My favorite things Guatemala

by on January 10, 2013 at 1:34 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

I am headed there this morning for a Liberty Fund conference.  In terms of the list, I came up with a bunch rather quickly:

1. Writer: Miguel Ángel Asturias.  I don’t see why he isn’t a bigger deal with U.S. readers, given that he won a Nobel Prize for literature.  His Hombres de maíz is a beautiful book.  There is also Francisco Goldman.

2. Blogger, tweeter, and economist: Andres Marroquin.

3. Painter: Julian Chex, from the naive school of Comalapa, and some of his relatives too.  Carlos Mérida is also Guatemalan and not Mexican as many believe.

4. Movie, set in: You’ve got Predator and El Norte, for a start.  As for filming, the Star Wars medal ceremony was shot in part in Tikal National Park, scroll all the way down here.

The country has some of the best textiles in the world and in great profusion.  It has an important university with a superb museum.  A hotel run by Frances Coppola.  And much more.

1 Doug January 10, 2013 at 2:08 am

5. Misunderstood corporation: United Fruit.

2 prior_approval January 10, 2013 at 4:05 am

6. But how do the death squads stack up in regional competition? (somewhat related to 5 above)

‘Politically motivated killings apparently by death squads have been growing over the past few years in Central America, and concern in Guatemala is heightened as the new administration has brought back to public office many of the same individuals directly implicated in the State repression and genocide of the 1980s.

Ex-General, now President Perez Molina is no stranger to death squads. According to declassified State Department and CIA documents, in 1994 while head of Military Intelligence, Perez Molina ran a secret torture center with over 300 political prisoners rounded up by military intelligence. An investigative journalist reported that Perez Molina was a CIA asset at the time.’

And a bit of context from wikipedia –

‘The United Nations sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification concluded that “The United States demonstrated that it was willing to provide support for strong military regimes in its strategic backyard. In the case of Guatemala, military assistance was directed towards reinforcing the national intelligence apparatus and for training the officer corps in counterinsurgency techniques, key factors which had significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation.”[75]

The National Security Archive released declassified US documents relating to Guatemala’s 36-year civil war which show that Washington was aware of the Guatemalan military’s excesses against civilians and continued to support it throughout the bloodiest days of the conflict, which killed up to 200,000 people.’

Information which could make one believe that a visitor would be unwise to ask about a union label when shopping for local textiles. Or asking any number of questions, actually.

3 tylerh January 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm

As an anglo who had the privilege of living in Antigua for a while…

your comment :”visitor[s] would be unwise to ask about a union label when shopping for local textiles. Or asking any number of questions, actually.” is completely off the mark.

Unlike in the 80s or the 90s, when American-trained death squads stifled dissent, Guatemalans now speak freely about the inadequacies of their government. I remember 2002, as the debilitating corruption Alfonso Portillo became clear to all, people all over the country telling me, “we have to get rid of this guy, but we’re a democracy know. What do we do?” They said this without fear. Dissent was quite open.

Guatemalan’s eventually found their answer: Portillo’s s patron Efraín Ríos Montt got trounced in the 2004 election.

A key to understanding modern Guatemala is just HOW SICK most Guatemalans were of the civil war. They were willing to tolerate a lot of corruption and incompetence to get the killing to end. And so they did.

4 Anna January 10, 2013 at 9:30 am

I’ve got into Goldman recently. What do you think about “The art of political murder”?
By the way, unlike Asturias, Goldman was born in the US and writes in English. Guatemala is all over his writings though.

5 Ted Craig January 10, 2013 at 10:00 am

So here’s a question: why is it easier to make a list about Guatemala than San Diego? Given a choice, most people would opt for San Diego. In fact, many Guatemalans broke the law to do just that. But does hardship lead to greater heights in culture?

6 Therapsid January 10, 2013 at 11:32 am

This one’s easy. You’re comparing a nation-state to a single metropolitan region in one of the largest countries in the world. Most of America relies upon a few distant centers for cultural production.

7 Finch January 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Borders make cultures?

8 NAME REDACTED January 10, 2013 at 10:18 am

” I don’t see why he isn’t a bigger deal with U.S. readers, given that he won a Nobel Prize for literature. ”

This fact means you do not understand American readers. They couldn’t care less about prizes for literature.
They are not “book snobs” who read because their betters tell them what is good, they read for their own enjoyment.

9 GW January 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

Composer: the remarkable Juaquin Orellano, who, in essence, composed electronic music without synthesizers, using homemade instruments made of indigenous materials.

10 Francesca January 10, 2013 at 11:43 am

Can’t believe you omitted major Guatemalan sites, such as Lake Atitlan, Tikal, the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, etc.

11 Michael K January 10, 2013 at 11:50 am

My wife is a Guatemalan native and I have been there a few times. You forget two huge things:

1: Antigua. Colonial capital of Spanish Central America during the 16th-17th centuries.
2: Lago de Atitlan. A lake formed by a massive caldera eruption surrounded by a couple of volcanoes.

12 MAOrthofer January 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Writer: Augusto Monterroso – too little translated, but “Complete Works and Other Stories” is a great collection

13 axa January 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Moza bock beer. Hate to be patronizing, but it is an awesome quality beer that you’d never expect to find in 3rd world country.

14 Luis Figueroa January 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Last time I saw you here we had “enchiladas” at Universidad Francisco Marroquín; and we went to have a couple of snacks at the Central Market in Guatemala City. Greetings!! Ah, you forgot Zacapa Rum.

15 DCBILLS January 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Are there still pillboxes & soldiers with (US supplied) machine guns around the airport? I rank Guatemala #2 as a US Central American puppet state. Honduras comes in first which is bad or good for Hondurans depending on your point of view.

16 sabina January 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

GUATEMALA… makes me think of an Italian judge, Antonio Ingroia. After attaching the Italian president by saying that the Italian governement had deals with the mafia, dr Ingroia was sent by the ONU to GUATEMALA to investigate the illegal drug trade there. Recently, he came back to Italy, founded a political party aiming to take part in the fortcoming election probably to substitute his collegue mp Antonio Di Pietro, well known for his activity in the “mani pulite” pool, who is going to leave politics after a journalist revealed he had bought several houses for him and his family with the money of his party italia dei valori.

17 John S. January 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm

My wife is Guatemalan too and we go there once a year. The people are great, and I love the food. Always come back five pounds heavier. A partial list:

tortillas made by hand
chico zapote

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