We spent 6 days hiking from Nebaj to Todos Santos through many small villages, across miles of farm land, and over the highest non-volcanic peak in Central America.
Many of the villages had not more than twenty structures. Small wooden houses with colorful laundry strung across small yards with an assortment of farm animals. There was always a small church and a school. Most buildings had dirt floors, metal rooves and a wood stove for cooking and making tortillas. The schools were usually not much more than a building with desks and a white board where hundreds of students would study.
When we walked through town we often felt like a tourist attraction ourselves. Children would yell hola, hola, hola from behind their mothers as we walked by and people would steal glimpses or pictures as we passed their homes. In one town at least 50 children came out to greet us and asked us to buy them plastic soccer balls from the small store. A few brave ones spoke to us, they even proudly showed us their school and books.
Some of the villages were off the road system all together requiring locals to carry firewood, food and goods miles to their home or to market. Some used pack animals to carry large bushels of corn or firewood along the same trails we were hiking on. When ever we encountered locals they always smiled and greeted us. We could usually here them coming as most carried small radios blasting Christian rock in spanish.
Small children often roamed the streets, sometimes with their patents or older siblings or on their own but always with an obvious chore.
Our favorite part of this hike was on a high plato where the tiny colorful villages contrasted with the rocky terrain. Along this route we also had the opportunity to speak with locals about their lives and about how things have changed since the civil war which ravaged the highlands in the 1980s. The people we spoke to remember that time and were deeply affected by the massacres which occured in many native villages. They were happy we were there to hear their stories and to see their villages as they are today. They have high hopes for the future, for their children and are thankful to put that time behind them.