Eldon writes: It was a privilege to be a member of this learning tour and to visit with our MCC partners and the community members who are finding ways to stay at home in Guatemala rather than attempt the risky and dangerous journey across Mexico into the United States. This migration journey is attempted by many Guatemalans each year to find opportunities and resources for their families.
One of the primary root causes, we learned, is that 80 million people in Mexico, Central and South America are under 20 years of age. Only 10 million of those will have opportunity for gainful employment. 70 million will be excluded and considered disposable by the global economic system.
Over 20 indigenous Mayan people groups make up 55% of the Guatemalan population. For the most part, they are the rural highland dwellers with little formal education and no invitation to participate in the wealth of resources of their country. So many of these families send a son or daughter or father to migrate to Guatemala City or Mexico or the USA without documents in an effort to find the financial opportunities to support the rest of their family back in the mountains of Guatemala.
The large Pacific coastal plains of southern Guatemala and the rain forest of northeast Guatemala have been almost exclusively bought by large multinational corporations and developed into large plantations of coffee, sugar, bananas, rubber, pineapple and other crops which are exported to North America and Europe. The wealth of these resources produces little benefit to the people of Guatemala, but makes enormous profits for these companies and their shareholders. (The Old Fool found an MCC slide show that shows its work among the Mayans.)
More recently, a mining company from Canada, has been given rights to mine gold in the mountain areas where the Mayan peoples live. This has created environmental disasters over which the local people have no control. The mining company has sold out the local people and their birthright of pristine ancestral homes of thousands of years for a “small pot” of gold nuggets.
The mining company has built schools, offered some services, employed local people and made other minimal gestures to coopt these indigenous people into allowing them to rape these beautiful mountains and leave cyanide residues to poison the waters of the mountains. Over 200,000 gallons of precious water from these mountain streams is used each day to wash away the extraneous dirt and uncover whatever gold might be hidden there.
The latest large development effort which affects these Mayan people groups is a plan to build many hydroelectric producing dams on the rivers of Guatemala. This too will displace many people and their villages.
An additional injustice of this effort is that this plan does not include electrification of these Mayan villages nor does the plan include sharing the wealth this electricity will generate for the companies who will export and sell directly to Guatemala City, Mexico, United States and Canada.