I finally got around to watching the Grand Rapids lip dub of Don McClean’s”American Pie.” As I watched I was overcome with a longing for…what? Yes, I miss my family, my friends, and I wish I could be in Grand Rapids for Art Prize 2011, but I haven’t LIVED in GR since I left for college. It took me a bit to place my longing, and when I did, I realized that I was actually longing for Guatemala City.
The Grand Rapids video displays a safe, warm, community focused city who’s really proud of herself. (why herself? la ciudad, of course!) GR is by no means perfect, I know – but any city that has the capability of organizing a video like that does have a lot going for herself.
The city I live in offers a very different reality. In Guatemala City, it’s unsafe to be out past 8:30pm in most parts of town, corruption flows from the highest political positions down to embezzlement at the corner store. Guatemala tops statistical categories in murder rate, gun ownership, violence, and crime. Faces of the “disappeared,” people unaccounted for from the genocides during the internal armed conflict, plaster downtown buildings, while another group of forgotten people spend their days hunting through the garbage dump in order to make a living and find food for their families.
When I watched the GR video, two cities came face to face. One city proudly looked into the face of criticism and showed exactly what it has to offer. The other city seems to be crumpling under the weight of all she has to carry. However, while the city wearily sighs and struggles to survive, its inhabitants prove resilient time and again – the guajeros daily head to the dump, art festivals take over city blocks and graffiti tells the stories of the people. Hospitality reigns even in the most impoverished communities.
While the cities themselves seem so different, the spirit and resilience of the people display the same desire to overcome adversity and prove the critics wrong.
Interested in the history and stories of Guatemala – check out the following documentaries and books:
Recycled Life: http://www.recycledlifedoc.com/