The Tiny Story of Discrimination, Arrogance and Patronizing in La Antigua Guatemala

Just doing my job, you know!

ACT 1:
So there I was, consumed by own thoughts, after having had a few moments at the Benches at the Museo del Libro Antiguo pondering the big tough questions in life, walking back to the office and I glanced over to my right and saw the wonderful light bathing the La Antigua Guatemala Cathedral (oh, life is beautiful and full of these tiny moments, I said to myself). A few more steps and I immediately saw a photo opportunity as there was a Guatemalan military chicken bus parked right in front of the Cathedral. See exhibit 1 below (first photo from the left).

ACT 2:
I look up to the sky to get an indication of the type and quality of the light; then, I turned on the camera and set it accordingly. I approached the military chicken bus and started shooting a few shots near the soldiers until I made them relax and I became invisible. I exchanged a few words with the soldier driver (main photo above) to ease them and continue shooting to get a better and more interesting photo. Then, I heard the indigenous women offering their handicrafts to the tourists that were boarding the Guatemalan military chicken bus. Nothing special so far since as I often hear the ambulant indigenous women offer their wares to the tourists. But then, I heard a high-pitch voice, screaming and yelling at these women to get the out-of-here and to leave them alone. This voice got on my nerves very fast because on the rude tone; I turned to see who was yelling, “que se larguen digo, vayanse, dejar en paz” and I saw a Hispanic woman who managed to speak a few more words in Spanish than her peers. I said nothing and continue photographing the scene around the bus, looking for an stimulating angle. See exhibit 2 below (second photo from the left).

ACT 3:
Next I hear another voice yelling something in broken Spanish, “no fotos, no puede, no fotos bus”. Obviously, this second voice was addressing me, so I came around from where I was and asked why not? Again, the girl’s voice said, “no fotos, no puede, no fotos bus, no puede”. By this moment I was already offended by how these two ladies were treating the indigenous women so I said in my best English possible: Do you mean I can not take photos of a Guatemalan military bus, parked on a public street, in front of the a public park? A Guatemalan military bus which is paid by my taxes and that you are using to tour La Antigua Guatemala? At this moment, the woman slapped the window shot and looked elsewhere. See exhibit 3 below (third photo from the left)

To be fair, I have no idea what were these people doing and why were they driven around in a Guatemalan military bus.

Living in La Antigua Guatemala, I know, you must learn to be very tolerant with tourists, but where do you draw the line and speak up? I wish I knew. 🙁

Military Chicken Bus in Front of Antigua's CathedralI really know who I am!Don't take pictures of the bus!

© 2008 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • sompopo

    As long as the military guys were not saying anything about you taking pictures I would have cared less about her reasons.

  • How totally bizarre. I, too, would love to know what they were doing being driven around in that military bus. It sounds like you handled that rude woman pretty well, Rudy. At least you shut her up!

  • Rigo S

    I’m so glad you had this web site i been visit you’re site long time ago I am original from la antigua now i reside in North Carolina USA since i was 14 now I am in my 27’s anyways about the discrimition, Enough. Basta tourist want to visit la Antigua great come have fun and leave, but don’t raise your voice at indegenos people, they are not doing any harm they are just making a living, like me and you no difference at all, they might making $2.00 or 0.2cent per day, just because you are from somewhere else does not mean that you own mi Antigua. my mom is indijena, and i am 100% proud of it.

    Rigo Sepez

  • Raquel

    I agree with Rigo S. What Tourist thinks they have a right as a VISTOR to yell at the people who live in and daily do buisiness in the place that they are visiting?

  • Jerry T

    One of the things I was told as a tourist to Guatemala is of the dangers there. I was told that rude and patronizing behaviours could be detrimental to one’s health and well-being. When visiting someone else’s home it is wrong to treat them with disrespect. I cringe at the social injustice and “class system” in Guatemala, so why would anyone want to add to more pain. There is no excuse for rude and nasty people. You go Rudy!

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  • I have been in similar situations too and I simple don’t unsderstand it. In my case I was taking pictures of a bridge, actually it was el puente Belice, and a police officer came and told me that I can’t take pictures without authorization… When I asked why, they say it’s because thieves can take pictures of places to do robberies later on. It’s all messed up… For the record, I’m Guatemalan.

  • I’m just glad you got in to woman’s face about it instead of shuffling off like she had the authority to dictate. It’s always important to remind people they’re not the center of the universe.

  • Claudia

    The rudeness is everywhere, you should see Long Island- people make discriminating comments about minorities, especially hispanics like it was nothing. Man, if those cranky foreigners and no-habla-español-mooy-pokeeto-hispanic woman can’t have a good time and enjoy beautiful Antigua something is definitely flawed and rotten with them, take a chill pill people. Ha, they’re probably fellow long islanders. 🙂

  • Rudy, what a bizarre event. These women certainly don’t look happy. The fact that the military was driving them around makes me wonder. You seemed to have handled the situation with enough grace and frankness. I love LAG and can’t imagine not basking in its warmth and genuine humanity.

  • Anelli

    You did what needed to be done. If we don’t teach people to respect the indigenous people from our country they should not be there. I could’ve added a few more words to put a cherry on top of the situation…but you did a good job and I thank you for that! 🙂
    Proud Guatemalan living in US

  • Lindy

    I am so glad you spoke up Rudy! All the lady on the bus did was show her ignorance and lack of respect for Guatemala and Antiguenos, as the Maya are the pure and real bedrock of the country. Anyone who disrespects them does nothing but remind us of the 36 years endured all too recently…hopefully tourists like those will not revisit the beautiful city that is Antigua. I can’t wait to be back among you.

  • How sad that the leaders (? — or two just more vocal participants?) wanted a sanitized view of la Antigua on their own terms. It’s so their loss — they missed an opportunity to try to speak Spanish with the ladies selling their wares, and the opportunity to buy beautiful souvenirs; and the opportunity to speak with a local photographer, who (based on the number of photos “he” took) would have been friendly and willing to discuss photography and light and where to get the best shots of la Antigua. So many lost opportunities to stretch outside of their small world. To interact. To learn. Perhaps they reacted out of fear? But perhaps, though it hurts my stomach to admit it, they were simply impatient, uninterested in experiencing a moment unorchestrated by them, arrogant, and bigoted. (I guess they are from the U.S. I imagine Canadians would have been wiser. 🙂 )

  • Great photo, by the way. (It’s encouraging to hear that you take multiple shots to get a good one! 🙂 )

  • Briana

    Wow, I’m embarrassed by their reaction. Especially since most tourists seem to want to take pictures of anything/anyone they want.

    I do wonder what they were doing there…they look very upset? why were they being escorted by the military?

  • Katrina

    I’m not sure how I missed this entry before… I think this whole piece is really important. I saw a lot of rude tourists in Antigua (one looking a lot like the womah in the third photo) and it annoyed me. I hope I didn’t even approach the rudeness expressed by these women.

  • scott

    Maybe US government types? they’re always rude and intolerant…