Under the shade of a coffee tree or a mulberry tree in the mountains of Aldea Paneyá, Wendy Esquit (’24, Guatemala) learned to take her first steps and say her first words in Kaqchikel. She discovered the difference between the trees’ green leaves and red fruits, all under an enormous blue sky that expanded in front of her eyes. Her lifelong love for the land grew from these trees, along with her passion for understanding a plant’s life cycle and her desire to soak up new knowledge. She yearned for better balance for her sacred mountains, accommodating the needs of their inhabitants with those of nature.
Her voice is strong and full of pride when she announces she is an indigenous Kaqchikel Mayan woman. Wendy says that before calling herself “Guatemalan” or “Latin American,” she sees herself as indigenous, which entails great responsibility. She wants to ensure that her culture remains alive and thriving, continue the indigenous peoples’ struggle to recover their land, and create initiatives to implement a more equitable social, political, and economic system. Wendy also strives to inspire more women and young people to break paradigms and stereotypes and to show the world that neither gender nor ethnicity matters to become a change agent. She proudly cultivates the land while wearing her Mayan clothing and field boots.
Her path to EARTH University was not easy. Life put her through many trials, and she faced them with courage and perseverance – both qualities are in her blood. Her grandparents, parents, and community endured an armed conflict that stripped the Guatemalan indigenous groups of their lands, wealth, dignity, human rights, and, in many cases, their lives. With courage and perseverance, her family established businesses based on growing coffee, mulberries, corn, and, more recently, traditional Mayan handicrafts.
Wendy had attended an agricultural training school, was already confident in her love for farming, and knew the needs of the farmers in her community. She had faced many forms of violence because she was a woman and indigenous and had worked physically demanding jobs. She had begun to think that life would not get any better, but in 2020, she learned she had been accepted to EARTH and knew her life would completely change.
With that same courage and perseverance, Wendy traveled to Costa Rica to spend the next four years studying a career for which she has great passion. She is currently in her second year and is grateful for what she is learning daily. You can see it in her smile and the sincerity in how she tells her story.
“As an indigenous woman, there are four barriers I want to break: social, economic, ethnic, and gender. That’s why I try to relate everything I learn at EARTH to the reality of my community. I like the constant and respectful exchange between students and professors here. For example, in the class about weeds, I told the professor what he considered a weed we eat or use as medicine in my community. I find that kind of exchange very nice, and I think it empowers us. In other courses, such as Genetics, I have understood the importance of cultural conservation for the genetic future of different crops. And so I go, relating everything to the needs of my people and the impact I can make in my community when I return to Guatemala,” Wendy says.
Soon, possibly under the shade of a coffee tree or a mulberry tree, Wendy Esquit will implement all the knowledge acquired at EARTH to transform the mountains of Chimaltenango, Guatemala, and the entire world. You can do it, Wendy!