San Francisco de Las Lomas was on top of a hill that really suffered during the earthquake. All of their roads crashed down and they had to rebuild them. The women had to walk down the side of the mountain to the creek, get the water, put it on their head, and walk back up the mountain. That was the only way they had water. There was another hill across the way that was actually higher than their location but it belonged to some big absentee landlord who had two springs. Plenty negotiated with this guy to get half of one spring, which was a fair amount of water. They had taken the pipe and run from the spring all the way down the valley and up into the village. The day they turned on the water everybody was completely gassed.
I was there the first time the water arrived. They turned on one spigot to start with. A village woman with long black hair came over. She just let down her hair and whipped off her shirt, turned on the faucet, stuck her head under the water and let out a “Shhhhhh.” Maya women do not do stuff like that. It was so out of character. She realized, “This is running water right now. It is on.” She was totally wowed. It was a big deal. Can you imagine all of the hundreds of hours spent every week hauling water and now not having to trudge up and down the mountain? Cleaner running water right there! That was a monumental difference. That was huge.
Guatemala was one of those places where you could see that if it wasn’t for the oppression of the government, you could just leave these people alone. They had it all figured out. They didn’t need anything. They just needed to not be crushed.
Once they learned how to lay the pipe and design the system, they were off and running. They just needed to not have somebody preventing them from taking care of themselves.