by Cathy Burrell
We began our day visiting Antigua, a beautiful colonial city. There we had free time to explore and walk along the cobblestone streets. Some of us explored museums or art galleries. Others looked at jade stores, walked through markets or stopped for coffee. We ended our time by having lunch in the gardens of the Saberico restaurant.
After lunch, we visited the University del Valle in Guatemala City, the number one private university in Central America. There we met with Andres Alvarez, Dean of Social Sciences and Dr. Aracely Martinez Rodas, the Director of the Master in Development Program in Social Sciences. She wrote her dissertation on Guatemalan migrants who have been organizing in the United States. They talked with us about migration, its causes and and effects on the migrants. They discussed the three causes of migration. First are the structural factors including poverty, inequality, violence and domestic violence. Secondly, by international law, people have the right to migrate and Guatemalans are already a transnational community that used to enjoy more opportunities to travel more fluidly. Guatemalans have been migrating since the 1940s. There are currently 2 million Guatemalans in the United States, 2% of the immigrant population. Many people want to reunite with family or feel the pull of migrating from the stories that they hear. Lastly, climate change is causing people to migrate. People are fleeing famine. This effects the poorest people.
There are organizations that are helping migrants and working to influence decision makers in Washington D.C. Latin American Working Group and Pastoral Maya are two of these groups.
We ended our day with our final reflection. During our time here we have been reunited with old friends we have made new friends. We have learned about the history of El Salvador and Guatemala and the reasons that its people migrate. We have been touched and inspired by the people of Central America.