Guatemala does nationalism and it’s embarrassing

Well, it happened. Guatemala threw down 300 million Quetzales and spent a long weekend sober to vote on whether the International Court of Justice should mull forking over half of Belize to Guatemala. The day of the vote was muggy and overcast; two intrepid Xelawho staffers, after detoxing from not-drinking with a plate of organic veggies at Día Del Campo, set up shop outside the school across from Xela’s Masonic Temple and did a bit of exit polling

A quick history primer: Belize was Guatemala before Guatemala was Guatemala– and then, after the British swooped in and nicked it, it wasn’t Guatemala at all. In 1982, when Guatemala was doing an actual genocide, Britain decided to cut Belize loose. 

The Brits never built a road from the Caribbean coast to Guatemala City like they said they would, and because of this non-existent road, a few angry Guatemalans are convinced they own half of their next-door neighbor, a country that neither speaks their language nor thinks of themselves as Guatemalan. Some chapines got so steamed that three seats in Guatemalan congress sat empty for more than a decade, waiting for their diputados from Belize. 

Everyone we talked to outside the Masonic Temple voted yes. Despite their yes votes, everyone thought that the vote was a waste of money. Everyone wanted to see the question of Belize put to bed. Not that many people voted only about one in five Guatemalans – but a higher percentage of people voted in this referendum than the one to affirm the peace accords back in 1996. 

An even less scientific survey of our friends and acquaintances revealed they mostly would have voted no but thought the whole thing was a waste of their time. That may explain why the margin of yes voters was so lopsided at 96%. No voters were few and far between; we had to go all the way to Huehuetenango to find some who weren’t our friends. One said that Guatemala should be “scandalized” by the whole business and that it was a sham “to boost blind patriotism.” Sounds about right. 

President Morales showed up on TV, wearing a soccer jersey and looking haggard, unshaved, and distinctly hungover. It was an interesting choice, given the dry law forbidding sale and consumption of alcohol that weekend. Massive fines and the threat of arrest compelled even the bolos outside of Las Flores to run off and drink rubbing alcohol somewhere else. 

Perhaps Morales was trying to distract from what was happening the next day; namely a key vote in Congress to select Guatemala’s next attorney general. His FCN party had four candidates in the running. None did very well. Wear a suit next time, Jimmy! 

Here’s Xelawho’s proposition, borrowed from a Facebook friend brighter and funnier than anyone on staff: give Belize El Petén . Guatemala has clear-cut the jungles there, let narcotraficantes and rich politicians use it as their seedy playgrond, and been poor stewards all- around. Better to find it a good home. 

After that, Xelawho staff recommends giving Xela independence and let us reform the Sexto Estado de Los Altos with Chiapas, but Posadist this time (Google it!), with a Beyonce-level cult of personality around Subcomandante Marcos. Then, dissolve all borders around the world, and leave the whole idea of nation-states in the dustbin of history, where it belongs. Órale Xela! 

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