municipal government took on a monumental task: no new plastic would enter the town. Three years later, Lake Atitlán is clean, and plastic waste in the lake has reduced by 90 percent. It took all 10,000 residents of the town to fully commit to completely eliminating their use of plastic in order to revitalize Lake Atitlán, but it was worth it.

“Quitting plastic has not been an easy task,” resident Taira told Naturaleza Gurú, “but you just have to get used to it. We wrap the food in large banana leaves, store the bread in cloth napkins and use wicker baskets or woven palm bags to take purchases home.”

The town unequivocally banned straws, plastic bags, and styrofoam from entering its borders.

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“There are three products that may not seem significant,” San Pedro’s Mayor Mauricio Mendez said last year. “But when we start to see rivers and lakes polluted with these products, we realize that they are a very important key to create change on this planet.” The town swiftly put up a banner at the entrance of the town that announced Municipal Code 111-2016: “No uso bólsas plásticas, pajillas y duroport.” San Pedro does not use plastic bags, straws and styrofoam.

Instead of plastic, the town has been using banana leaves or maxán leaves, which are traditionally used for tamales. to store their food.

Credit: DW Español / YouTube

When the town passed the ordinance, it received a lot of pushback. Rolando Paiz, Guatemala’s Plastic Commission’s President, told DW that plastic is “one of the noblest materials that humans invented,” and that San Pedro simply needed infrastructure to properly store garbage. Paiz appealed the ordinance to no avail. Three years later, the town has proved itself right.

The initiative has brought the town back to its traditional ways, bringing back childhood memories for many.

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Bakery owner Graciela Batz said that the return to traditional cloth and paper bags are bringing back memories from when she was a little girl. Another resident said that the mayor’s initiative is a real opportunity for the town to save its lake. “We always invoke the thought of revolution,” Mayor Mendez said, “The revolution is not about weapons. It is to make structural changes in each of our lives to create change.”

Lake Atitlán is a major tourist attraction for the town.

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While the town is more than 90 percent made up of indigenous Tz’utujil Mayans, there is a growing expatriate community of Americans and Europeans. That may be because Lake Atitlán is a major source of revenue for the town, drawing in hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world each year. The lake rests at 9,905 feet in elevation and sits beneath Volcan San Pedro. Tourists enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling in the lake, which was becoming increasingly littered with trash. The community not only saved its economy, but it saved an entire body of water from dying.

Residents volunteered their time to take canoes out to the lake, and collect trash.

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Collectively, they would remove nearly 700 pounds of trash from the lake, each day. It was a last resort after protesters demanded the government clean up the lake. In July 2015, #AtitlánSano went viral on social media, but the government did nothing. The indigenous communities had to take it upon themselves to save the lake, which was experiencing explosive blooms of cyanobacteria, making the lake water toxic for human consumption. 

Atitlán has become the center of debate in Guatemala’s growing demand for water rights and an end to environmental racism.

Credit: true_nature_travels / Instagram

As massive international farms begin to operate in the country, rivers have been diverted, and waste management has not prioritized for indigenous communities.

“If this lake was in [the mainly white department of] Zacapa, we would have a lot of money, it would be privatized and the government would pay much more attention,” expert Juan Skinner told Truthout. “But because the lake basin is in an Indigenous stronghold, it suffers from the same exclusion that all Indigenous lands suffer from within the country. This is a tourist mecca, an incredible natural wonder, it is still abandoned and excluded because the majority is Indigenous. Because this is a racist country.”

San Pedro residents have become a shining example of the organizing strength of indigenous communities, in the face of a government that continues to divert funds to white communities over indigenous communities.

READ: The United Nations Gave Costa Rica The Highest Award Possible For Their Work Saving The Environment

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Apple Named The Top App Of 2020 And It Was Developed By Two Guatemalans

Things That Matter

Apple Named The Top App Of 2020 And It Was Developed By Two Guatemalans

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The winner of this year’s iPhone App of the Year by Apple went to Wakeout. The app is a workout app created by two Guatemalan developers and has grown in popularity since it was first released.

Pedro Wunderlich and Andrés Canella are the minds behind Apple’s top app of 2020.

Every year, Apple picks an app to be celebrated as the best app of the year. This year, Wakeout, the brainchild of two men in Guatemala, took home the coveted prize. It is a fun app, especially in the time of Covid and self-isolation.

The app is designed to motivate people to wake up and move to start their day on an active note. This lowers the user’s stress level throughout the day giving them a more successful day.

Apple focused on the apps that helped the world connect and stay healthy this year.

This years was a wild ride for everyone around the world. We had to find new ways to stay active, stay connected, and stay happy while the world stood still. Wakeout was the top app to make sure that people stayed active and motivated during these days.

The two men behind the app were clearly very excited to be the best of the year. The two of them sent tweets back and forth congratulating each other in surprise over the honor.

Tbh, seeing the two shower each other with love and praise is so sweet to see.

It is nice to see the two celebrate each other and give each other so much recognition. It was a team effort and these two are unapologetically showing the world what it looks like to be true team players.

Wakeout has become a valuable part of thousands of people’s mornings. The app gets people moving in ways that can be done anywhere. It is so important to have tools like this when your world is on pause. Being physically active is important for so many reasons.

We can’t wait to see what the duo comes up with next.

Clearly, if they are able to make something so successful during this wild imagine what they can do in normal times.

READ: Many Native Languages Are Dying Off But Here’s How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech To Save Them

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Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America

Culture

Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America

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Christmas is a special time of year. Families have their traditions to mark the festive year and some of those traditions are rooted in culture. Here are some of the ways various countries in Latin America celebrate Christmas.

El Pase Del Niño Viajero – Ecuador

El Pase del Niño Viajero is a pageant that happens in Ecuador that lasts weeks. The parade is meant to represent the journey of Mary and Joseph. The parade highlights the religious importance of Christmas in Ecuador and is most common in the Andean region of the country.

The biggest and most important parade is in Cuenca, a deeply religious city. Citizens near the city have all day to see the parade as it starts in the early morning and runs through the late afternoon. This gives people a lot of time to make it to the city to witness the parade.

La Gritería – Nicaragua

La Gritería comes after La Purisma. La Purisma is celebrated at the end of November and is meant to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. La Gritería is celebrated in early December and involves literal yelling. Someone would shout “Que causa tanta alegria?” (“What causes so much happiness?”) People respond “La Concepción de María.” (“Mary’s Conception.”)

Las Posadas – Mexico

Mexican posadas are the most recognizable. Posadas take place in Mexico from Dec. 16-24, though this year they are most likely to be virtual. The posada begins with a procession in the neighborhood filled with people singing and sometimes led by two people dressed as Mary and Joseph.

Another part is the posada party. Before guests can enter, there is a song exchange with the people outside playing Joseph looking for shelter. The hosts sing the side of the innkeeper saying there is no room. Eventually, the guests are welcomed into the home to celebrate Christmas.

Aguinaldos – Colombia

Aguinaldos are a series of games played by people in Colombia leading up to Christmas. There are certain games that are common among people in Colombia. One is pajita en boca, which requires holding a straw in your mouth the entire time of a social event. Another is dar y no recibir, which is about getting people to take something you are giving to score a point.

El Quema Del Diablo – Guatemala

El quema del diablo is celebrated in early December and is a way of letting go of the previous year. People burn piñatas and effigies of the devil to let go of all negative feelings and moments from the previous year. If there was every to try a new tradition, this would be the year. Burn an effigy and banish 2020 to the past, where it belongs.

READ: These Seriously Sad Christmas Presents Were Worse Than Actual Coal

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