(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.