“Walijoq caewaj!” she yelled over and over in Quiche. Wake up, my love. Wake up, my love.
This is the story of Manuel Jaminez Xum, a Mayan day laborer, and his unfortunate encounter with Los Angeles Police officers. This is story that I am glad Los Angeles Times has decided to follow through with in-depth coverage. All texts quoted come from the most recent article: Protests over police shooting resonate all the way to Guatemala.
Like many of the 6 million Mayas who make up nearly half of Guatemala’s population, the people of Xexac have little to do with the outside world. They speak to each other in the Maya highlands language of Quiche. They cook with firewood. Converts to Christianity, they have six churches in the village but only two cars. Some of the young boys have skinny jeans and spiky hair, but the women dress in traditional knitted skirts and cotton shirts embroidered with brilliantly colored flowers.
These excerpts exemplify best the stories behind the Arquitectura de Remesas Exhibit which I covered a few weeks ago. Arquitectura de Remesas, an anthropological, architectonic and photographic study of how immigrants remittances are shaping the landscape in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Ten years ago, many in Xexac had never seen Guatemala City, let alone the United States.
“We didn’t know what Los Estados Unidos meant,” said Diego Guarchaj y Guarchaj, a childhood friend of Jaminez Xum.
Then a man from the village followed his wife’s relatives to Westlake and changed everything.
Diego Ixquiactap began to make money, hundreds of dollars each week. He started buying village land and built something never before seen in this world of wooden shacks: a white-washed, concrete block house with arched windows and doorway.
As I mentioned in Remittances Architecture, “Immigrants remittances are shaping the landscape of Mesoamerica with houses and constructions built upon the dreams and hard work of people in search of a better life for their families.”
In the years that followed, 60 to 70 men left Xexac, most of them to join brothers and cousins as day laborers in Westlake. They borrowed $3,500 to $5,000 from private lenders in nearby towns to pay their smugglers. And they agreed to pay 10% to 20% interest on the loans each month once they got to Los Angeles.
It was a risky decision.
Continue reading Protests over police shooting resonate all the way to Guatemala at the Los Angeles Times website.
Why are so many people from Central America looking for a better life somewhere else? Is life elsewhere? What are some of the causes for this massive immigration? Who is responsible and who’s accountable for the Central American diaspora?
Like always, I wish I knew some of the answers… I wish!