Tone Shimizu (’58) visits Bro. Zabala in Guatemala


The Church at Paradiso

Hello everyone,

A very brief account of my meeting with Bro. Zabala in Guatemala. But before going into that a short description of Guatemala city and the neighborhood of Santa Faz where the Marianists, 3 of them, live and work.

The city has multiplied 4 times since I was there in the mid-1980’s. After the civil war people from the north flocked to the city with no jobs, no housing, no government infrastructure. It has not yet recovered. May even be getting worse. Some statistics.

average schooling = 4th grade
average income, no government figure, but social / religious groups say $50 – 60 per month
unemployment figures not available but estimated at close to 50%
average age of population 17 years old
all houses double and triple metal bars and barbed wire ( one section of the wall of the Bro’s house is studded with broken glass to prevent climbing)
in Santa Faz, where the Bros. live, with population of about 40,000 there are 190 houses of prostitution
in city of Guatemala from January to July, 43 bus drivers killed in robbery
in city of Guatemala from January to July, 2,946 killed in robbery, gang, feud, revenge, etc.
Bro. Zabala robbed 4 times while riding bus to go to post office for mail
3 weeks ago a block away a mother and teenage son were shot to death
2 days later the killer was shot in revenge killing
4 days before I came their 26 yr old male neighbor across the street shot to death

The message from Bro. Zabala on the back of the photo

I spent 3 days with Bro. Zabala and part of that time with Bro. Bill Farrell who graduated from Riordan in San Francisco, entered the novitiate in Santa Cruz the same year that I left, taught at San Jose, St. Louis and was principal at Chaminade High school in Los Angeles. Bro. Zabala cannot walk as fast but the first day we walked for miles in Santa Faz. We went to the day care center he helped establish and still work at, that look after and feed deserted or children of single mothers who work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive minimally. He has developed a system to teach English and the largest room of their rented house has been converted as his classroom. His students range in age from 9 to 30’s. As soon as I learn how, I will make the book he gave me, describing his methods, “downloadable” to make it available for anyone. He keeps himself busy everyday.

Very hard to describe the poverty and yet it was very encouraging to see the faces of the young men, ages 18 to 22, that Bro. Bill is working with who are trying to establish enterprises in wood-working, wrought metal and silk screening and at the same time take on younger kids as apprentices. The brothers invite them to the house for dinner, knowing that otherwise, some of them will go through the night with no meals and they are too proud to ask for food.

But there are also glimmers of hope. The young men and women that Bros. Zabala and Farrell work with have looks in their eyes of ambition and desire to learn. They need opportunities and the Marianist house is doing what they can.

At the request of Bro. Zabala I am sending one picture with his message in the back and the long account of his marathon training (sorry if it takes up a lot of your computer space). He told me he decided to train for marathon when at the age of 57 while playing soccer, one of the younger players yelled at him “Bro., you cannot run anymore so just control and pass the ball. Don’t try to run with it”. He thought, “my soccer days are over, I will do something else”.
He asked to relay his best and that he has the best memories of his life of the students he had and known during his 10 years at SJC. He thinks very fondly of them regularly. Although he is only 78 he seems “older” and tired. He seems to be burdened by the sufferings he sees everyday. One night during dinner someone said, “Bro. have some more. It is delicious.” He looked very sad and with his head bowed low quietly said, “I cannot eat anymore thinking of all the children and people around us whom we know who have nothing to eat tonight”.

The church at Paradiso is located about half a mile down a steep, narrow, winding and gutted path that becomes almost unwalkable with the slightest rain. Bro. Zabala used to walk down everyday but after his operation he cannot walk it anymore. The way from the bottom is about half a mile from a semi-paved road. We took a taxi with a reluctant driver to the bottom of the road and walked about 100 meters to the houses with rusted tin roof clinging on the steep mountain sides. the taxi barely made it out. No one has jobs. All the young girls “work” in the population centers and healthy men are gone. The population consist mainly of older people and small children.

Bro. Farrell and I took pictures of the interior showing the beautiful glass sides and the whole of the back of the church. The floor is vinyl tile and 2 small bathrooms in the basement. The church is small but clean and the only decent building in the village where the population can have a place for a social event and one decent meal a week.

I am going back again soon for some projects we are trying to put together that will help get their enterprises off the ground.

I have a lot more pictures that Bro. Bill and I took. I will send “pertinent” ones in increments with different accounts. Too much to send all at one time.

Tone Shimizu ’58

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