The Real Issue

Muni Post Party by Sergio Dominguez

For those of us who have visited Xela, lived here or seen pictures, the Municipal Building is indeed a gorgeous example of Xela architecture. This shot however, taken by guest contributor Sergio Dominguez, shows the tiled floor of the “Muni” covered in garbage. I have seen similar scenes in other countries and yes, granted this was after a party in Central Park. But truth is, Guatemala has a garbage issue.

It’s surprising to see, because in so many ways, Guatemalans are such hard workers…constantly sweeping their doorsteps or spraying down the dust that arises during dry season. It was not in Guatemala that I first saw someone open a candy bar and toss the wrapper on the ground, but that behavior is common here and it is extremely troubling. If you read XDP often, you know I applaud the hard work done by the Xela Limpia fellows. Truth is, we need them, badly.

But beyond that, education is needed about the damage that is done to the land as our generations litter and no one changes. Much of the flooding in Xela during rainy season is not only due to poor infrastructure/drainage systems, it is due to the garbage that lines and fills the grates of the drains themselves.

It was good to see that this year, outdoor garbage cans have been added to many streets in the center. Although small, a little frail looking and hung on the posts on the sidewalks, I do see them filled and emptied as time passes. This is a good sign, a step in the right direction.

I’m not sure what can be done about this. I recall hearing an American say once that the U.S. went through a very similar thing in the 1940’s/1950’s, until someone (perhaps the President?) stepped forward and initiated and made law, that things had to change. There was massive education on littering and it’s effects. I remember when I was a child, seeing commercials on tv about how disrespectful is it to throw your waste on the ground. That stuck with me.

This is such a beautiful country, rich with culture, passion, art, love, music, faith and so many other wondrous things. What needs to be done to change how people treat this wonderful land?

© 2012, Luna McCarthy. All rights reserved.

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  • NYChapin

    Thank you Luna for shedding light on this issue and your interest in making a difference. I think that both officials and individuals need to be heldaccountable for the continuous efforts to keep the city clean. In addition to education, campaigns and bins, a long term plan needs to be proposed and discussed by both sides. My family is from San Lucas Toliman, Solola. The 13 kilometer drive to Santiago Atitlan is carpeted with garbage on both sides of the road. What the f@$% ?
    However, if you visit the town of San Juan La Laguna, you find spotless streets. They have a system that is working, officials should go and find out why….

    • LunaMcCarthy

      Such good points, the government does have to take accountability and educate the people as to WHY this is important. If they need to fine people or spend money on education, so be it! Thanks for your comments NYChapin!

      • Thanks Luna for bringing this issue forward. Littering is indeed a Guatemalan problem deeply rooted in the culture. It will take tremendous efforts and permanent awareness campaigns to eradicate it.

    • NYChapin, do you know what are they doing right at San Juan La Laguna? Thanks for sharing this information, I didn’t know about San Juan La Laguna cleanliness.

  • Cristina

    You definitely have to start by educating children. I remember that as a child, my teachers made throwing garbage on the floor tantamount to a cardinal sin, and I still see it that way. My kids won´t even think about littering and have corrected several people who do. That´s the most effective way to do it!

    • Education and awareness campaign are where the solutions to many issues in Guatemala can be found.

    • LunaMcCarthy

      Such good points Cristina! We need to educate them YOUNG! 🙂

  • NYChapin

    Rudy, funny that you ask… I have been told by some relatives that one of the measures they take in San Juan is mandating the parents of young people who get caught littering, to perform community service, possibly cleaning the streets, as a punishment for the young ones offense. I can’t confirm that it is true, pero eso es lo que me an dicho. Perhaps you can visit San Juan and conduct some investigating work on behalf of the Dailyphoto family?

    Luna: I have a pretty good shot of one such clean streets, should you be interested in posting it as a “guest contributor”

    • LunaMcCarthy

      NYChapin…thanks for your input…I’d love to see such fotos! You can send me what you want to and I might just post a follow up to this post 😉 The email address is:

      eye.of.the.beholder@live.com