After a 3 AM flight from Chicago, the plane finally flew into my final destination, Guatemala City. I anxiously gazed out the window to see my first glimpse of what was to become my home for the next 3 months, and could barely see a building. At first I thought it was fog, then realized it was more like smog – a mixture of contamination emitted by these old US school buses, which serve as public transportation, and the misty fog, which was typical of the rainy season.
Rubén from Rights Actions picked me up at the airport and took me to the headquarters of our organization on the other side of the city. Guatemala is divided into zones, approximately 21 of them or so. Rights Action is located in zona 2, and my hotel is located in zona 1, which happens to be the poorest zone and the most dangerous.
During the day, it is safe enough to walk to and from the office, but at night even the hotel administrators will not let me walk outside unchaperoned. There are druggies, prostitutes and thieves on many corners and the buildings are old and dilapidated. This is in total contrast to zonas 10 and 14, which are beautifully kept with brand new buildings and condos, posh hotels and lively nightclubs and bars. It’s a world of 2 extremes, which seems to characterize most of Latin America, Guatemala as no exception.
Rights Action rents a little house in zona 2 and is perfectly laid out with much character and warmth: maps and indigenous art hanging in the hallways, shelves of books written by the indigenous communities the organization works with, and always a fresh pot of Guatemalan coffee bought from an indigenous cooperative up in the highlands. It is the perfect environment for finally delving into this new world of indigenous Maya culture, history, economic development and human rights.
Posted By Carmen Morcos (Guatemala)
Posted May 27th, 2004