Independance Day- are we really free?

23 Sep

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A few days ago, Guatemala celebrated it’s Independence Day.  It falls on the same day as Mexico’s, but unlike last year which I spent shouting and dancing in the Zocalo (VIVA!), this year’s was spent watching school children parade about the tiny town of Livingston.  Some of the girls were quite sassy, and wearing colorful uniforms and shaking it about town.  Others looked more like delicate little flowers, wilting in the brutal sun.  And yet as all the children danced about town and all the men got wasted in the cantinas, I couldn’t help but wonder- are we really free?  Or is this fiesta just a grand cover-up for some of the massive injustices and inequalities that continue in Latin America?

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I later learned that most of the schoolchildren in the parade came from private schools, and that their parents had to pay for the uniforms and the instruments, which were pretty pricey for the average family here in Izabal.  Quite a few kids watched with jealous eyes from the sidelines, although one little guy found his own unique way to join in.  He just wants to play too.

Izabal 019smallerAs for me,  while I certainly enjoyed watching the most exciting thing I’ve seen thus far in the sleepy town of Livingston, the day seemed bittersweet.  While I raise my beer to Latin American independence from colonial rule,  I’ll celebrate with joy on the day that I’ll little children can afford to participate equally in any parade they want to, can eat all the rice and beans their little bellies can handle, and can swat away a mosquito without trembling in fear that they might fall victim to the latest wave of dengue fever that has been killing scores of young people in the area recently.

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