Costa Rica Coffee Guide

The life the migrants leave behind: The children of Guatemala

September 25, 2014

ANTIGUA, Guatemala – Walk the streets of Guatemala and children are everywhere.

They’re hoisted on their parents’ shoulders, blasting trumpets or banging drums in school parades, or playing pickup games of soccer. The luckier ones attend private schools and wear crisp uniforms. The most impoverished might walk barefoot, or chase after tourists in hopes of selling a trinket. Others offer a shoe shine for less than a dollar.

Almost half of Guatemalans are younger than 19, making their country the youngest in Latin America. That means nearly 7 million citizens were not alive in 1996 when government and guerrilla leaders signed a peace accord ending a bloody 36-year civil war.

But negotiated peace has done little to improve conditions in Guatemala. According to statistics tracked by several international organizations, the country lags behind most of its neighbors on measures of health care, education, literacy, malnutrition and public safety.

Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson
A drum band performs in the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, on Aug. 21, 2014 as part of a parade to mark the 150th anniversary of a local school. Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson

That’s a major reason why so many families, mostly from the impoverished rural western region of Guatemala, have decided in recent years to send young children north to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. An influx of unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America this summer strained federal agencies and sparked a new flash point in the years-long debate over immigration policy.

As each child’s case is reviewed by U.S. officials, some will be reunited with family members in the United States, and others will be sent back.

Once they return to Guatemala, “We have to put forth the effort and have the capacity to receive them, and take them to their place of origin, and once they’re home, provide them with education and with the social programs to help their families,” Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.

But Molina couldn’t detail how that process will unfold. It could take several months, maybe even years, to fully implement.

By then, the young faces will be older. Will they grow into adulthood and stay in Guatemala? Or will they, like so many other countrymen, try going north?

Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson
A young girl covers her ears in anticipation of fireworks that were set off as part of a parade that celebrated The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 21, 2014 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson

© 2014, The Washington Post

 

You may be interested

Top dental clinics in Costa Rica meet patient needs in the age of COVID
Dental Tourism
2502 views
Dental Tourism
2502 views

Top dental clinics in Costa Rica meet patient needs in the age of COVID

Vayolla Quiros / Goodness Dental - September 18, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its guidelines for dental settings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.…

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Friday, September 18
Costa Rica
5390 views
Costa Rica
5390 views

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Friday, September 18

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 18, 2020

Costa Rica announced 20 new coronavirus-related deaths over the last day for a total of 686, according to official data…

Costa Rica proposes tax measures as part of IMF negotiations
Costa Rica
770 views
Costa Rica
770 views

Costa Rica proposes tax measures as part of IMF negotiations

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 18, 2020

The Costa Rican Presidency on Thursday announced the fiscal measures it will present to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as…