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Journal 4

Friday, January 30

I experienced something today that has been on my mind for some time but have never experienced firsthand since being down here. The group was divided up into little groups of 4 or 5 and given Q34.20 ($4.28), the minimum wage here per day, to spend on food in the market.

I was amazed at the little variety we could get and the little quantity we were able to purchase when we did. We returned to CASAS and through Hector Casteneda, the speaker for the day, we saw the statistics and figures of the wealth of the common person in Guatemala. Our trip to La Esmeralda and yesterday’s trip to the city dump opened my eyes a little to see how many people have almost nothing but the clothes on their backs. But it wasn’t until I saw the statistics and figures of the population that it hit me hard. People work extremely hard in the maquillas and sweat shops under extremely harsh conditions for 10-14 hours per day for very little. I found it hard just to buy enough food for a family of 5 or 6, let alone figure out how to afford a house or send kids to school.

In the economic activity and lecture afterwards, I began to question the activity of the U.S. The people are working so hard on clothes that are shipped to the US and sold for $30-$40 and sometimes more and only making around $4.28 a day, sometimes less.

The U.S. was founded on and supports life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our own country, but exploits others for financial gain and economic dominance. We are so blind by the greed for money and power that we don’t care about the lifestyle and living conditions of people in other countries. People in these countries may see the prosperity in the US but due to lack of funds, aren’t educated enough to understand the exploitation that is happening in their own backyard.

I look at September 11th and the two places that were successfully attacked: The World Trade Center, where a lot of US and foreign money goes through and the Pentagon, our country’s center for power. We, as Americans, have been fed through the media (of course owned by Americans) that these attacks were terrorism. Yes,
it was terrorism, but maybe some of the 3rd world countries that aided in these attacks have become fed up with the exploitation of the U.S. They successfully attacked two of the centers that we used for this and we are so blind from not being informed in the foreign policy that is going on that we go and bomb them right back. Then, in turn, we have to suffer a war that has been caused by the greed of our top businessmen and the only pity we get is from the countries that we support and work fairly with.

When two percent of the population here in Guatemala control around sixty-five percent of the total wealth and in some occasions those persons live in the US; how much of a democracy do you really have when these two percent are very influential in the government?

How can the US be so blind or unconcerned with the conditions they are causing? My conscience says greed, but my mind is still unsure.

- Michael Horst

Photo galleries:
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Gallery 7

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Gallery 1