Re-using bike parts to power water pumps, corn crushers and more


A revolutionary machine

The NGO itself is the product of a collaboration that took place in 1997 between a group of Canadians from the organisation Pedal and local mechanic Carlos Marroquín. Jointly, they created what would be Maya Pedal’s first and arguably most revolutionary machine: the bicidesgranadora de maíz, a device that removes the kernels from up to 15 corn husks per minute, allowing farmers to bag up to two dozen 43-kilo sacks per day.

Marroquín explains: ‘It was necessary to find a path and an alternative that would meet the needs of the locals and we researched and invested all that we could to do so.’ The Canadian group was headed by Richard Andrews, a bicycle repair shop owner from Vancouver that had begun donating shipping containers full of used bikes and spare parts to rural communities in Guatemala and Mexico.

Andrews led his crew to San Andrés Itzapa as part of a widespread initiative to rebuild the cities and countryside following years of civil war. They did not have any specific contraptions in mind, but rather the desire to identify what these people lacked most and then find solutions that would have the greatest impact.

Marroquín, who narrowly escaped death during the height of Guatemala’s civil strife, immediately took interest in the initiative and within days was working beside them repairing bicycles and assessing his community’s challenges. The 41-year-old Mayan first began working with machines as a young man when, after his home and belongings were destroyed by a group of guerrilleros, he spent several months fixing his family’s appliances.

After rebuilding the television set with borrowed tools, the reception through his improvised antenna was so clear that he accidentally began to intercept the army’s secret communications signal. Since then, he has poured all his energy into engineering and invention, which is now materialised through the products of Asociación Maya Pedal, officially incorporated in 2001.

From broken bicycle to working machine

Today, the organisation repairs and sells bicycles to help finance the creation and assembly of machines, since the original devices themselves do not generate enough revenue for self-sufficiency. While some are custom-ordered and rented or sold, many have been donated to the community.

Like most NGOs, Maya Pedal is almost entirely dependent on external support. Cash donations and bicycle-repair tools are their greatest needs. The staff consists solely of Marroquín and his 16-year-old son, Carlos Jr., who constantly seek and welcome international volunteers for days or weeks at a time to learn, collaborate and assist with their mission at the tiny, colourful workshop located near the western edge of town.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.