Tag Archives: Mayan civilization

20,000 Guatemalans

 

The first time I traveled to Guatemala was after the civil war in the 1990s. I lived with a family in Antigua for a week and then traveled around the country. Including a white knuckle flight over hundreds of miles of jungle to the Mayan site of Tikal.

The second time, my spouse and I spent a few weeks , living in a wonderful resort on Lake Atitlan and exploring various parts of the country by bus and van. Visiting villages only accessible by boat, experiencing the colorful market at Chichicastengo, enjoying coffee in the colonial city of Antigua. Interacting with friendly people. Great memories.

Guatemala is about 50% or so Mayan. So the Spanish and Mayan peoples live side by side, but in different worlds. A colorful mixture of cultures and religions and languages. After being immersed in the colorful culture where women still wear bold colored huilpiles, denoting their village, coming back to the US was like trading in an HD color TV for an old black and white with rabbit ears.

Now, it seems, Guatemala has once again descended into violence and division. The government or gangs are once again creating a hostile environment. I really don’t pretend to know what is going on, but it is too bad.

The valleys of fertile farmland we drove through are probably the greenest I have ever seen.

According to the latest US Aid report the US has invested tax dollars in Guatemala in an attempt to make life better for the people. The legal system has been streamlined and modernized in an attempt to give the “accused” some basic rights.

Another section of the report outlines the economic aid we have given the Guatemalans. Evidently US aid has increased the exporting of crops by about 50%. More income for the farming sector.

Also, according to the US Aid information sheet, our assistance has led to the creation of 20,000 more agricultural jobs for Guatemalans. So, let’s see what that means.

The average size of a family is about 4 people. Probably 5 people or more  in the rural areas. So, 20,000 jobs probably supports 100,000 people.

That is 100,000 people who have no reason to emigrate to the US for a better life. 100,000 people who now can stay in their native land and make a living. 100,000 fewer people to process at the US border.

Now, Mr Trump has said he will end all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The total aid to these three countries is $ 500,000,000. Total. For some perspective, this is the cost of about 4 Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets.

Of course, economic aid to Latin American countries, delivered mainly through NGOs, only helps to lessen the potential immigration to the USA. This is the idea behind trade agreements and aid programs. To assist people living in their own homelands so they do not need to emigrate.

Eliminating this aid is just not smart policy. Unless your objective is to increase the pressure at the border to create a humanitarian crisis.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under border control, Foreign policy, Immigration, Politics, Trump, United States

Destroying Stereotypes: The Maya

History is full of examples of civilizations that have collapsed for various reasons. Undoubtedly the people living in all them thought they would last forever, or at least for a few thousand years.

Who can forget the 3rd Reich and the predictions that accompanied Hitler and his PR machine. Well, that one fell a few years short of the 1,000 mark. The British Empire, upon which the “sun never sets” just a century ago, has long diminished and is even now shrinking even more. . And the promise of Khruschev that the USSR would “bury” the US has long since gone by the wayside, as has the old USSR.

As some civilizations rise, others decline. And one who is alive never really knows where he is on the timeline. Will the USA last for a thousand years? Or 20? Will China dominate the next 500 years? Or will Brazil emerge as a superpower?  No one really knows. And, since all people are to some extent “ethnocentric”, we sometimes think that those that came before us were not as “civilized” or “organized” as modern society. Stereotypes.

Which brings me to the Maya of Central America. One of my areas of interest. I have traveled to Guatemala twice and to Mexico at least 4 times. Mainly to see the Maya ruins. Tikal, Uxmal, Labna, Sayil, Chichen-Itza and others. I may go back again someday while I am still ambulatory.

I climbed the Great Pyramid at Chichen-itza and the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal. I think both are now off limits due to the increase in tourism.

For a long time the Maya were known only through the lens of the Stephens and Catherwood journals and drawings. A mysterious civilization  which had died out when the Spanish arrived.  A hidden language on stelae and paper, largely destroyed by Spanish missionaries, but still surving in limited texts and oral traditions. When I was in college the Mayan linguistic code had not been broken. We had just scratched the surface.

Ove the last 40 years tremendous insights have been acquired. The hieroglyphic sysmbols have largely been interpreted. As a result a rich history of city-states and kings has now become part of our history. No longer seen as backward savages, a sophisticated civilization has emerged and continues to emerge as we learn more each year. As always, knowledge destroys stereotypes.

The Mayan people themselves, of course, have survived. In the millions. They make up the bulk of the population in parts of the Yucatan peninsula and in Guatemala. In fact, they were the focus of the brutality of the military during the Guatemalan wars of the 1990s.

All of this leads me to a new discovery. In the jungles of Guatemela, which seem uninhabitable today, we have always known there were small city-states, like Tikal. But now we see that this area was densely populated , holding millions of inhabitants in an area that today is a vast rain forest.

An organized central government. A road system. Canals. An agricultural and transportation system to support a vast population. Maybe as many as 60,000 structures hidden beneath the ground by the overgrowth. All of this implies superb organization and the mobilization of people and resources. A new discovery worth looking at.

On Tuesday, February 6, the National Geographic channel will have an hour long program on these new discoveries: Lost Cities of the Maya, 9 PM.

Information destroys stereotypes.

For more on the new discoveries:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/03/scientists-discover-ancient-mayan-city-hidden-under-guatemalan-jungle

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42916261

For more on Stephens and Catherwood.

http://www.reed.edu/uxmal/galleries/thumbnails/drawings/Drawings-Stephens.htm

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under archeology, Politics