The Beauty of Guatemala

In News // on August 24th, 2009 // by // No comment

A barista shares her thoughts on Guatemala and her travels there while working with Habitat for Humanity.

Building Homes with Habitat for Humanity The air smelled the same as I remembered. There has always been something oddly comforting to me about the diesel-exhaust-scented air in some of the poorer countries I’ve visited. Unlike other places, the Guatemalan breeze has a deliciously spicy quality added to it, which must come from the kind of wood that’s burned in the old fashioned wood stoves used there. When our group of 16 Heine Brothers’ customers and baristas arrived in Guatemala City’s airport on July 4, I had been patiently waiting for a wiff that busy, dirty underdeveloped-country-air for over 2 years. It was well worth the wait.

I find myself intoxicated by sensory overload each time I visit Guatemala. Upon arrival, I am first overwhelmed by the over-crowded, ever-noisy streets of the capital. A few hours later, I find myself gripping the van seat in front of me as our driver plays chicken with an oncoming vehicle (this is very common and very “safe” in Guate). Soon, the air is saturated with that sweet, wood-smoke and diesel mixture. The further from the city we drive, the bluer the sky becomes- a blue so deep and bright that I’m certain I will never experience anything like it through the veil of pollution in the Ohio valley. As we drive roads bordered by coffee and banana farms, volcanoes rise above us on either side- some asleep and some still spitting smoke and lava. And then, when I am certain that not an ounce more beauty could possibly be packed into this magical place, I remember the Guatemalan people. The Mayan women, adorned with braids or hair wraps and their brightly colored traditional outfits, intrigue me the most. They are holding on to their traditions, their heritage in a way I seldom experience at home. In all my travels, I have yet to find places more intriguingly beautiful, or a people more kind and welcoming than those of the highlands of Guatemala.

Guatemala Its amazing to me that a country with such a lush landscape and the kindest of people can also be overrun with poverty to the degree that it is. According to the CIA Factbook, more than 50% of the Guatemalan population lives below the poverty line. A 36-year civil war that finally ended in 1996 and regular destruction by hurricanes and earthquakes have certainly not helped the economic situation. Community supported organizations like Habitat for Humanity are reaching out to the people of Guatemala, with both hope and practical solutions to combat the stronghold of poverty. Habitat for Humanity has been building homes in Guatemala since 1980 and has completed more than 25,000 houses to date. The work that Habitat does is community based and facilitated entirely by staff and volunteers from within Guatemala. They offer low and no-interest home loans to folks who would normally be denied financing. Heine Brothers’ Coffee’s trip to Guatemala last month marked my fifth visit there. Volunteerism is the reason I first traveled to Guatemala, and its the reason I keep going back. I know that my contribution is small, but its sometimes the small things in life that make the most difference. Besides, I feel like its the least I can do, for a country and a people who have given me so much joy…. and the best tasting coffee in the world.

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