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Books Are Love, Books Are Life

Xelawho loves books -aside from bad puns, cheap beer, and making a silly magazine with our friends, they’re our only escape from a world that grows darker and more confusing by the day.

In light of this, we’re pleased to announce that the book fair has come to Xela. Head on down to Casa No’j the first weekend of this month for lectures, workshops, and the chance to buff out your library. If that’s not enough for you, check out our events section for more chances to get cultured and spend long hours reading at slowly alongside a Spanish-English dictionary.

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Too little too late for Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán is on the brink. Beset for years by pesticides, sewage inflows, lakeside deforestation, erosion, and algae blooms, the battered ecosystem of the lake is drawing ever-closer to the point of irreversible damage, with nobody able or willing to put up the resources to save it.

The lake is surrounded by some 15 municipalities and 300,000 people. About half of those communities have sewage treatment plants; the other half is stuck in limbo, with limited resources for construction. So long as untreated sewage continues to flow into the lake, Atitlán creeps closer to a deadly tipping point —a mass and irreversible die-off of the lake’s ecosystems.

Some experts estimate that we’ll round this corner in as little as six years time. Once we do, there’s no going back for the Atitlan. Fishing and tourism may be devastated as Central America’s most beautiful lake, scorched by bacteria and turbidity, becomes an ecological dead zone. One upside of this truly depressing possibility is that it might drive the lake types to Xela, which doesn’t really need more tourists in the first place

Plutocrat of the Month

The Japanese Embassy and the Tigo Foundation recently built a school outside of Xela, equipping it with books, computers, and desks. At Xelawho’s offices, where we’re still not sure if we can just let people have nice things, we thought this an appropriate occasion to cast some light on the man responsible: Mario Lopez Estrada, president of the Tigo foundation and our Plutocrat of the Month.

Estrada is Guatemala’s Communications Minister and answer to Carlos Slim. He’s a self-made billionaire; under the Cerezo government in the early nineties, he worked behind the scenes to shape the so-called “Tigo Law” —the bill that privatized Guatemala’s telecom services. It was debated for less than hour before creating a single private telecom corporation that later became Tigo.

Estrada is unique among Guatemala’s ruling class in that he’s self-made; his billion dollars came not from his daddy but from buying up Tigo shares slowly over the course of more than a decade. Tigo brought landlines to a country where just a few decades ago most remote towns and villages communicated via radio. Later, Tigo laid the infrastructure to bring internet to Guatemala, and did their best to fend off the advances of Claro (owned by the world’s second-richest man, Mexican telecom Goliath Carlos Slim) and Movistar. The “Tigo Law,” recently renewed by Guatemala’s congress, insulates these telecom companies from competition.

Let’s be clear: Xelawho supports schools and charity by rich guys. But we also recognize a certain terrible irony in a public utility getting privatized, the communications minister profiting massively off that sale, and then that same communications minister using his huge fortune to do things that the state should but cannot or will not do. Can’t we just tax billionaires like Estrada and, you know, build more schools?

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