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18,000 Km and Counting: a Real Life Forest Gump

We’re sure that many people reading this will be well accustomed to adventurous travelling in this part of the world. We all have great stories from our exploits that we constantly share, and will probably keeping on sharing for a long time to come. My own stories normally involve being crammed onto a chicken bus with my face pushed so hard up against the window I temporarily look like the Elephant Man’s cousin.

But, please, spare a thought for Jamie Ramsay who is currently running from Vancouver to Buenos Aires for charity. Armed only with a shopping cart to carry all his possessions, Jamie has become a real life Forest Gump, running across countries to raise money for charities. Ok, I admit that the comparison to Forest Gump really only comes from the running and the beard, but the Scotsman’s story is one to truly capture the imagination. We contacted him for an interview and this is what he had to say:

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P o p p i n g

Long Walk for Justice

Oswaldo Ochoa is not a name many of us would have heard before June, but last month he completed the 200km (125 miles) trip from Xela to Guatemala City… on foot! Ochoa, known as Quixote, arrived in the capital one week after leaving his home in Xela. Inspired by Gandhi, Ochoa went on hunger strike during his pilgrimage, only drinking tea and juices. He arrived in the capital 4kg (9lbs) lighter, wearing a straw hat, a Guatemalan flag draped across his shoulders and with his feet covered in blisters. His march was in protest against the on-going corruption in Guatemala, & on arrival he called for the resignation of President Perez Molina. His arrival in the capital was greeted by cheering crowds, a fitting tribute to a 62 year old man who had completed a grueling journey. I just hope he remembered to bring money for the bus home.
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The Ten Year Guatemala Spring (Part 2)

The day that Jacob Arbenz took power, the speech he gave was energetic and full of hope. Arbenz, who was the son of a German Swiss immigrant, was educated at the Polytechnic of Guatemala and was highlighted as an outstanding student. After graduating, he began working as a teacher at the Polytechnic and at the Fort of San Jose Buenavista, where he came face-to-face with the harsh working conditions of the indigenous population. Arbenz was part of the revolutionary army during the revolution of 1944 and afterwards was named defense minister during the government of Juan Jose Arevalo. During the subsequent election he was voted as President of the country. Arbenz had many plans for his government, but his central focus was land reform. By then, an American company known as the United Fruit Company owned 50% of the arable land in the country, while only using about 3% of it, and also monopolized many other services such as transport and control of sea ports.

Art Walks in Xela

Art walks are cultural expressions that are created with the aim of exploring urban spaces by linking them to specific topics under an experimental and educational approach. Exploring different urban areas whilst also reflecting on our relationship with public spaces, on social issues and then sharing these insights with others are just some of the ideas pursued by this initiative.
Following the methodology of “The Walk Exchange”, La Ciudad de la Imaginación held its first art walk within the framework of its Guatemala Después exhibition in collaboration with Sitio Seña, who are one of the artistic projects that will be presented at the exhibition. The Walk Exchange is an organization founded by artists and educators in New York who offer these kinds of creative and educational walks openly and freely for the public. They place an emphasis on the body as a means to produce and transmit knowledge, and since 2010 these initiatives have been organised in collaboration with a multitude of different organisations. In the words of one of its members “we walk to learn about spaces, ideas and about each one of us.”

Donald Trump: Amazing Predictions

Multibillionaire Donald Trump recently announced that he’s running for President of the United States (as a Republican, of course). He’s currently a close second in polls in New Hampshire, which is the first state where Republicans will vote for who should be their candidate for President. His announcement speech was a historical moment. Really, it was… Here are just some of the things he said (we promise, we´re not making this up):
“When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me… When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

La Canicula

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
? Bob Marley

The Cánicula

For gardeners and farmers alike, rain is something you yearn. With it, life comes. You can water all you want, but the nutrients and depth obtained by a good rain is incomparable. In this area of the world, around the month of May, when the days get longer and the heat and humidity in the atmosphere create the conditions for rain, gardeners are ready to seed and plant. In a few days the entire landscape will complete change. The mountains turn green, the corn and other vegetables quickly break through the soil, making way for all sorts of greenery on your land.
However there is something like too much rain; those violent downpours

Trendy

With the highest number of Facebook users in Central America and a Twitter population growing by the thousands every month, social media can be a great place to find out what’s buzzing in Guatemala. Of course, there’s also a whole lot of nonsense posted online too, but at XelaWho we like nonsense so here are some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.

Now into its third month, the #RenunciaYa movement is still hot on the social networks; although, in case you missed the newsflash, they’re now called #JusticiaYa and they even have their own Twitter account which you can follow on @JusticiaYaGT. And it looks like they still have the vast majority of Guatemala on their side: in June a sister movement called #HagamonosElParo organised a blockade in Guatemala City during which they passed round a survey to over 1,300 people, 84% of which agreed that Otto Perez Molina needs to resign.

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Whitewash

We were glad to find out this month that we’re not the only people in Guatemala that are already fed up with the ridiculous amount of party propaganda that is plastered across every single surface across the country for the run-up to this year’s elections (do they really think that one more Líder logo painted just half a meter after the last one is going to make us more likely to vote for them?).

Last month Movimiento Ciudadano GT organised the event Limpiando Xela which brought together 80 people to reclaim the streets of Xela by whitewashing the political propaganda that had been painted all across the city. Nice work guys! However, we do feel that this will be an uphill battle – Guatemala´s political parties seem more than capable of mustering together small armies of minions to plaster their propaganda everywhere, so Movimiento Ciudadano certainly have their work cut out for them in the upcoming months.

The Ten Year Guatemalan Spring

By Diana Pastor

In these days of mass protests one is reminded of a time in Guatemalan history when the country went through an unsurpassed period of civic and political blossoming. It all started after the revolution on the 20th October 1944, when a movement of students, workers and labourers organised huge protests to demand the resignation of President Jorge Ubico, a despotic dictator who had curtailed freedom of expression and acted as a puppet controlled by the powerful international interests that essentially ruled Guatemala at the time. Following immense pressure from all sectors of society that yearned for a change for the country, General Ubico resigned and in so doing paved the way for the first democratic elections that would be held in the country after a period of tyranny and injustice that lasted over 14 years.

That moment will forever remain in the history books of the country: the moment when ordinary Guatemalans won the battle against the powers-that-be. Better times were fast approaching for the country.

Rethinking the Past: Re-imagining the Now

by Alba Carrasco

“After Guatemala: Rethinking the Past, Reimagining the Now” is a collective exposition that, after visiting New York last April will be exhibited at Ciudad de Imaginación (5 Calle, 14-101, Zona 3, Quetzaltenango) from June 6th to July 5th. This exhibition is the result of a year long collaboration between Guatemalan artists, scholars and thinkers and includes a series of collective projects that aim to rethink the country’s history from different perspectives. The Project is a collaboration between the Guatemalan Independent Cultural Institution (City of Imagination) and an US academic institute (The New School, one of the leading institutions of art and design education in the world) that have come together to make visible the work of these artists. The exposition also demonstrates the ties with the US and how local artistic research can transform the ways in which historical memory is understood and examines theories such as utopia or dystopia in Guatemala. The whole exposition will comprise of 10 teams that bring together around 40 artists.