Guatemala is a small country in Central America, it has a stunning landscape, and very strong Mayan Indian roots in its culture, nonetheless the country still has its problems.
Demographically, Guatemala resembles the following:
-38.5% of Guatemala’s population is Amerindian (Mostly Maya)
-41% Identifies as “Mestizo” (Amerindian mixed with European)
-18.5% Are of European or White American Descent (White)
-1% Black or Garífuna
-0.6% Asian, Pacific Islander, Other
Guatemala recognizes Spanish, Garífuna (Creole Language)
and 21 other Mayan Dialects as official languages.
Guatemala is a unitary presidential republic, whose current president is Jimmy Morales, of the National Convergence Party, similar to Mexico’s Movimiento Naranja. Although the government has taken steps to appreciate its Indigenous and Garífuna peoples, and to become more of a progressive republic, corruption is still a major problem in the country. Not to mention, the crime rate is shockingly elevated: 55 homicides a week in Guatemala City and Huehuetenango alone! Only 2-5% of crimes are legally justified. Rural Guatemala is more or less safe, in fact very safe, the main problem there is poverty.
Poverty and Rural Problems:
Over 50% of Guatemala’s children are malnourished. This is due to wide scale poverty and food insecurity. Guatemala also has the third highest femicide rate in the world, after Jamaica and El Salvador. The country also has the second highest inequality rate in Latin America with a 0.55 GINI coefficient. Rape and sexual violence is epidemic in both rural and urban Guatemala. The small nation has become majorly dependent on Mexican exports, which causes “price shock.” Illiteracy and lack of education is high, racism against native peoples and misogyny is problematic as well.
-Self-Sufficiency: Becoming sufficient on own sustainable production, for immediate consumption and/or vending. This is already happening in some rural and indigenous communities, with the help of organizations such as World Accord.
-Female Empowerment and Education: Traditionally, Guatemalan women aren’t educated, but things are changing. Educating a woman breaks the poverty cycle in a community by 90% according to “The Girl Effect”
-Traditional Arts and Crafts: Guatemala’s lower class earns profit from tourism, the making of traditional crafts, jewelry and clothing is a way of employing women, making money and keeping traditions alive.
Protecting The Environment:
Plastic and Styrofoam are banned in three municipalities in Guatemala, but will the rest of the country choose to take action to protect Guatemala’s environment? Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are used in some Guatemalan crops, harming native plants and insects, that are vital to the rainforests eco-system. The discovery of ancient Mayan structures hidden under the jungle will most likely force UNESCO and the government to protect more areas, which would mean more nature reserves and national parks. The Guatemalan government needs to protect more of its land and to come to an agreement with it’s indigenous inhabitants.
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a political K’iche activist from Laj Chimel, Quiche, Guatemala. She escaped Guatemala’s bloody 36 year civil war, after being exiled to Chiapas, Mexico, and fought for indigenous rights all over the world. She is what a feminist looks like! She is notorious for receiving The Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, and The Prince of Asturias Award in 1996, she wants women, notably indigenous women to stand up for their rights and fight for their beliefs. She’s contributed to a large part of Guatemala’s development and was the first to accuse the U.S for intervening in the Mayan Genocide and Guatemalan Civil War.
The Future of Guatemala
The indigenous people’s of Guatemala are fighting for their rights and justice. The environment and indigenous people’s rights are becoming a number one concern for the country , and the international community, together, and with the help of organizations we can preserve Mayan culture. Protect the environment and expand the rainforests and jungles of Guatemala with secondary forests or “re-forestation.” Most of all, Guatemalans can live healthily, happily and peacefully.