Travel Story : Angels in Guatemala : Traveller / Traveler in Central America :: From the Planet Pilgrim World Traveller Series
Angels in Guatemala
Cathedral in Antigua, Guatemala (Christmas 1980)
According to my Spanish language teacher, Pablo, an American cobalt and zinc mine and smelter was the largest industrial concern in Guatemala in 1980. This, along with the huge agribusiness of the United Fruit Company, was posed as evidence that U.S.-based industry thrived in this part of the world. And apparently these businesses paid very little tax in Guatemala, while usually being given government approval with virtually "no questions asked" (as many locals had said).
Terms such as "puppet government" and "neo-imperialism" were in common currency while thousands of Guatemalteco men were said to have run into the northern mountains to live as political guerrillas. In fact, while living in the town of Antigua in the mountains outside of Guatemala City, I stayed with a family who gave board and lodging to a local school teacher whose brother "disappeared" during the traditional, religious celebration of the "Day of the Devil's Fire" on the 7th. of December of that year. It happened after he had been visited by "the authorities" in the north of the country.
Pablo talked about his country being a sad example of a revolution against a puppet government (with the USA pulling the strings). For the last year there had been increasing guerrilla fighting in the north. He said that if the government heard of outspoken dissidence in any towns, they would send in the police to arrest and/or shoot the offenders. As a result, in a few northern towns there were very few men living because many had fled into the mountains to live as guerrilleros.
A defiant revolutionary culture of sacrifice had developed, whereby the "Angels" in Guatemala were those who had died for the revolution against the imperialist-backed oppressors. Their self-sacrifice on earth allowed them to become angels in heaven. Pablo was a 22-year old university student who had written a novel titled "Angel" about such a revolutionary. This occurred against a backdrop of idealistic young American Peace Corps workers helping local villages while being part of a much larger public relations exercise.
The fiesta raged, marimbas played, ponchos draped over the effigies of a pantheon of Catholic saints, Mayan gods were still worshipped on hilltops and delicious tamales baked in banana leaves among the ruins of earthquakes. Meanwhile ...... army tanks shuddered along cobblestone streets as angels hovered in the shadows under a seething volcano.
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