The Problems Facing Guatemala

This article is an excellent summary of the myriad of problems facing Guatemala:

In addition to being a good source of information, it touches on many of the areas that we are working on during our time living here in the Western Highlands (which is the region that this article focuses on).

Much of Meg's work in the clinic is involved identifying and treating the myriad of health problems related to malnutrition. In addition, she has just started a nutrition project to provide nutritional supplements to children at risk of malnutrition.

While Jed's primary focus has been on preparing an election monitoring effort for this fall's national presidential elections (which is mentioned by the article in passing), he has also been working with some smaller organizations on these type of issues. For example, he is working with Fundacion CAPAZ, which is a non-profit dedicated to teaching people how to properly and sustainably raise farm animals as a means to improve their nutrition and economic independence (more information is available at He is also assisting the Women's Justice Initiative, a new project dedicated to reducing gender barriers in Guatemala.

The Recent Adventures of Jack

As we previously mentioned here (see What's that in there? and ¡Ay! ¡Que Frio!), Jack causes quite a stir in his travels around Guatemala. While there are many possible explanations for this attention, the most likely theories are that:

a. Guatemalans just love children: This is generally true, as evidence let it be noted that purportedly the most American of family experiences involving kids began here- namely the Happy Meal and the McDonald's kiddie playground. However, it appears that Jack gets more than the average amount of baby attention, but perhaps every parent thinks this same thing (turns out parenthood can warp you perspective about the attributes of your own child).

b. Gringo babies are a rare breed down here: While it is true that the average baby in Guatemala does not have American parents, Jack is hardly an extremely distinctive child- he doesn't have a shock of blond hair or anything. In fact, he has the same dark hair and dark eyes as most Guatemalan children. Perhaps seeing foreigners with a baby is the most unusual part?

c. Jack is just a really cute baby: This is obviously undeniable true (or at least what we'd like to think- though see above about the potential warping effects of parenthood), as evidence:

Sometimes this attention can be nice- who doesn't like having complete strangers compliment them on how beautiful their baby is? Sometimes, it can be a little bit annoying- when we're trying to get somewhere in a hurry and people insist on stopping to touch Jack. Sometimes, it can be surprising- like when a girl of about 8 years old came up, kissed Jack on the cheek, and then tried to pick him up and carry him away. But sometimes it can be just downright strange- as in the following:

It is a Sunday morning and Jack and I are walking across Xela's main square, well, I'm walking and he's being carried- he is a very advanced child (see above about dilusional parental perspectives) but he's not quite walking yet at 5 months. An old woman comes up to us and says something, expecting the usual "what a beautiful child" I give a preemptive "yes, thank you".

But then it becomes clear to me that the woman has actually said something else and is rubbing Jack's little foot. So I say "sorry, I didn't hear you" and then she repeats what she said "Jesus". I can't believe that I've heard this right so I ask her to say it again, at which point is becomes clear that she is referring to Jack as Jesus.

By this point a crowd of children has gathered around and joined the old woman in rubbing Jack's foot. So, hoping to settle the situation, I say "No, he's not Jesus, he's my son, Jack". Well, this clearly doesn't get across as the woman repeats herself and points at Jack. At this point, I repeat that he's my son and politely excuse myself before rapidly retreating across the square. While I may have an inflated perspective of my wonderful son, this doesn't quite extend to him being a religious savior....

Lastly, however, Jack did recently get some attention from a special visitor to Guatemala:

This visit with Hillary Clinton led to Jack's first newspaper appearance (you may have to scroll right to see the actual article text, but see especially the last paragraph, which is translated into English below):

As it happens, at least according to the article, Hillary Clinton wasn't just in town to chat with Jack, but as the last paragraph notes (rough translation):

"Upon leaving, the Secretary took the opportunity to take some photos with the staff of the US Embassy in Guatemala as well as a couple with their baby who were in the hotel lobby." Well, it turns out that she didn't just happen across us, the whole meeting was orchestrated by Meg's brother Jake, who is on her staff. Though to a Guatemalan it probably didn't seem strange that the Secretary of State should stop to compliment a cute baby, as they would certainly do the same thing themselves...