Notes on El Rancho - near Chiantla, Guatemala
The people there were all very hard working and tough. The women seem
to cook and clean all day, and I believe the men would have worked just as much as the women if their were more work to be had that wasn't cooking and cleaning. Perhaps it is part of the machismo culture that they don't cook and clean. All the men seemed to work with the livestock, horses, and anything one could do with a machete. The women, in particular the woman I was staying with worked for sun up to sun down. I never saw her stop or start because she was always ahead of me.
The land is a dream come true, a good place to be in case of an apocalypse. If the world economy were to go to hell and mass famine ensured, these people would be better off then anybody I know. They don't seem to rely too much on money or anything from the outside world. Their greatest need for the outside world seems to be corrugated aluminum for their rooftops, basic medicine and shoes I reckon. Everything else they seemed to supply on their own. Eggs, wool, wood, chicken, turkey, herbal medicines, corn, potatoes and a bunch of other stuff that I didn't even recognize.
Their winters are pretty rough as I understand it. I saw some cell footage of huge hail falling from the sky. It gets cold enough in the moth of July at night and I imagine in January it's downright nippy.
The land is beautiful and they do a good job of taking care of it, both in real time and for longevity. They had a stock of baby trees ready for planting to make up for all the trees they use for fuel. They have plenty of horses for travel which is probably the best means of transport in the tough terrain they exist in. Between the horses and sheep the grass is cut short everywhere and could easily be used as a golf course if so inclined. I did have the thought of bringing them some golf balls and a putter jsut to see if it would take off. I bet it would….
That said, with all the beauty and magnificence, life felt…. I can't say hard, but dull. Personally just the way I was brought up with so much travel I can't see myself being happy there for the long term. The food was sustaining but monotonous and much too salty.
Most of the people I talked too had never been farther then about 30 miles to Huehuetenango. Which is a typical refrain I hear whenever I travel to far out villages, yet the answer still shocks me. To live an entire lifetime without knowledge of the big world on the whole. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, in fact I could make a better argument that there is something wrong with traveling all over the world, it's part to blame for all the problems this world has. Still it surprises me. Having never seen the ocean, when the ocean is just an 8 hour drive away. I wonder how they would feel if I just got them a bus and took them all to the ocean. I wonder what their faces would look like when they saw it.
That 105 year old woman we went to see, in the pangs of her death, she probably never got past huehuetenango.
One thing struck me, that is a bit obvious, but the weight of the reality of the thought hit me in a way that I could almost begin to understand. To spend your whole life, say 18 years, surrounded by green rolling hills, your family, and all your neighbors that you know intimately. To have all that, and within that small world to know of a world up north where you could seemingly be rich in a day. Where you could essentially make 2 months to half a years wages in one day working a minimum wage job. To have that distant concept and to go from such a small world on a journey unlike anything I have ever embarked on even with all my travel. To go from 0 to 1000 in the span of a couple of weeks. How exciting and horrifying that must be.
The way it was told to me, a typical laborer makes $5 a day, but they can typically only get work like that roughly 10 days a month. So they roughly make $50 a month. To go from that to McDonald's at $7 an hour for 8 hours = $71 for work that does not at all compare to farm labor must be a maddening thought. Apologies to all the McDonald's workers, but I have worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and I have also worked on the farm and they are both tough but farming was just a little bit harder under the hot Missouri sun. Context does matter though.