Day 6 of the International Exchange: Practicing Spaciousness
We all know the importance of spaciousness, that rest is not something that happens in spite of the work but is actually necessary for work to happen well. Not taking intentional space to reflect and recharge denies us the opportunity of coming to deeper insight and increases the chances of tunnel vision and burn-out.
We took a day off in Antigua to mark the end of our first week of the exchange. The movement partners of JASS from Honduras and Guatemala who have been with us for several days headed home, and we will be transitioning to a week of guest speakers, community visits, and reflecting on how the experience has affected us and our approach to our work.
Antigua is a beautiful colonial city frequented by tourists and is the former capital of Guatemala. With its beauty, charm, and visitor appeal comes all of the expected consequences – a high cost of living, the majority of businesses owned by foreigners, the commodification of culture, and a painful history of colonization. JASS chose this city for its safety and accessibility, and as a site that would be a place of restoration for its local partners as well. To continue moving in a values-aligned way in this many-layered place, we tried to be thoughtful in how to use this free time.
Several people in our group wanted to purchase fair trade gifts for themselves and loved ones. Gift-giving is an important practice that allows us to economically support local people while sharing some of our experience with people at home and having a souvenir that brings us joy and memories. Through the Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES), we invited Mayan women weavers to come sell us their textiles, all of whom are part of a national collective with an active legal case to protect their designs as intellectual property, which have been co-opted in the past by U.S. designers without fair recognition or compensation.
Other members of our group participated in a women’s cleansing ceremony in a temazcal with a Mayan healer and spiritual guide. The temazcal is a stone-heated steam bath, akin to a sweat lodge, where participants engage in a physical and spiritual cleansing with the aid of local traditional plants. This is part of a series of traditional healing and wellness practices that we have offered throughout the week, including Mayan massage, group healing through movement and dance, and a Mayan sunrise ceremony. We have strengthened our commitment as a program to create restorative and healing spaces for women of color that help us practice community and self care, that draw on our ancestral knowledge, that provide spiritual nourishment, and that are seen as integral to our work rather than separate.
And others simply slept in, walked around town, visited local markets, had leisurely meals, and sat in the sun. Even these simple pleasures can feel like a luxury when tasked with the work of ending gender-based violence, but they are essential for our joy, humanity, and capacity for connection.