Tag Archives: Guatemala

Bruce Wayne and the Rule of Law

You can learn a lot from Lyft drivers.

One thing I tend to encounter is stories of how we become American.

I met a Lyft driver recently named Aldo. He’s from Guatemala and came here 30 years ago, at 14, escaping civil war.

He doesn’t want anything to do with Guatemala, he told me.

He went back for the first time not long ago, and couldn’t stand it. There’s no rule of law. “Nobody follows the rules,” he said. “You can’t just drive along peacefully like this. You gotta be aware of these other drivers running redlights. Motorcyclists coming up to rob you.”

I’ve heard the greatest stories from Lyft drivers. I met the brother of the champion of Mongolian BMX racing one time. Another was a Vietnamese screenwriter. A third was a Dreamer.

As Aldo and I drove along, he extolled the virtues of the Kia Optima hybrid, how he’d lived peacefully with his family in South Gate for eight years until his landlord married a Colombian woman and she started causing problems.

He told me he’d adopted his wife’s children — she was legally changing her name from Maria de la Luz to Lucy — raised them and they are now grown or growing. That he contracted polio when he was born and walks with crutches.

In Guatemalan, he couldn’t go back to his old neighborhood because he might not be able to leave it. He also couldn’t stand the smells in the outdoor markets.

So he came back from his visit home, and is getting his U.S. citizenship next year. And when he does he’ll change his name to Batman’s alter ego.

“I’m American,” he told me. “Everybody knows him.”

 

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Guatemala: Death threats, land theft and rock carrying

“After sentencing (the defendant) to carry rocks for a number of days , my client  began receiving threats from people  demanding the recession of the law.  After the defendant’s release, my client  was  attacked on more than one occasion ( once with guns)  and threatened with torture and death. My client  believes that if returns to Guatemala  he will be  killed.”

Now that’s something you don’t read every day. San-Quintin0511

But it is the kind of stuff that sends people north to the U.S.

It’s from an attorney looking for an expert witness in Guatemala and Mayan Law, defending a man who is requesting asylum in the United States. 

I’m no expert in Indian self-rule and law in Latin America, but I have seen huge problems with it. Here’s a story I did on the conflict those laws generated between migrants from Oaxaca and those who remain behind in the town.

Here’s the lawyer’s full letter, with names and places removed:

The man seeking asylum is  a 26 year-old of Mayan ethnicity. My client is well educated and interested in advancing the interests of his small Hamlet. He has no criminal record and is politically active in his community.

 After he was  elected as Mayor of Development of his community in 2011, he set about drafting and implementing “Mayan Law” to prevent the abuse of women and children as well  to prevent the theft of land by members of neighboring hamlets.   The law he wrote was adopted by his community and  formally ratified by the civil authorities of the broader municipality. 

 After the ratification of the law, members of the community, (led by my client) arrested  a man from a neighboring town, for stealing land from members of the San Jose community. After sentencing the defendant under the new Mayan Law  to carry rocks for a number of days (12)  , my client  began receiving threats from people in San Luis   demanding the recession of the Mayan Law.  After the defendant’s release, my client  was  attacked on more than one occasion ( once with guns)  and threatened with torture and death.

My client  believes that if returns to Guatemala  he will be  killed. I need an expert who can   provide context for  “Mayan Law”  within indigenous communities  and  within the  broader socio-political fabric  of Guatemala . 

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GLOBAL ECONOMY: Guatemalan mayor declares Internet access a human right

It was only a matter of time. The mayor of an Indian town in Guatemala has declared Internet access to be a human right.

Many Indian communities suffer because they are so isolated from the world.

Anthropologists and tourists often like their Indians very traditional. But tradition has had a way of impoverishing Indian communities.

I’ve been to Indian towns where most people don’t know how to type, use a fax, or drive. Those are formulas for poverty in the global economy. I once met a guy who was learning to type who said he was the first in his village to learn that skill.

To breaking from those impoverishing traditions is one reason why so many Indians are converting to Protestantism in Latin America.

It’s an ironic thing, but the only way to maintain a strong Indian culture is not to embrace isolation, but, as this mayor has, embrace the world. That way a village can develop economically so that its people don’t have to migrate defenseless into a world where education is the currency of value.

There was a time in the 1990s when it was fashionable on the left in Latin America to talk about the pernicious effect of globalization on the poor. But really what Indian communities need above all is more globalization, which is to say, more connectivity — that is, more roads, more Internet connections, more people who know how to type, more people who speak Spanish or English, etc.

One village in Chiapas I went to (pictured here) was part of a coffee cooperative. The only thing they wanted, coop members told me, was a connection to the Internet, which would connect them, in turn, with coffee buyers in Mexico City, or Seattle, and they wouldn’t have sell their beans to the local intermediaries who gave them rock-bottom prices.

 

 

 

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MIGRANTS: Curandero Carlos, Guatemalan Witch Doctor

Yesterday, I met Hermano Carlos, a curandero, or witch doctor, from Guatemala.

One of the great botanicas in all LA, his place on Pico, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite streets in town.

His place is filled with soaps to Keep Hate Away, and aerosol sprays for love, and candles, Santa Muerte, San Simon, Jesus Malverde, and every kind of icon to ward off evil and welcome good luck and happiness. A lot of it’s made in China.

He said he’s been curing people since he was 5, and came here in 1988, fleeing Guatemala’s civil war.

Initially, he had some competition from El Indio Amazonico, a strange fellow who seemed to franchise out his curing shops and had several the last time I looked. But Carlos said those shops seem to be closing, so Hermano Carlos has more business. The recession hasn’t hurt either, as more people have come to him for help finding work.

He had to interrupt our chat to read the cards of a client who happened by. More later.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Migrants