Guatemala: Migrants and the Holidays

The holidays are a time for families to gather and share in one another's company. In Guatemala, many have relatives that have migrated outside of the country for better opportunities and as a result, many are not able to return to Guatemala or deportations have separated loved ones. For those that are able to and choose to return home, the sights at airports are memorable.

One of the pro-migrant bloggers is a remarkable young man, named Kyle de Beausset, where on his site Citizen Orange , he compiles several views on migrant issues. He answers the question: Who is a migrant, what is it all about?

For the last two years, I generally characterized migrants as a sort of “them”. Even though its accidental, as many of these systemic ways of thinking are, I have been separating myself from the migrants whose injustice I want to bring to light. I've always talked about the fear other migrants have been dealing with and the injustice other migrants have suffered. I've meant well, of course, but in seperating migrants from myself I've given into the forces that seek to define migrants as others. More importantly though, I ignore the fundamental truth that if another migrant lives in fear — I live in fear; that if another migrant suffers an injustice — I suffer an injustice. This is because we are all one. An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are all migrants. We move somewhere everyday. Whether its something as simple as going to work or school, or it's something as significant as moving half a world a way, we all move in someway or another. That is what it means to be a migrant, to migrate. The problem here is that millions of people, for one reason or another, have been criminalized for the simple act of moving.

Wise words of blog Principios [es], on his post Born, Never Hiding.

Emigrar, a pesar de los peligros y riesgos que enfrentan, representa un renacer para quienes el presente gris ofrece un futuro negro, ausente de color. Aunque algunos llegan a pagar la osadía de desafiar a los gobiernos de los países desarrollados con su propia vida, todos esperan encontrar un mejor mañana en tierra ajena. De otra manera, nunca se arriesgarían.

To migrate, in spite of the dangers and risks that one faces, represents a rebirth for those with a grey present and a dark and colorless future. Even though some, who challenge the governments of underdeveloped countries, pay with their lives, all of them hope to find a better tomorrow far from their homeland. Otherwise, they wouldn't risk themselves.

The holidays bring about reunited families of those that have migrated. Emotions at the airport are shared by blogger Homo homini lupus [es], describing his experience sharing the plane with migrants coming back home on his post “el futuro de Guatemala está en los mojados

Ellos, traen dinero, regalos, maletas y más maletas. Los otros, se emocionan al ver pasar a quien es potencialmente “el Pedro” y corren a ser los primeros para abrazarlo. Mi avión venía repleto de potenciales “Pedros y Marías”. Más de cien asientos estaban cargados de inmigrantes que hablan mal inglés, visten como inmigrantes de pocos recursos en Estados Unidos y estrenan sus mejores vestidos para regresar a Guatemala. Copetes sensuales, blusas con encajes, botas vaqueras lustradas, brutales radios como equipaje de mano, tennis Nike nuevitos y brillosos, maletas y más maletas. Una lluvia de emociones, sentimientos y pasiones. ¡Mujeres que lloran al tocar tierra guatemalteca, abrazos y gritos al atravesar la puerta de salida!

They bring money, presents, suitcases and more suitcases. The others are really excited to see a potential “Pedro” pass by and run to be the first one to hug him. My flight was crowded of potencial Pedros and Marias. More than hundred seats were occupied by migrants, with their poor English and their clothes typical of underpaied migrants in U.S., who dress in their best clothes to come back to Guatemala. Sexy hairstyle, blouses with laces, shiny cowboy boots, wild music players as hand luggage, brand new Nikes, suitcases and more suitcases. A shower of emotions, feelings and passion. Women crying because they are on Guatemalan soil, hugs and screams at the moment they exit the airport.

It is important for everyone to be at home for the holidays, you can see the airports busy, a lot of lost suitcases, and many warm welcomes at the airports around the world, and Guatemala is not an exception. But, for migrants, home is a relative concept, according to El Toronteco, a guatemalan blogger in Canada:

No, I am not catching a plane at the last minute to visit my family, my beloved family, in the warmer (everything is relative) Guatemala, my motherland. Neither have I bought a “home” a marketing term for a “house” (Aeronica, the Nicaraguan national airline, had a nice slogan: “Your origin, your destiny”. Another great example of the marketing of this “blessed word”) . What I am doing is making a conscious decision of staying home. Settling down is a phrase that comes to my mind, though not in its common use. The Spanish term “sentar cabeza” literally means “to seat your head down”. That is what I am doing, putting my head on the ground and calling whatever piece of ground I am standing in HOME. Home is a high commodity. It trades at inflated prices particularly around the end of the Gregorian calendar year. After getting my citizenship in 2005 I decided to visit my family as soon as work let me. I compared ticket prices for traveling at the end of December, against traveling in February, for Reading Week. The ticket was a third cheaper for Reading Week (OK, it was approx $400 less but 1/3 sounds more dramatic). In that time of my life, coincidentally, I was still saying “home” to refer to my motherland, little did I know that I was near the end of a period of denial of my Guatemalan identity.

Luchas Libres y más [es], on her post Sin documentos:

…han regresado 16,890 guatemaltecos que fueron deportados de Estados Unidos. Casi un avión diario regresa a Guatemala con los sueños en pedazos de hombres y mujeres que han dejado parte de su vida en las cocinas, campos, y construcciones estadounidenses. Muchos de ellos incluso tienen familias que se han roto por estas constantes deportaciones. Niños que se quedan sin padre, madres que se que quedan sin hijos, esposos separados, abuelos sin nietos, toda una sociedad fragmentada por el único pecado de querer salir adelante sin pensar en fronteras. ¿Qué ha hecho Berger por acabar con esta situación? ¿Qué resultados puede mostrarnos Marta Altolaguirre? ¿Quién defiende a los migrantes de tantos abusos?

