We got a tour of the Palacio Nacional in central Guatemala City, which is, like our White House, built to house the president. The president no longer lives there, though, and it is being transformed into a “cultural center”. There are some really cool art galleries which we got to see, but we didn’t get the opportunity to linger there.
This mural in the entrance to the palace stylistically depicts the conquest of the savage Mayan by the cultured Spanish. If we take the naked mayans as symbolizing todays indigenous population, and the spaniard as representing the tiny wealthy elite, this mural becomes a realistic representation of the power distribution in Guatemala today.
The grandeur of the main hall removes this space completely from the poverty in most of the country. The government is using the phrase “a palace for all”, as part of their program to reinvent the palace as a cultural center.
It’s a little hard to see from this picture, but the stonework is all a pale green. Beautiful draped in plants, the darker green exterior and soft green interior color give rise to the Palacio’s nickname the “Avocado House”.
We interviewed this woman whose 6-year old daughter was tragically kidnapped, abused, and killed. She shared her life and her story with us, and she is optimistic for the future, despite the tremendous loss she suffered.
We visited San Carlos University guided by the students from Organizacion Rojelia Cruz. Rojelia Cruz was a beauty contest winner who used her fame and influence to be a voice for the poor and downtrodden in Guatemala. She was tortured, raped, and killed in 1967 by a paramilitary death squad, and symbolizes the continuing struggle for fairness and prosperity in today’s Guatemala.
Our students got structured opportunites to interact with their Guatemala counterparts. In some cases it was difficult because of language issues, but they always managed to have meaningful interactions.
January 14, 2009
We started the day with Rosa Franco, whose teenage daughter was kidnapped and killed in 2001.
She has been struggling to get her daughter’s case investigated and prosecuted, but there is very little progress in the case. Amnesty International wrote her case up in detail, and our delegates got to hear from her first hand, which was a moving, inspiring, and chilling experience.
Cops were on the move outside our hotel because of the potential for conflict during a demonstration against a proposed cement plant in San Juan Sacatepequez, a small town about an hour from the capital.
and here is the garbage disposal. The indigenous people of Guatemala know what sustainable living is, and practice it as a matter of course. Sadly, life in the country is not safe, and this family lost a teenage daughter to the society’s pervasive violence.
Schooled by the lady of the house, our delegates practiced making tortillas.
Our final meeting of the day was with Jorge Alvarado, whose 19 year old daughter Claudina was killed four years ago. Jorge
creates a very vivid picture of his beautiful, popular, intelligent daughter who planned to become an attorney. As a way of getting out of their duty of investigating the crime, the police said “she had a belly button ring, so she was a slut”. Blaming the victim is the first response to crimes here in Guatemala. Jorge read us a story that his daughter might have written, and keeps the memory of his daughter alive by fighting against the impunity that pervades this beautiful country.