Clark and Kay Taylor posing with villagers in the early years of the new partnership.
1987. A turbulent time in Guatemala.
Years of civil war, of unspeakable injustices by a repressive government and the army that served it, and displacement of the population in the rural parts of the country, had exacted a toll known to only a few outside the country. Voices that raised to speak out were quickly silenced. Poverty, indentured servitude, and absence of education were common place.
Clark Taylor, who taught on topics of social justice at the University of MA, Boston, and is an ordained minister, was drawn to this land, and in particular, to a small rural village in the Ixcan region in the north, on a small delegation. He encountered a rugged people working the land while coping with tragedy and separation that followed the scorched-earth invasions by the army five years prior. Clark’s first hope was to seek some form of protection for witnesses to the systematic attacks, somewhere beyond the borders, and out of reach of clandestine forces.
At the same time, the idea came to light that Clark’s affiliated church, the Congregational Church of Needham, MA, could form a bond with this rural village, whose name is Santa Maria Tzeja.. (Tzeja is a Mayan equivalent to the term “river dog” which is ascribed to an animal akin to the otter). Clark, joined by his wife Kay, returned to this low lying, rain forest engulfed village. And the idea was set in motion in 1987.
Each year since, the very demanding journey Santa Maria Tzeja has been taken by people attracted to this partner relationship, anxious for their own encounter with people of indigenous origin, surviving off the land but seeking to ascend to higher freedom, and opportunity.
Clark and Kay are a remarkable dynamic. They took turns guiding delegations. By doing so, they opened the eyes of a hundred others to appreciate, ingest, and formulate their own connection to this village. Out of this came o111pportunity in the village in the form of formal education, governance, freedom of expression, and ulitmately courage to confront their past and embrace their heritage.