.. there have been 16,890 Guatemalans deported from U.S. There is almost one daily flight back to Guatemala with the dreams of women and men in pieces, dreams left in kitchens, fields and construction sites in the U.S. Many of them even have been separated from their families because of deportation. Children are left without fathers, mothers are left without their children, separated couples, grandparents without their grandchildren, a whole society separated and fragmented with their only error was the desire to progress without thinking about the borders. What has the President Berger done to end this situation? What are the results that Marta Altolaguirre can demonstrate? Who defends the migrants from so many abuses?

During the holidays nostalgia for the place we call home is in the air, because sometimes “home” is a country, sometimes is a person, or a mixure of both. Migration increases the complexities but also makes us realize that actually a city, a country, the whole planet can be our homeland. And as Mr. De Beausset said, “we are all migrants, dreamers, with a home, somewhere, always waiting there for us.”


  • Lo raro es que en Guatemala la doble ,moral CONSERVADORA, nos considera COBARDES por ”CORRER” del pais y en los Estados Unidos No ”APRECIAN” la labor que hacemos en el mercado de servicios, porque segun los mas ORTODOXOS republicanos, les quitamos la chamba a los ‘pobres’ de aqui…

  • “Qué ha hecho el Presidente Berger y qué ha hecho Marta Altolaguirre en favor de los migrantes?”

    Inicialmente debo decir que los avances que se introdujeron y se ampliaron en estos cuatro años, no pueden atribuirse a personas sino a instituciones.
    En ese marco, cabe comunicar las acciones concretas siguientes:
    1- Se integró el Grupo Interinstitucional para la atención de los Migrantes, con participación de organizaciones como Casa Alianza, Mesa Nacional de Migraciones y otras
    2- Se creó el fondo para la repatriación de personas fallecidas y vulnerables. En 2007 se repatriaron 247 personas fallecidas y 11 vulnerables.
    3- Se fortaleció el servicio consular con tres nuevos consulados en Estados Unidos y tres mas en México. Se incrementó el personas y se amplió en número de consulados móviles en EUA, llegando a 136 en 2007 mas de 62,000 guatemaltecos.
    4- En consenso con la diáspora se elaboró una política pública para la atención de los migrantes, la cual propone las acciones progresivas a implementar.

    5- Con el apoyo del Banco Industrial se instala un call center, número 188-3648283 que funciona desde cualquier teléfono en Estados Unidos para resolver consultas.
    6- Se activa en instalaciones de Cancillería un Centro de Atención al Migrantes con servicios de asesorías diversas y comunicaciones internacionales.
    7- Se implementa la participación de Guatemala en la Semana Bi-nacional de la Salud apoyado y co-patrocinado por la Universidad de California. La actividad en 2007 implicó a los 11 consulados guatemaltecos que organizaron 245 actividades y se atendieron mas de 46,000 guatemaltecos.
    8- Se incrementó el número de trabajadores que participan en el Programa de trabajadores agrícolas en Canadá.
    9- Se implementa un programa de recepción a los deportados de Estados Unidos, facilitándose el tralado de los deportados a su lugar de origen, llamada telefónica gratuita, refacción e información sobre fuentes de empleo. Con apoyo de Banrural se facilita el cambio de cheques y moneda a la tasa del día.
    10- Se concluyó la primera fase del programa para la reincorporación integral de personas deportadas, que incluirá capacitación y becas, apoyo psico-social, asesoría en proyectos productivos e inversión y micro-créditos.

    Por su parte, se trabajó en diversos convenios de cooperación con México y se logró la regularización de miles de guatemaltecos en aquel país luego de facilitarles su pasaporte guatemalteco.

    Se mantuvo comunicación y cabildeo con autoridades en EStados Unidos, a ditintos niveles, tanto con el Presidente Bush y Secretarios y Sub-Secretarios de Estado como con Congresistas, Senadores y sus asesores.

    Como es de todos conocido, solamente el crecimiento y aumento de las oportunidades de estudios y empleos va a eliminar la migración forzada y Guatemala ha asumido su parte para impulsar el desarrollo rural y mejorar su inversión social.

    El endurecimiento de la vigilancia en la frontera así como las leyes destinadas a sancionar a los empresarios que contraten personas indocumentadas, la evidente xenofobia que se refleja en algunos medios de comunicación y la linea anti-inmigrante que prevalece en los candidatos republicanos y también demócratas seguramente van a incidir en una disminución del flujo migratorio hacia Estados Unidos.

    En todo caso, el Estado guatemalteco reconoce el aporte de los migrantes para superar la pobreza de sus familias y lamenta que en EStados Unidos no se reconozca el aporte que han dado los latinoamericanos a la competitivdad y el crecimiento de la economía estadounidense.

    Marta Altolaguirre
    Para mas información acceder al sitio web:

  • Short Blog Round-Up…

    Rather than comment on these two entries, I just thought I’d point people to them because they deserve to be read.I’ve been meaning to write something on how the prison industry in the U.S. has looked to migrant detention for……

  • I will like to thank former vice Minister Marta Altolaguirre to participate and for their comments. It is important also to stress that media have to play an important role to let us know the resources available for migrants.

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