The Old Fool’s son-in-law, Eldon Stoltzfus, was a member of a team appointed by the Mennonite Central Committe to visit Guatemala and learn about MCC’s work in that country. The Old Fool aske Eldon to provide a report for this website. In this post Eldon tells a bit of the history of that part of God’s world.
Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, has 103,000 square miles of land area (about the size of Tennessee), 240 miles of coastline: Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, a population of 14.5 million people, the second most dense population of Central and South America, and the highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children (about 50%), 50% of population is of Mayan descent (where child malnutrition reaches 90%).
Guatemala gained independence from Spain in 1821 and until 1990’s was governed by a series of dictators and military generals largely supported and encouraged by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. Over 200,000 people were killed mostly by the paramilitary death squads in what has been called genocide mostly toward the Mayan people groups of the highlands areas of Guatemala.
In 1996, the Guatemala civil war was ended with guerilla fighters given land to settle and democratic participation in government offered. This settlement was guided largely by the United Nations and specifically by Norway and Spain. The relative political stability is tenuous and fragile. A free election without major conflict was held in 2011.
Guatemala has a wealth of natural resources. Besides the 1000,s of acres of productive subtropical coastal farmland which produces large quantities of coffee, rubber, bananas, pineapple, sugar cane to name a few, Guatemala has abundant water resources from the highland mountain range which runs through the country. In those mountains are many inactive volcanos which attract tourists and hikers.
The many rivers in Guatemala are beginning to be exploited for major hydroelectric installations to provide electricity for demands as far away as the United States. Mineral and oil exploration are also uncovering rich possibilities. A Canadian gold mine is already in operation in the San Marcos Department.
The human resources, people with rich, indigenous Mayan culture are abundant across the highlands of Guatemala. These beautiful people weave rich traditions and colorful dress and smiling faces to welcome visitors to their communities and offer genuine hospitality.
In the next post Eldon will deal with present problems in Guatemala.