The Women of ‘Ixcanul’

María Telón Roj

María Telón Roj de Pío has spent most of her 43 years working. After being widowed, the responsibility of keeping her household going was what kept her from giving up. She’s a bit of an odd bird in a population that can be very critical and very hard on people who don’t fit in. She knows about how difficult it can be when you don’t do what’s expected of you.

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Her love for acting has led her to work in several plays, a short film, and a movie. It was in the movie that Jayro Bustamante saw her. He searched for her town by town until he finally met her face-to-face in front of the church in Santa María de Jesús, a village on the slopes of Volcán de Agua, near La Antigua.

Ixcanul has been one of the best things that has ever happened to María. It came to her at a time when she needed it the most, and she firmly believes that God put it in her path. She believes it’s a clear message from the Creator the He will always be with her and will not abandon her.  She says that she’ll always strive to succeed and to realize her dreams, whether that’s seeing her children graduate from school or finally learning to drive.

María will never stop fighting for the people she loves and for what she most desires. Much like in the film, María cannot read or write, and her 15-year-old son read the Ixcanul script to her so she could learn it.

She likes to travel. Her eyes light up when she tells how she’s crossed borders beyond Guatemala – all done behind her mother’s back, because her mother disapproves of her acting “adventures.”

María’s sorrows and yearnings can be read in her eyes. She’s a strong woman who has fought and will continue to fight in spite of what the world may think. More than the power of the volcano, it’s clear that María’s inner strength is behind Ixcanul.

María Mercedes Coroy

María Mercedes Coroy appears to be reserved and quiet. In Ixcanul she displays an old soul and an innate curiosity. Sometimes fiction is a reflection of reality. She likes everything involved with acting and believes it’s a powerful weapon that can help her town – Santa María de Jesús – succeed.

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She almost missed the chance to participate in the film because she hadn’t heard about the auditions that director Jayro Bustamante was holding at Parque Central in Santa María de Jesús. But she did manage to attend the auditions, thanks to a friend’s telling her about the opportunity.

In María Mercedes’ world – because of her young age and the expectations put on her (including those of the people in her town) – having a solid support network is important. She’s fortunate to have people like her sister Marta Lidia and her friends Antonio Ortiz and Luis Rodríguez who encourage and support her every step of the way.

The before and after of Ixcanul has not been easy. Living in Santa María is living near the volcano, and it separates you a bit from the rest of the world. It’s a very family-oriented place and yet it can be so different – or at least it felt that way when, after her participation in the film, someone attempted to rob her house three times.

Education is an important part of her life, and she wants to finally finish school while she finds more acting projects to get involved with. She never wants to stop acting.

Ixcanul represented many personal challenges. As with her costar María Telón, one part of María Mercedes finds similarities with her character. Another part of her had to take a deep breath and play her role, despite her fears and conflicts. In her words: “The scenes had to be shot. For me, there were no ‘buts’ about it.”

One of her major goals is to be part of the change that the country needs. She has big plans to see a changed Guatemala. During the trips she took (to film festivals in Guadalajara, Mexico; Paris, France; and Berlin, Germany), she was able to see that the world wants to know more about Guatemala, and she plans to continue to show all about it.

Ixcanul lit a fire of strength in María Mercedes to fight for her dreams and for her country.

Written by: Sofía Letona

Photo by: Sofía Letona

Translation by: Kevin Cole

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