Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Real Estate Show / Un espectáculo Real Estate

Guatemala ranked 131 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Program's 2011 Human Development Index — a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.

Guatemala is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Latin America, and also one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere.

Guatemala’s population is one of the youngest, fastest- growing, and least educated in Latin America.

Guatemala  is still experiencing the impact of 36 years of civil conflict, which destroyed social support systems and led to increased discrimination of indigenous groups.

51% of the population lives in rural areas, and the rural population accounts for a large majority of the country's poor people.

Young people and those living in rural areas are the most vulnerable to poverty.

58% of the national population in Guatemala have incomes below the extreme poverty line.

More than 75% of the national population lives below the poverty line.

A combination of social and environmental challenges compounds the problems of poverty.

Poverty is highly concentrated among indigenous communities, which comprise over 40% of the total population.

Government figures indicate that 7 out of every 10 people of indigenous descent live in poverty.

Guatemala has the highest percentage of malnourished children in all of Latin America.

Over half of the children in Guatemala have chronic malnutrition. In some areas the rate is as high as 90%.

42% of Guatemalan citizens do not have access to clean water.

More than 2 million children in Guatemala do not attend school. Most of them are indigenous girls living in rural areas.

The country has an overall enrollment rate in primary school of 39%, but in the urban centers it is 48%, compared to 35% in rural areas.

45% of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate.

Only 5% of indigenous girls in Guatemala have completed primary school, and only one in 10 girls is enrolled in secondary school.

Girls with no schooling face a bleak future; instead of learning to read and write they are more likely to experience early marriage and childbearing.

By the age of 18, almost 40% of Mayan (indigenous) girls are married — nearly twice the percentage of Ladina (non-indigenous) girls.

Child labor is higher in Guatemala than anywhere else in Latin America.

Nearly one third of all girls in Guatemala are engaged in child labor.

Agriculture accounts for a fifth of Guatemala’s GDP and employs about 40 per cent of Guatemala's total labor force. 

An increase in droughts — as well as hurricanes and diseases such as malaria — linked to changing weather patterns in Guatemala and the rest of Central America, make agriculture vulnerable.

Between 1950 and 2002, Guatemala lost half its forest cover — the rate of loss of mature forest is much greater.

"At a Glance: Guatemala." UNICEF. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
"Giving Girls a Second Chance." Girl Up Homepage | GirlUp | United Nations Foundation | Uniting Girls to Change the World. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
"Poverty and Statistics." Malnutrition in Guatemala. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
"Rural Poverty in Guatemala." Rural Poverty Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.
"Statistics for Guatemala." The Redd Desk. N.p., Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Angels and Devils / Ángeles y Diablos

(Note: the best way to view this is to scroll down while reading, then afterwards click on the photos to get a larger view)

I have gotten to know a local woman here, let’s call her M. With her, I’m practicing my Spanish and learning about the culture of Guatemala, but it's not exactly what I expected. 

Although barely educated like many women in Guatemala, M has a strong intellectual understanding of her world. As a single mom in her mid-40s, she has spent her life fighting established cultural expectations. 

Her three kids, ranging in age from 10 to 25, live with her at home. All three were conceived with different men, and M never married or lived with them. In fact, each father rejected his child from the start, contributing neither money nor care. Thus, M has toiled hard at odd jobs to support her family.

M’s goal has been that her children become educated and self-supporting, but it’s difficult to get jobs here. The eldest recently nabbed a teaching position in special ed; sometimes she walks 20 kms to school because she’s afraid to ask her mother for bus fare — her first paycheck isn’t administered for the first three months. 

The second (age 20) hopes to get hired by the military; there aren’t too many options when you’re poor, and if that one fails he might consider becoming a cop, much to his mother’s chagrin. Policing is a poorly paid and ill-respected profession in Guatemala, as it is routinely run by bribes, more so than other government agencies. (In fact, I was told not to bother phoning the police in an emergency, rather rely on bomberos, the fire department). M has seen bus drivers throw bribes out the window in an envelope, only to be stopped by the police to be told it's not enough.

The last child (4th grade) is in a new primary school, hopefully one that teaches. Many schools here, according to M, aren’t interested in educating kids. It’s routine for teachers to be an hour or more late for class, with no consequence.

Each of M’s kids came from different biological backgrounds. One father was ladino, one was indigenous, and the youngest child’s father was an Israeli Jew. M tells me that the younger child is signaled out here, not just for his lighter skin but because he is half Israeli, which makes him “special”; they tell M she should treat him differently, give him better things.

In addition, according to M, this child, who has been raised in a mixed heritage family, is racist, which absolutely infuriates M; he is biased against his classmates who are indigenous. She believes it’s genetic. She points out that he didn’t like beans and tortillas when he was young but preferred salami, which she couldn't afford to buy. I wonder.