By: Jackson Kiland
Since being in Guatemala, I have noticed that the authentic Guatemalan culture has been pushed out by the growth and expansion of tourism. Much like an invasive species, foreign countries seem to invade Guatemala. They destroy and strangle its real identity, leaving nothing but a twisted foreign perspective. Cities like San Pedro and Antigua look more like foreign countries than of their original culture. When walking around San Pedro and Antigua there are many tattoo parlors or bars, all run by foreigners – so, in some places, the people profiting off tourism are not even Guatemalan. When a tourist comes to Guatemala their money is most likely not going to support the authentic culture, but the fake plastic reality created by tourism itself. We have pushed our own culture on to the lives of others, which in Guatemala’s case is not beneficial. This is because the United States has led the government of Guatemala to prioritize their economy over their own people, especially because of the role we played with the United Fruit Company. The roads that are nicely paved are the roads used to transport goods like fruit. The cities that are taken care of are only the fake plastic towns that provide economic value through tourism. Due to the Guatemalan government being put into a position to favor the economy, a lack of equal opportunity is created among citizens. Individuals living in remote villages do not have access to the same resources or education as the citizens that live in in areas of large economic value do. Leaving the citizens of those remote villages economically stranded with little to no political representation. Throughout this whole experience I have felt ashamed by the United States and capitalism’s negative impact on Guatemala. Although I believe that it is important to visit different cultures, I have reflected that there are better ways to do so.
I believe the best way to visit countries like Guatemala without contributing to the removal of local culture is by being mindful of the places you visit, by making sure you are supporting a local family or business, and learning about the differences between a tourist experience and a cultural experience. The strange “comfort” that San Pedro and Antigua provide may be appealing, but do not accurately represent the true culture of Guatemala. For me, places like Cerro de Oro are my favorite places to travel. I can build relationships and connect with individuals who’s culture is vastly different from my own. In the remote villages we are able to support local families, not foreign capitalism. By being surrounded by the authentic culture we are able to gain a much needed deeper experience. Although, some parts of this trip did not goes as I expected, I am grateful that I was able to continue my growth in becoming a more mindful and engaged global citizen.