Guatemala is a country of contrast. Beautiful scenery filled with lush jungles, volcanoes, rivers and black sand beaches. Gorgeous dark haired and sun kissed people. Yet on the other side, extreme poverty. Hills filled with hundreds of shacks created out of thin metal slats leaned together. Families living in these small one room heat boxes.
“Hubi,” I asked “why do people use metal for walls in this heat?!”
My Guatemalan friend explained that the metal sheets are the cheapest material sold. People save up to purchase the sheets one at a time to create their tiny homes. Being light weight they are the more practical thing to buy, since people do not usually have cars to transport it.
Many people do not have running water and pickup trucks full of people standing in the back are a common sight. If they are fortunate enough they have one vehicle shared among multiple families. There are often small children sitting in the truck bed with their heads leaned against the back of the cab to take a nap. Hubi explained that on the rainy days you were lucky to get that seat, since the cab would shield against much of the rain.
The roads are jarring as the government money allotted to fill pot holes has been siphoned into dirty political pockets. Similarly, there is no trash system set up in the towns. The people are left to fend for themselves and dispose of their rubbish by burning it or throwing it in creative places. Hence you see trash along much of the roads.
The people have good humor and giving attitudes. They don’t think twice about helping one another. This was displayed when we saw the breaks give out on a truck full of people. The driver managed to steer it into a large ditch and before it even hit everyone in the vicinity was running to help. They did not stop to take pictures or decide if they should help, they immediately ran. Hubi said that there is a saying in Guatemala, “I will help you today, for tomorrow I may need your help.”
Guatemalans are strong people. They have a positive view on life and find contentment in living simply. Sharing what they have is a joy. As our hosts in Guatemala say, “There is always room for one more. And if there is room for one, then there is room for two. If there is room for two, then…”