From Guatemala with love
These days the Mayans are hip, they’re a #trendytopic all around the globe. Their predictions about the "possible" end of the world –supposedly to befall us this December- have revived thoughts of an antique community otherwise forgotten by most Latin Americans between textbooks and school history exams, and the sparks that the Mayan 2012 forecasts set off in the digital world have been also mirrored in the material world, enlightening people about a civilization of the Popol Vuh and Chichén Itzá. The Mayans are no longer just a Mel Gibson fiction or the name of a burritos and tortillas restaurant chain.
But even though the name of the Maya civilization has most recently been matched with ideas of apocalypse, destruction and despair, this truth is that the descendants of that ancient culture are actually living the opposite: they’re making the world a better place.
The village of San Andrés Itzapa, located in the central part of Guatemala, carries in name and spirit an imprint of Itzaés, that old Mayan town famous of creativity, medicinal knowledge and the creation of the Mayan alphabet. In this village lives a man, a kind of craftsman and magician, who with scrap metal, old bicycles and a hungry mind has created a new "breed" of tools called the bicimáquinas: pedal-powered machines.
Meet Carlos Marroquín, one of the 31,900 inhabitants of San Andrés Itzapa. Since 1997, he’s been running Maya Pedal, a small business that solves everyday problems in his community with homemade tools.
Bike-blenders, bike-grinders, bike-water pumps, bike-washing machines are among the devices that Marroquín and other community partners and volunteers from different parts of the world build in his workshop. The resulting machines are completely sustainable and environmentally friendly; they do not produce emissions or require energy sources other than the legs of the person pedaling.
Two pedals, a chain and at least one wheel in a frame are at the core of all designs by Maya Pedal. The organization has become a social mobilizer for progress, a creative movement towards development in a region where the community often lacks potable water, fuel resources and other basic inputs.
The bicimáquinas are built with old donated bicycles, often sourced from Canada and the United States. The bikes are taken apart and then put back together with certain “gadgets” or devices that allow them to perform different functions in the home, in crop fields or in business.
It takes three bicycle forks, a piece of truck tire, a rotation system which turns with the movement of the pedal-driven wheel, a table and parts of a blender to allow community members to make juice, prepare soups and even make aloe shampoo. The process makes no noise, uses no fuel, creates exercise, and costs little, with the help of one of Maya Pedal’s top products:
In addition to its creations, the pedal-powered organization also repairs old bikes and trikes, and hopes to became a center of research and development for cheap, effective tools for small-scale sustainable agriculture. Don Carlos Marroquín and his helpers, both native and blonde, believe that knowledge and ingenuity must be shared to generate new and better models of work and society. On the Maya Pedal website, you can find instructions and DIY manuals on how to build your own bicimáquinas, for free.
Of course, a donation never hurt anyone and can help this project continue to improve the lives of local people in Guatemala.
All images from MayaPedal.org
Video from www.worldwidecyclingatlas.com
Credits: Matteo de Mayda - Photos and Videos
Pablo Pastor - Video Editing
Jhon William Castaño Montoya - Music