The Young Maya and Technology

The Young Maya and Technology

On January 4, 2010, in the comments posted under Digital life in Antigua Guatemala, Braaad wondered aloud:

“I can’t wait till smartphones are cost-effective enough to saturate the entire country, i.e. the average Jose will be able to browse, watch vids, get email…PAY BILLS ONLINE, ahem.

Can you imagine LAG without all the lines to pay utilities at the bank? That’s some Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
I give it 2 years to become a reality.

Within the same entry SJBJ commented:

one of the sharpest memories I have of Guatemala is our first trip there, in 2007. We were in Chichi and there was an elderly woman there, in traditional dress, could have been 100 years ago. EXCEPT, she was speaking (in a native language) into a cell phone. Really took us aback, the contrast between traditional and modern.

Well Braaad, it’s already happening and I forgot to mention that to you back then. Sorry!

I was enjoying a Guanabana ice cream from Sarita and having my shoes shined while I took today’s picture. Next to me were two young Maya men from the Quiché Department talking in the K’iche’ language and doing something with their phones which I did not understand. I asked them what they were doing and they kindly and slowly explained to me that they were swapping videos and music via bluetooth. Hah? I uttered and they spoke slowly and with terms a neophyte like myself could understand. 😉

I asked where they had gotten the videos and music in the first place. “Oh, from various sources,” they said. “Sometimes we swap among friends, like right now. Other times we download from the internet or get them from cyber-cafes.” The two men kept flying through the telephone keyboards without missing a keystroke while explaining all those hi-tech things to me. It was like the scene from Martin Scorsese’s The Departed – where the infiltrated Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) sends a warning text message while keying it blindly because the telephone was in his pants packet.

Both of the young Maya men, under the age of 25, are from San Antonio Ilotenango, Quiché and are entrepreneurs. The hand on the left belongs to the owner of several ice cream carts through La Antigua Guatemala. The other hand belongs to a shoe shiner with several boxes around the Main Plaza.

That day I learned that the Maya are not sitting down waiting for “us” to bring them the technology and the knowledge of “how to use it.” That day I learned to be hopeful of the New Guatemala that peeks from just around the corner of the near future. That day I was reassured that Internet access in every corner of Guatemala will become a realty sooner than I expected; that edge and 3G mobile smart phones with Internet access are being used by a wider range of people than I expected; that Open School computer workshops are benefiting a lot of people who are usually off our attention radar.

It’s like what George Whitesides said in his recent TED talk, A lab the size of a postage stamp about the cellphones: “I don’t know if the idea of one computer, one child makes any sense anymore; here’s the computer of the future… The screen is already there and the device is pretty ubiquitous.”

That day I left the park with my shoes shined, my appetite satisfied, my heart full and a big smile on my face. Life is good!

© 2010 – 2020, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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