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.
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