In the summer of 2012 I re-visited some of the same indigenous villages in Southeast Asia that I had first visited between ten and thirteen years earlier. The changes were striking. They all had 24-hour electricity; most were now accessible by paved roads; even young people in most of the villages had cell (mobile) phones; I scarcely saw traditional dress being worn; and I saw almost no evidence of traditional handicrafts being practiced such as weaving.
My reaction to these changes was mixed. On the one hand I was saddened at the extent of the loss of culture being experienced and on the other I was pleased to see some of the benefits that "progress" was bringing to the people. I was also pleased to come across a project aimed at preserving Akha cultural heritage in northern Thailand. I was so impressed with the effort that I volunteered for three days and made a personal monetary donation to the project.
I found myself thinking about my last assignment which had taken me mostly to Honduras. In particular I thought of one Chortí village where I had spent some time and also volunteered, La Pintada. This village also has electricity and is accessed by a good-quality road. I don't recall seeing any cell phones in that village in April, 2010, but I did see lots of evidence of the preservation of traditional handicrafts. Children were selling hand-made corn husk dolls and jewelry and women were weaving on traditional looms.
At some point in my recent travels through Southeast Asia I went back to our web site to refresh my memory of Honduras on our assignments preview page. As I looked at this photo, and thought back to when I took it, I couldn't help but wonder what changes will greet me when I next visit La Pintada or any other indigenous villages in that part of the world.
The Chortí Maya are featured in our documentary, Ancient and Modern Mayan Peoples.If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider supporting independent, advertising-free journalism by buying us a coffee to help us cover the cost of hosting our web site. Please click on the link or scan the QR code. Thanks!