Cultural awareness and Guatemala news

As an adoptive parent to two children born in Guatemala, I’m often asked how I keep our children’s culture alive. After first repeating how important culture-keeping is for our family, I list some of what we do: Study Spanish, collect and study Guatemalan arts and crafts, follow Guatemalan politics and current events, listen to Latin music, eat Central American food, attend culture camp, visit Guatemala.

But is this enough? I often wonder what else I can do to keep my children’s birth culture alive.

That’s why I was very happy to find a related article by first-generation, Colombian-Argentine writer Jennifer Lubrani, a contributor to Travelojos, The Latin American Travel Blog. In the piece, ”My New Year’s Resolution: Get Cultured,” Lubrani describes the five ways she vows to learn more about her culture this year.

Learn the language.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Comida, por favor.

Reading Lubrani’s list made me feel better about our efforts. Except for studying Latin dance, we are doing everything she recommends. (2011 may be the year we finally sign up for salsa.) It was also nice for me to read that even for Lubrani, growing up in a Spanish-speaking home with two biological parents, culture-keeping remains a challenge. Another good point Lubrani makes is that each Latin culture is unique, different from every other. Guatemala is not Mexico, nor is it Costa Rica. Lubrani writes:

I’m a first-generation Colombiana/Argentina. My parents migrated to New York from South America many años ago. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents who taught and encouraged my siblings and I to keep traditions and customs from their homelands.

As a result, I’m bilingual and I can speak to you as if I were a bonafide “Rola” from Bogota or transition into sprinkling lots of “che” into my conversations as if I were a native Porteña from Argentina.

I’ve also come to appreciate the many traditions that are shared between both countries such as a passion for fútbol or making sure family comes above all else. However, I’ve also learned cultural aspects that make these two countries seem worlds apart.

Read the article here.

As much as I hate posting bad news about Guatemala, I personally like knowing what’s happening there. The headline of this report by Rory Carroll in the UK Guardian, says it all: ”Drug Gangs Seize Parts of Northern Guatemala.”

Narco gangs have opened a new front in South America’s expanding drug war by seizing control of parts of northern Guatemala, prompting the government to suspend civil liberties and declare a state of siege in the area.

Hundreds of soldiers have reinforced police units in an offensive against a Mexican cartel known as the Zetas which is said to have overrun Alta Verapaz province.

The mayhem has deepened alarm that Mexico‘s drug war has spilled across southern neighbours and corrupted state institutions that are proving no match for well-funded, ruthless crime syndicates.

“It’s very worrying to see this moving down from Mexico to weaker neighbours. Their institutions are being infiltrated by organised crime,” said Silke Pfeiffer, acting Latin America programme director for the International Crisis Group thinktank.

Guatemala declared a month-long state of siege in Alta Verapaz on 19 December after gunmen with assault rifles, grenades and armoured vehicles started openly cruising cities such as Coban.

The move, permitted under Guatemalan law when the “security of the state is in danger,” let soldiers ban guns and public gatherings, censor local media and search and detain suspects without warrants.

On Monday, January 3, the Associated Press reported that a bomb was detonated on a bus in Guatemala City and killed six people. The Guardian article concludes that the country’s rampant and dangerous drug activity and unchecked violence on buses will likely affect the outcome of this year’s Presidential election:

Analysts say the perception of chaos could benefit the rightwing candidacy of Otto Perez Molina, a retired army general, in August’s presidential election. The former head of military intelligence is tainted by human rights abuses under his watch but his promise of a “mano dura” (firm hand) against crime resonated in the 2007 election, when he came second, and could yet put him into the presidential palace.

Read the article here.  


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