Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Retrospect: Dark Days

This article from the Latin American Herald Tribune will shed some light on the dark days Guatemala is facing and two murders and mob vigilante justice that happened near us on our Mayan Hands tour.

As I return home, I find it deeply unsettling the abundant, indiscriminate violence that occurs in this part of Central America. On top of that, there is no functioning justice system.

Ergo, vigilante justice and mob violence erupt as a response to violent crime.

As travelers, we were always within the fold of our native guides, protected and well advised on what was safe. We could have been closer to these mobs described in the article. We were lucky not to have been.

Even so, I think about the weavers, the fieldworkers, the average people who live with this threat on a daily basis. Public transport is dangerous in Guatemala and most people depend upon it. The murders occurred on a public bus on the road from Solola to Panajachel. The murderers were later killed (burned to death) by a mob.

Let us not take peace and law and order for granted. In many parts of the world, they are in short supply.

What do you think? Have I glossed over this topic? Where does it fit into Fair Trade?

One reader suggested I had ignored this issue during the trip and my enthusiasm for the products of Mayan Hands. I have to say I needed some perspective on it to be write anything. it is now that I am home, I realize how it runs through all I can say about the trip and the people I met.

The issue of violence, corruption and lack of rule of law goes to the very heart of the work of Mayan Hands which provides secure income and empowerment training for people in the Highlands of Guatemala. If they can establish a balance in their lives that enables them to take leadership roles in their communities, maybe that tide will begin to turn.


Please tell me what you think about this important issue.


  1. we are so lucky to live in a country where we do not need to fear for our lives at every turn of the road.
    i am glad you opted to mention this dark aspect of your trip, Laura.

  2. Thanks Sylvie,
    It takes a while to address the darkness doesn't it? But it makes me appreciate things all the more. Reminds of the book we are reading for ABC too,

  3. I encourage you all to read more about Guatemalan history in order to provide a context for the present situation here. The US has a big hand in it all, and I am afraid to say that it is an ugly part of our history and one that has been and continues to be played out in many many countries around the world. I have a reading list and list of links on my website at (or just use and click on the Links, Resources tab on the right). Also, I suggest you look at (School of the Americas Watch). Please get involved and become an active supporter of Guatemala human rights issues. Thank you! P.S., I sell Mayan Hands products, and with pride!