Today, Guatemala is a fractured country. 500 years of a racist Spanish caste system, rating humans in worth from Spanish at the top to indigenous at the bottom, has left a scar right across the hearts of all Guatemalans. For the sake of all, this absurd racism and fealty to pillaging conquistadors must be abolished.
Maria was 5 when her mother took her out of Guatemala. They caught chicken buses north towards Tijuana where they were told to make a clandestine rendez-vous with a woman who could get them across the border into the United States. They handed over year’s of savings, were given ID cards and nervously walked to a new life. Now Maria is an adult, a US citizen, in-debt, and she is sitting on a plane seat next to me, returning to Guatemala to visit family for the first time since leaving. “I think Guatemala has a lot of great things going for it: people work hard and communities are strong and most of all, there is less consumption and less waste in Guatemala”, I tell her. “No”, she replies, “the U.S. needs to consume and produce waste to have a strong economy. Guatemala needs to be like this”.
This is a flagrant fallacy. The strength of an economy comes not from consumption, but from production. Development is repeatedly cited as being the number one goal of Guatemala, yet this common notion of development is defined not by productivity or happiness, but by this idea of a lifestyle seen in world media which is invariably North American. This is a red herring. Guatemala should not aspire to be like the United States, where a consumer economy is fed by rampant debt, social isolation, pollution and corporate control of government. So how can Guatemala become more productive, successful and happy, I wonder? First and foremost:
-We need to come together by casting away the false notion that certain Guatemalans are more equal than other Guatemalans.
-We need better schools with trained and motivated teachers that are available to all Guatemalan children.
-We need to improve the democratic process. What legislature is passed in the capital profoundly affects what happens to Guatemalans everywhere; be it Monsanto related or tax related.
-We need to encourage community. Guatemala is a traditionally communal society. Look at the impact of the agricultural co-ops. The United States only wishes it had the community strength of Guatemala! They could sometimes profit from looking to Guatemala. Let us not devolve into socially isolated prozac poppers, addicted to trans-fat, smartphones and selfies.
-We need to learn to be on time to meetings. No more hora chapina!
-We need decent healthcare and universal access to that decent healthcare.
-We need gender equality and female reproductive rights.
-We need to protect natural resource, and preserve the rich and beautiful cultures of Guatemala.
…And how are we going to tick off this bucket list of a healthy society you ask? By working together. If Guatemalans are not reaching their potential in any part of the country, the whole country is being let down. Schools are the places where equality should spring from. Children in the city need to know that children in the country are starving. Currently there is little taught to Guatemalan children about the heinous violence that indigenous Guatemalans have suffered. If there is no knowledge of the history of racism and oppression, there will be no compassion and no empathy, and a very dark future for Guatemala . To quote Edmund Burke, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”. For the sake of us all, let’s not let that happen.