Sunday, February 16, 2014

The story of L. and my day in Santa Catarina.

I’ve got a new Spanish teacher; I’ll call her L. She’s a single mom with three kids (the youngest is 10, the eldest 24). All three have different fathers, and all three live at home. She cooks for them every day. Sometimes she brings me food when she comes to my house.

Church in Santa Catarina.

L. told me the story of a midwife she met long ago and, out of curiosity, L. asked the midwife how much she gets paid for delivering a baby. The midwife said that it depends; she receives almost twice as much for the boys because they are more valuable. Sometimes the midwife even assists in finding alternate homes for girl babies.

Santa Catarina family.
Two young girls.

Once, when L.’s youngest son was a baby, L. was at the market when an admiring woman asked if she could hold her child. Naively, L. agreed and, before she knew it, her son disappeared. Luckily L. found him in another woman’s arms about a block away. 

Through the window of a little store.

L. has told me many stories (in Español people, I’m learning!!) about the sexism in Guatemala, though she doesn’t call it that. The word is discriminación. And women are not the only ones being discriminated against (but that’s for another post). L. seems to be a lone wolf, there doesn’t appear to be any grassroots support for change in that area, at least not that she is able to connect to.


Perhaps too many people are busy just trying to stay alive. Guatemala has one of the highest poverty rates among developing nations. The Human Development Index (United Nations) ranks Guatemala 133 out of 187 countries. The World Bank says, “Guatemala is the biggest economy in Central America but is among Latin American countries with the highest levels of inequality, with poverty indicators — especially in rural and indigenous areas — among the highest in the region.” As you probably know, this index is a measure of life expectancy, education, literacy and standards of living for countries around the world.


Guatemala also has the largest indigenous population per capita, making up almost 60% of the country. In the area I’m living in, it’s about 80%. Apparently, the rough terrain (2/3 is mountainous) provided refuge during the Spanish conquest. Guatemalan government figures say that 7 out of every 10 people here of indigenous descent live in poverty.

 Traditional clothing indicates where people are from,
based on color and design.
Breakfast lunch
dinner and

The dock.

Today, I visited the little village of Santa Catarina. Beautiful, and because it’s off the beaten gringo trail, I saw only one other white person there. 

Boats at Santa Catarina.

Village of Santa Catarina.


The fact that I am a representative of privilege, and that the impoverished‎ indigenous population is something that draws me here, is also a topic for another post. It’s a conflict I’m trying to reconcile with, or at least learn about. Below are some links to a 
few resources I’ve come across lately.

A woman at the market.

Blue is the native color of Santa Catarina.
In church.
 What the boys do.

  by Aryeh Neier
The New York Review of BooksFebruary 10, 2014

  by Elizabeth Monaghan

Social Justice Solutions2/10/2014

by Oswaldo J. Hernández, Translated by Sandra Cuffe   
Upside Down World:Covering Activism and Poltics in Latin America, 10 February 2014

  by Stephen Connely Benz

  by W. George Lovell

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC)

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