Our Kite Runner
1:00 PM November 1, 2013
“Run, run! Jess, you need to run! Let out the string! No, no, no more string! Aghh…” I sighed as I watched our kite plummet to the earth yet again. We continued to try and fly our barrilete, switching roles between runner and starter each time, with little to no success. What had once seemed a very simple child’s game had turned into a hopeless battle against ourselves and the wind. It felt so strange, however, because as I looked up at the sky, I could see it speckled with kites of all shapes and sizes that were soaring in the wind. Jess and I looked at each other, perplexed as to why our kite, which was the same as half the other ones up there, continually failed to take flight. Clearly, we were doing something wrong.
July 18, 1982
After years of battle, the devastation of the Guatemalan war was at its worst during the presidency of Ríos Montt. Through strengthening the presence of the military and continuing civilian massacres, the freedoms and basic rights of all Guatemalans were close to nonexistent. What had once been a Guatemala speckled with peaceful Mayan communities had turned into a nation struggling to survive. It didn’t seem right that indigenous groups were faced with the reality, “If you are with [the military], we’ll feed you; if you aren’t, we’ll kill you” (New York Times, 1982). Just as a kite may struggle to take flight, the Guatemalan people were struggling to regain their basic rights because of the war that was in the name of anti-insurgency, stabilization and anticommunism. Clearly, something needed to change for the well being of the Guatemalan people, and Ríos Montt wasn’t making those changes.
1:30 November 1, 2013
While untangling our thread from the latest collision we had caused, Jess and I noticed we had picked up a little friend. Whether he pitied our kite flying skills or was just trying to help out I’m not quite sure, but Cristian had decided to lend a hand to our desperate cause. We did seem to be getting better with each try as our kite was flying with the smaller ones for at least thirty seconds before it came crashing to the ground. Now, however, we had Cristian who would scurry off to find it and help us start the whole process again. Suddenly, what seemed like just another attempt at flight was changing into a great success. “Dale mas hilo! Mas, mas, mas!” Cristain was yelling with excitement. As Jess and I fumbled to let out more and more thread, we gazed up and started to realize we were doing it, we were actually flying our kite! It got to the point where we couldn’t follow the string all the way up, and then we started to not be able to identify which was our kite because it was so lost in the clouds. After our few minutes of glory, Cristian inevitably had to chase down the kite, but we did end up giving him the kite as a thank you. We recognized not only his love for flying kites, but also that we most likely would have lost confidence in our kite flying abilities had he not been at our sides.
As the war continued, guerilla groups continued to fight back as people were fleeing the crossfire. One woman in particular, Rigoberta Menchu, had lost her brothers, mother, and father, and then fled to Mexico for some sort of safety. While there, however, her efforts to help those back at home continued in the form of a book of interviews that expressed her experiences in the war. While most people got involved by joining the guerilla movement, Menchu lent a hand to the cause by using her voice. Her book eventually gained so much popularity that Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. She was then able to form a foundation that which continues to work for conflict resolution and human rights in Guatemala and internationally. Although this victory did not bring an end to the war in Guatemala, it did give Guatemalan’s the confidence they needed to continue fighting for their rights.
Certainly, there are many differences between Jess and I’s kite flying experiences and this small part of Guatemala’s history; however, the simple pattern of one individual believing in their cause and making a change for the better is evident in both. Maybe Jess and I would have been able successfully fly the kite without Cristian, but his presence definitely made a positive difference. Maybe the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords would have happened without Rigoberta Menchu, but her work certainly made a positive impact on Guatemala’s course of history. So, instead of the clique saying “One grain of sand can change the tide,” I challenge that it should say, “One grain of sand will change the tide.” Whether it be a tide as small as a kite or a tide as big as a nation’s history, we all are impacting one another in some way, shape, or form.