On Travelling, Classes and Guatemalans

by Diana Pastor

Given that I’m currently traveling, I’m going to take the opportunity to write this month’s XelaWho article on the different types of Guatemalan travellers that you could come across abroad. Let’s separate them into 3 groups, taking the example from the different kinds of airline tickets you can buy: first class, business and economy.

First class: Here you’ll find all of the government officials. Between summits, meetings and exchanges our politicians have made ??more than 260 trips in two years, not by plane, but by helicopter, and most of them using this form of transport for short-distance travel. One such trip was made by the president’s secretary, who instead of driving a car for 45 minutes decided it was necessary to take a simple, if not exactly cheap, trip in a helicopter. The cost? Almost $3,500. It is estimated that if the government used land transport instead of using helicopters in some of the trips that they have scheduled, it would lead to a 3500% reduction in their budget for transport.

It is increasingly common to hear that a government official has travelled to China or to France, or to some other far away country. Of course such trips are often necessary for the governors of a country, but what is considered exorbitant and unreasonable are the obscene expenses that they claim for doing so – travelling the world in a luxurious and shameless way at the expense of ordinary Guatemalans. At the municipal level, Mexico and Europe have been the favourite destinations of local governors, and most of their journeys have not had led to any concrete results of any kind, nor have these governors filed formal reports about these extravagant trips.

Business Class: a very convenient way to travel for those who have don’t have much money but still want to go abroad. In recent years, a considerable number of scholarships have been offered to Guatemalans who want to study abroad. The problem? Most are for higher education; and in Guatemala only 3.6 percent finish college. Some also have the opportunity to travel abroad for work, but almost all of the companies that offer this perk are large international corporations which require a high level of minimum education for their jobs. Most Guatemalans only have a primary level of education and the most prevalent labour sector is the informal. Other Guatemalans have had the opportunity to travel abroad because they have been involved in the development sector, with NGOs or with the church. But these opportunities are also limited for the average Guatemalan.

Economy Class: unfortunately this class does not have much to offer that one could consider to be as fun as the previous classes, unless a ride in a cramped train carriage on route to the United States, or taking a walking tour through the sweltering desert at the mercy of kidnappings, starvation or police persecution is your idea of fun. It is estimated that in America there are over half a million Guatemalans. Certainly, many Guatemalans have been deported, but many still continue to go to the United States, including children. During the first five months of 2014 a total of 11 thousand 687 Guatemalan children have been detained by the American authorities. But the journey continues; even with all deportations, people have one goal in mind: to leave this country in the aspiration of getting ahead and making a better life for themselves, escaping family violence or life on the streets, or just changing their lives because those that Guatemala has given them haven’t exactly been made of roses.


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