The day started a little later than the last few mornings. We enjoyed a nice breakfast that Jackie and Lisa brought to CSJ.

After breakfast we met with Luis Solano, an investigative journalist who was written about mining and oil/gas exploration in Guatemala. I think we could have easily spent the entire day asking him questions!

He talked about how the economic model that the Guatemalan government adopter after the Peace Accords were signed in 1996 is based heavily on encouraging foreign investment, and this is focused on mining/oil exports as well as huge agribusiness.

In order to encourage this investment, companies demanded from the government infrastructure that would allow them (the companies) to exploit and export at low cost.

He showed us how huge sections of land have been used  for building highways, hydroelectric dams, mines, for materials like gold, silver and nickel, as well as new and/or improved sea ports and airports.

Al of this “development” has been packaged and sold as a means to modernize and create jobs, but jobs for local workers last at best 3-6 months before (mostly) foreign workers are brought in who are more specialized, like engineers or other specialists.

Luis also shared how approximately 60% of all the land in Guatemala is owned by about 2% of the population. And this land makes up about 90% of the all the land that is best for agriculture.

It was easy to draw parallels with Canada, both in how the land was essentially taken from the First Nations indigenous people, but also how most economic wealth and power lies in the hands of very few people.

Luis’ talk was a great way to prepare the group for the coming week when we will meet with several groups and organizations that are trying to work outside of this exploit/export economic model.

After speaking with Luis, the rest of the day was spent in Antigua Guatemala, the former capital city.

For me, and I think for the group, I think it was a bit of a shock to the system. To go from Rio Negro with its quiet majestic beauty, to a city like Antigua was a challenge.

Fountain in Antigua's Central Plaza.

Fountain in Antigua’s Central Plaza.

Antigua is very much like major cities worldwide- a draw for tourists, vendors restaurants and people from all walks of life.

After the communities we had visited over the last week, Antigua felt almost like a caricature of what people would envision when they think of Guatemala.

As we only had the afternoon to explore the city, we stayed close to “Central Park” and visited local shops and restaurants, as well as the artisan market.

Men playing the marimba in Antigua.

Men playing the marimba in Antigua.

Antigua is an ancient city that has rebuilt after several earthquakes- I wish we had a chance to visit some more of the historical sites and beautiful churches, but I am looking forward to next week where we can continue to see more of the real Guatemala.

Read Day 7.

Read Day 5.