Coordinator of Grupo Cajola
“I left my country in 1996…There is something very important that I learned in the United States. It’s my history here in Guatemala. I learned why I immigrated. I learned why we were poor. I learned why we give our lives at the border in order to have a better life.”
Like many from Cajola, Guatemala, Educardo Jimenez left his village to find work in the United States. Remittances from undocumented Guatemalan laborers like Eduardo are the main source of income in Guatemala, and while providing some wealth and creating a housing boom in towns like Cajola, they have also had the negative effect of tearing apart the social fabric of his village.
Eduardo is not typical. After living as an undocumented immigrant in Morristown, New Jersey for ten years, he was shot in the head during an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. It took 2 years for Eduardo to recuperate. With time on his hands and a newfound curiosity about the Mayan community he came from, he learned about his country—and his Mayan heritage, and the endemic injustices that date back centuries.
Eduardo decided to return to Guatemala to do something for his community. Expanding the mandate of an organization formed in the States to help Cajola migrants—it began as a collective to ship bodies back home when a worker died–Grupo Cajola under Eduardo’s oversight now includes weaving, carpentry and auto repair cooperatives which have become vibrant economic development initiatives in Cajola. Together with Caryn Maxim, the American woman who helped Eduardo during his recuperation in Morristown, the coops now help stem the migration exodus to Los Estados, and an incentive for Cajola migrants currently in the States to return home. Caryn helps with marketing the coop products, textiles that are now exported to the US, and the local distribution of eggs from the chicken coop. Grupos Cajola has also begun educational programs for young people learning a trade, even a language and after school programs to improve computer skills and the re-introduction of their native Mam language.
It’s a dream of Eduardo to help his hometown, to regain a pride in his heritage, and to teach a younger generation what it means to be Maya.