When the sun rises on Guatemala City, the true nature of the city comes with it. In between the staples of North American life, the Taco Bells and the Sherman Williams, is a city of painted cinderblocks, street vendors and beggars. Crowds flock to the square in front of the Presidential Palace where these groups congregate.
The scents of roasted corn and fresh cut fruit permeate the air in the market as vendors shout their inventories to anyone who will listen, and even those who won’t. One man carries a large bag of boiled peanuts while another totes bags of cotton candy. Old women sell baskets while children sell baskets of various fruit. Near the road a man slices the skin off pineapples and sells the cut fruit for about 60 cents. It’s sweet and wet and sticky and a little sticky. A few streets of way under a sign that says Tipicos is the underground market, where hand woven goods meet with various tact types of mass-produced t-shirts. The vendors there act the same, calling out their goods as we walk by. Several say proudly that their goods were made in Atitlan, where we’ll be going on Saturday.
Beggars sat on cardboard outside the large Cathedral de Santiago de Guatemala on another end of the square. Inside, there was a christening and confirmation going on. Outside, in the square, a large stage was being set up for a visit from the most recent Latin America Idol winner. Those stereos duel with a marching band that’s leading a processional for the celebration of a saint.
When we left Guatemala City, it didn’t take long for high rises to give way to the cinderblock slums and automobile salvage yards. Small homes were stacked on each other closer to the city, but as winding mountain roads snaked and hair-pinned northwest to Chichicastenango, homes of brick and scrap wood and sheet metal began to take the place of the cinderblocks.
Driving in Guatemala is like skateboarding down a roller coaster with no harness and no helmet. Buses loaded with people, some hanging on top of the bus, barrel around jackknife turns while swerving around traffic. The road was out in some place where mudslides, the consequence of carving the roads out of the mountains, had washed it away. In some places, the road narrowed to two lanes. Pedestrians, whether children on foot or men on bicycles, traveled the same roads in a way you don’t see too often in the United States. At the end of this treacherous stretch was the city Chichicastenango, a town full of gray one-lane wide cobblestone streets and devoid of the chains that dot Guatemala City.
But the people are the same, which has made Chichicastenengo perhaps even busier of a city than Guatemala. The market may only be open two days a week, but people still line the streets in an attempt to sell whatever they can. The streets are still packed with buses, cars, and any other mode of transportation that can possibly take a person from one place to another.
Most of the streets of Chichicastenango are one lane wide but the natives still drive like an open field. Only now pedestrians are more prone to walk directly in the street. The buildings are concrete or cinderblock and the city can seem quite chaotic at times.
However, the people of Chichi have been like everyone else in Guatemala. They are helpful, understanding and cordial. They run on their own time, a trait that makes it difficult for a person whose life is normally centered on deadlines.
From my limited experience with the two cities, it’s amazing how two cities so different in size and scope can come with the same feeling. The people have, thus far, been friendly and hard-working.
Our next stop is in the mountains. The first village the missionaries will visit is so remote that they haven’t had any medical care in years.
Sometimes it’s easy to miss an event, so here’s a look back at the past week or so to help bring you up to date.
Wilson, shown in these undated photos,
Scott McClellan, a former press secretary for President Bush, has recently been on the national news scene promoting his book titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”
During his tenure behind the podium in the White House press room serving as the president’s mouthpiece, McClellan became known in media circles as the man who fed false information to journalists during press conferences. Based on excerpts that were released from his book, McClellan attempts tells his side of the story. He said White House officials mislead him and the American people about the Iraq War. He said the president and other officials “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” following Hurricane Katrina.
McClellan also threw a jab at journalists. He criticized the national press corps for not asking White House officials tougher questions before we entered into the Iraq War. He said “The national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the ‘liberal media‘ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
I thought about this excerpt for a few minutes, and I agree. Journalists did not ask the president tough questions before invading Iraq in 2003. Anytime the president, vice president, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice gave their reasons for wanting to go to war, the national journalists took it and printed it on the cover of their newspapers without questioning the information.
When White House officials said Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the press corps should have said “How do you know? Show us proof.” During the lead up to the war, the press corps should have asked “What is the exit strategy?” However, very few tough questions were asked. It seemed like the White House officials intimidated journalists, and members of the press corps just rolled over.
It wasn’t until 2005 after the Hurricane Katrina incident occurred, when the press corps started to ask tough questions about the Iraq War and the governement’s response to the hurricane.
Most American citizens don’t have the opportunity to meet with government officals and ask them tough questions face-to-face. It’s the job of the press corps to ask those questions for them. If they can’t handle that responsibility, it’s probably better if they give up their seat to someone who is willing to ask tough questions before a war instead of waiting until after.
These helpful links will help you find out how green your candidate is. It might not be the most important factor to you in a deciding who you want to support, but it’s worth finding out something about their environmental beliefs.
- Lindsay Hodges, Web EditorFind out more about green issues at NewsOK.com’s Go Green Blog