Abby Weil

Abby Weil (ADIVIMA): Abby completed her undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she had the opportunity to serve as a tutor in Lima, Peru. At the time of her fellowship she was pursuing a master of arts in public anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. Abby also interned for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA, promoting human rights in Guatemala through research, educational outreach and advocacy.

You Don`t Need a Cellphone to Talk to God! (And Other Thoughts on Globalization)

13 Jul

I attend mass every Sunday at the local Catholic Church in the town square of Rabinal. It is a small, colonial church where mostly indigenous campesinos travel for hours to attend church by 6:30 am on Sunday mornings before selling their produce or wares at the plaza market.

The church is filled with statues of Mary and Jesus where people come to light candles and pray for themselves and their loved ones. The air is filled with incense and the women kneeling to pray are dressed in brightly colored huipiles while saying their Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

So, imagine my surprise when I begin reading the signs around the church and realize that one so cleverly reminds parishioners that, “You don’t need a cell phone to talk to God! Please turn off your cell phones while in the Church.”

The thought immediately strikes me as a little bizarre as I glance around at the holes in the roof of the church and the ragged dogs running wild through the pews. “Globalization,” for better or for worse, has indeed touched every corner of the world.

Globalization is a difficult thing to grasp, let alone define. It is a process that has been called everything from the key to ending Third World poverty to the very process that will cause the implosion of the capitalist system. From the internet to the stock markets, from watching cable television to buying Coca Cola, from sweat shops to high rise office buildings, globalization affects so many people in such different ways.

I am no economist (for which I am eternally grateful, no offence to those who are), so I most certainly do not understand everything about macroeconomic processes such as globalization. However, I am a student of anthropology, and what anthropologists do is study people. We study how large and complex global and economic processes such as globalization impact specific locales and affect real people.

Anthropologists listen to the stories and live with the people. We hear their hopes and dreams as well as their difficulties and the ways that they suffer. While anthropology has surely had its share of horrible blunders, throughout history it has often tried to give a face and a name to human suffering. While I can only truly speak from my experience in Latin America, I have certainly seen first-hand the poverty and inequality that globalization is rapidly producing.

From Villa El Salvador (Lima, Peru), the fifth largest urban mega-slum in the world where I worked as a tutor, to here in Rabinal, in rural Guatemala, I have seen the ways that globalization has impacted the poorest of the poor. In some ways globalization has revolutionized the way that people live.

Thus even the very poor can have access, if they can pay and if they can read, to the incredible wealth of knowledge available via the internet through the ubiquitous ‘internet cafe’. They can create websites or use chatting software to link to other people with similar goals and ideas.

They can talk to their relatives that have migrated to other countries to find work and send back remittances using cellular telephones. However, for every great technology or service that has been imported into these countries, so much else has as well. When I hear Coolio`s “Gangta`s Paradise” for the third time in a single day in rural Guatemala, or I look closely at the traditionally embroidered bag of a campesino man that has been woven into a Pepsi advertisement, I often have to wonder if the good ever outweighs the bad.

If the exploitation and theft of resources from these people, largely led by economic world powers such as the United States, is made up for by Big Macs and “The Bachelor” dubbed in Spanish. The longer I spend in Latin America, the more the answer boils up from my very being as an obvious and resounding, “NO!” However, I also must say that I have learned that, like the signs in the church say, the most important things in life cannot be had through money or technology, only through the heart and through those you love.

Posted By Abby Weil

Posted Jul 13th, 2007


  • Krysie Smith

    July 18, 2007


    Hi Abby,

    Wow! That’s all I can say right now. You are such an amazing writer. Truly gifted and SO intelligent.

    I swear you are going to save the world one day! 🙂

    Love ya!

  • JoAnn Cutrara

    July 18, 2007


    Dearest Abby,
    Your site is much better than the site I saw a few days ago, much more readable and your pic is adorable!

    I like the fact that I can access pictures of those you serve. Very good!

    Be careful, however, to not knock the USA too much on your blog. It may be true that individuals/companies have exploited…but much good has come from us in humanitarian aid, Peace Corps, etc.
    We who love you and love our country are not in general accountable for the big wrongs done in the world.

    I love you, dear heart, and praise and thank God for you and the plan He must have for you and your life. May He be glorified!

    Aunt j

  • Ronda (your cousin in Texas)

    July 18, 2007


    Wow! I am just amazed at how you have grown! I am reading this, and just cannot wrap my mind around all that you are seeing and having to face, in the short time there. I don’t think I could handle all that you are encountering. I am sooooo proud of you and will continue to write to you. Thank you for standing up for people, who otherwise, do not have a voice!
    We love you and will be praying for you! Love Ronda,Mitchel,Ariel & Sydney

  • Ronda (your cousin in Texas)

    July 18, 2007


    I am soooo proud of you and what you are doing! I had no idea the extent of the dealings in which you are being exposed to. I commend you and will be praying for you and your saftey.
    We love you, Ronda,Mitchel,Ariel & Sydney

  • aunt kate

    July 19, 2007


    hi abby,
    you can study me any time. keep up the good work.
    aunt kate

  • Uncle Steve

    July 19, 2007



    You have expressed some very erudite observations. Don’t be too hard on capitalistic nations like the U.S. While I agree that the commercialization that emanates from capitalism can be disgusting, this wonderful country provides aid to third world countries all over the globe. (the fact that you are where you are is a testament to this fact) While the suffering in these countries is on one hand deplorable, you will meet people whose faith is unshakeable due to the hardships they have encountered and endured. Ireland is currently experiencing a period of record economic prosperity while, simultaneously, witnessing a severe decline in the faith of it’s inhabitants. As I have explained to my father, in many ways he was fortunate to have lived through the Great Depression. Priorities come easy to him. The rest of us, who have existed in the lap of luxury for our entire lives, have a great spiritual obstacle to overcome; worldliness. (remember, every Sunday you are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Author of Life-pretty aweseome huh?)

