Guatemala is viewed as a dangerous place to go. Well, that’s what my mom thought. But I was one of six Cabrini students and two faculty members who went to the third world country below Mexico to see a completely different lifestyle than what we “gringos,” the term Guatemalans have for Americans, are used to in the United States.
Before taking my first trip out of the country my mom was in a frenzy. She was worried about me getting kidnapped or sold to the open market.
What I think is the misconception of lower income countries is that everywhere in that country is dangerous. People listen, read, and watch news stories about how a bus blew up and people died or a girl was kidnapped in this one major city which a lot of people, like my mom, believe to happen continuously throughout all the cities and towns.
When we arrived in Guatemala City, I was surprised to see just how different yet familiar everything seemed, at least from inside the airport. Outside of the airport, it reminded me of a dilapidated big city. It seemed run down from lack of funding, corrupt government, and the scars from its recent civil war. I didn’t get to walk around Guatemala City; instead we went straight to the Mayan city of San Lucas.
San Lucas is not like many of its surrounding towns; economically it’s more advanced and growing faster than most of the other towns. Contradictory to what my mom believed, I felt safe in this town. The people are very friendly and the town works as a whole, working with one another to benefit everyone who lives in the city.
What I also think is incredible is how technologically advanced they were compared to what I expected. I envisioned a 1990 computer with a broken mouse, maybe a phone here or there, and that only a few people would have cell phones that work. I was surprised to see that everyone had cell phones, that internet was very common, and that they are more connected to the world than I originally thought.
Despite the surprising state of the city, we were given rules like don’t go out at night. The rules partially had to do with the dog fights that were going on every night, and we had a curfew of 9:00 p.m. every night.
What I’ve come to realize is that Guatemala is like every other city, town, or community that the United States has. There are dangerous parts, places where I need to watch out. But the problem with Guatemala is that it is in poverty; whatever they experience will be worse than if it happened here or in any other well-developed country.
By visiting Guatemala, I was able to see a completely different lifestyle. The community, the way they dress, and their culture as a whole is something to admire, especially since they have overcome their corrupt government and overall poverty.
I’ve come to better appreciate what we have in the U.S., everything from the fast food to the beds to the plumbing.
It’s something that we as Americans are used to and forget how spoiled we are. I like my luxuries, but I respect those that live in less privileged and unfortunate cultures.