Day 5 included our first full day in Quetzaltenango (Xela). The day started with a walking tour of the beautiful and historic city of Xela. Immediately I could feel the different pace and “vibe” of the city. One of the group leaders pointed out several sites and discussed the political and social significance to the city and country as a whole. While touring we were able to enjoy a bit more freedom in exploring on our own and smaller groups than we had been able to in Guatemala City; we were also able to enjoy a rare native fruit, granadillas which the group leader described as a delicious mucus!! Although, it looked like a brain once cracked it definitely lived up to its billing. I also realized how small of a world we actually live in as I randomly ran into a friend I have known for almost 30 years while walking in the town square!! I was also able to meet up with him as we enjoyed a rock concert at a café later in the evening. Although, the day was filled with an enjoyable tour and an informal introduction into the social scene of Xela we also learned a great deal during our educational session.
Day 5 was also filled with a visit to Voces de Cambio. During the first session we discussed a powerpoint presentation by one of the group leaders about migration and patterns and social and individual impacts to the community. We then heard testimonies from 2 individuals of their attempts into the United States. Although, each had different experiences while migrating to the US, each had the commonality of “choosing” to migrate because of economic hardships. Each described the difficulties it caused for their family, the debt they incurred while attempting to cross, and the sense of feeling as if they didn’t fit in either in the US or when they returned. One discussed becoming very ill in the desert and being left by the group he was traveling with and almost dying until immigration services found him. The other discussed having to mortgage his house over to a loan shark to finance his trip.
The below image is poster that was hanging at Voces de Cambio. The caption reads, “Free Trade Area of the Americas, Global Resistance to Private Colonialism.” As the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words; this poster, a creation of the Beehive Collective (http://beehivecollective.org/en/)depicts the many intersecting layers and complexity that have impacted Guatemala. In what has become a theme of the trip, the poster is also a depiction of the reality of the social, political and economic factors that have impacted so many people in Guatemala…or as one of the group leaders discussed as he shared his story as a Guatemalan native “THE PERSONAL IS POLITCAL!!!!!!”