    My Love to and prayers for you,

    Uncle Steve

  • Andrew

    July 19, 2007


    It’s sad how globalization smears cultures. I fear that in 100 years civilizations will be indistinguishable except for some language and the color of their skin. Are those cultures really experiencing a net gain in quality of life or do the “Big Macs” outweigh the infusion of new technologies?

  • Abby

    July 21, 2007


    Hello All,

    First, I would like to send out a huge thanks to everyone that took the time to read and comment on my blog! The purpose of this blog is to start discussion and debate ideas, and it seems to be working. It is so nice to know that what I am writing is not just going out into the void of the Internet, but is actually being read and seriously thought about!

    Second, I never want my writing to be seen as me being ungrateful for being born in the United States, and for all of the opportunities it has afforded me, or that I am “bashing” the United States. It is, however, important to carefully analyze both our past and present international policy to understand inequalities and injustices in the world today. Whether we want to admit it or not, the wealth of the United States was built with primitive accumulation capital that was taken from other nations and our own Native Americans (either directly by the US or indirectly through European colonialism) and on the backs of unpaid labor (mostly African slaves). Without this initial advantage of free capital and free labor, the US would not be the economic powerhouse it is today. “Alternative Perspective” expressed perfectly what my responses to the previous comments on my blog would have been, and I appreciate the concise description of the specifics of US involvement in putting into power (through a CIA backed coup), supporting, training, and funding a brutal military dictatorship Guatemala. (Apparently to support the business interests of the US-based United Fruit Company, now Chiquita Banana- but more on this another day).

    Many people see it as “unpatriotic” to criticize or question the motives or actions of the United States. However, I see it as the most patriotic act that exists. The first US citizens and patriots were those that questioned the authority of the British and when they saw injustice, they demanded change. Our nation was born out of intelligent and engaged inquiry into the actions of the government and I think that our country will only continue to prosper and be great if we as citizens are engaged and continue to closely follow and question our government.

    Again, thank you all so much for your comments and I hope you feel free to express any kind of opinion, whether, or perhaps especially if you do not agree with me or others! I hope that you will all continue to read and engage with this blog and each other! I hope that you are all well! Peace and Blessings!


  • A universal perspective!!

    July 21, 2007



    We are called to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul and mind. Secondly, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. I say this because we are one body in Christ, and our neighbors are just a click away. He who is given much, is responsible for much. I am glad you have brought our attention upon neighbors in Guatemala. We can read about it and examine our hearts to see if we are called to respond to this plea on their behalf. We are called to give to those who God puts on our hearts. Yes, it is true that if we break a neighbors window, we are responsible to fix that window. But, if our neighbor has a broken window that no one has fixed and he is vulnerable because of that, what is our responsibility? Blame cannot always be the answer, but LOVE is always the answer. We can love the Guatemalan people and all those in the world as we love ourselves, and those called to respond to this call can stand up and be counted. I am touched that you would bring this wounded part of our body of people to our attention, so that we can pray for them and if called, to give generously to these people. Maybe this internet can be turned into a fish net to catch those falling through the cracks of poverty and despair. Again, thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  • Avery

    July 27, 2007


    I see what you mean about having the same sorts of technology and advertisment in the most different places. I think that globalization, although it is doing some good things, also “de-personalizes” countries and their uniqueness.

  • Sarah

    July 31, 2007


    That really is sort of bizarre that even in 3rd world countries, there are Pepsi ads and signs warning people to turn off their cell phones. Truly bizarre.

  • CWA

    August 8, 2007


    Globalization is a great thing. It brings new technologies to parts of the world that may not necessarily have access to. These technologies can help people throughout the world in their day to day lives. Globalization also allows the exchange of new ideas from different cultures that can help enrich them and make them better and more advanced over all. Without globalization, the world would not progress, and we would not be able to learn about other cultures and increase our knowledge. Finally, the United States and other global powers do not steal resources from other people in foreign countries and make their lives more miserable. In fact, the U.S. helps other nations in need with aid and protection.

  • Jared

    August 13, 2007


    Globalization is disputably good or bad. Some say it ruins culture, while others say it enhances it. Either way, there is still globalization. Globalizaiton doesn’t seem to extend to just products and technologies, but it extends through languages as well, such as english for example. Great blog

  • Han Jun

    August 16, 2007


    Some people dislike technology and think it’s bad. Some think it’s all good. I would say it has its both sides of pros and cons. Globalization will bring countries closer than ever no matter how far away they are from each other. However, I do think it’s important to make sure each country maintains its culture before globalization. Great blog.

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