top of page




This morning, we find Catarina beside her hearth. The sun’s rays beam through the cracks in the wooden walls’ planks, slicing the white smoke rising from the fire into dancing ribbons. She is cooking tortillas on a thick metal slab, blackened by the flames of time, set directly on the embers. Her youngest daughter appears in the doorway that separates the room, smiles at us, and chases away the dozens of baby chicks pecking for food. She sets down a few plates and a bowl of frijoles next to Catarina. Breakfast and lunch are identical: tortillas, frijoles. The sunlight floods the room with a sacred glow. The birds’ singing, the roosters’ crowing, the flapping wings of the hens, the crackling fire all fuse with the melodious intonations of the Ixhil language, their Mayan language, the only language Catarina, her daughter, and many villagers in Pal speak.



“How was Catarina chosen to become a solar engineer?”


“There are many communities involved in this solar electrification project: Santa Clara, Cheptul, and Pal,” answers Francisco. “When Semilla del Sol spoke to us about the solar panel project, when we saw the project’s success in Cheptul last year, we thought that, for us in Pal, it was the best opportunity. We chose Catarina, who represents Pal CPR, for the mission. Every family here has resisted the repression and the civil war. After the conflict, the surviving families returned to their land here. Still forgotten by the authorities.”


“But why Catarina and not another woman?”


“Other women also volunteered, but they weren’t eligible for the Barefoot program: either they were too young—a woman must be older than thirty-five to apply to Barefoot, or the women had too many children to support, or no one to take care of their children in their absence. Catarina is thirty-six years old. Separated from her husband, she lives with her brother, her sister-in-law, Cecilia, and her father, who will take care of Ana, her twelve-year-old daughter.”