Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brief Thoughts On Guatemala

I know a bunch of people who live in Guatemala. Mostly it's people who have something to do with UFM, the University Francisco Marroquin, which has a distinctly pro-free-markets culture. That makes it a rarity in Latin America. They actually have a big bas-relief of Atlas holding up the industrial world with a quote from Ayn Rand displayed. Here I am with my wife in front of "Atlas Libertas".


The University seems like a well-run operation. I was invited into their network-monitoring room and was suitably impressed. The part of the school I know the most about is actually a relatively new component, the Michael Polanyi College, which is an English language operation with some parallels to the program at St. John's College, where my daughter took her degree. The central parallel is the intense usage of respectful and text-focused group discussion.

"Instead of attending a series of lectures and taking end-of-term memorize-and-forget exams, students at MPC engage in dialogues, debates, group work, creative and analytical writing, and other activities that illuminate core texts of enduring value. The program is centered on the reading of texts that invite us to explore, understand, and advance the frontiers of knowledge."

I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of group discussions, and had a great time. I hope I didn't derail the train for anybody. Sometimes my mind shoots off on tangents.

As for Guatemala itself, it's a confusing society, with a lot of talented people, a lot of good food, a wonderful climate - but deeply dysfunctional public institutions.

You can't drink the water out of the tap. It's contaminated. That's actually not so bad, if you can just remember not to run tap water over your tooth brush. I, of course, kept forgetting. I was pretty careful, and did not get sick. Well, no symptoms so far.

But the real problem is ordinary security. The streets are mostly not safe. Delivery trucks often have a guy riding shotgun - with a real shotgun.


Photo is from here, but I saw the same sort of thing in person, repeatedly. It's much worse than New York City was in the Seventies. But NYC did get better, basically by cracking down intelligently. Maybe Guatemala can figure out a way to do that too.

Next up in Guatemala: consequences from the drought that made a lie of their "rainy season" this year.

"Guatemala’s government declared a state of emergency in 16 of the country’s 22 provinces Monday as Central America suffers one its worst droughts in decades. Experts have warned that major crop losses – mostly in the region's staples of corn and beans - and the deaths of hundreds of cattle could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food."

I admit I'm glad to be back
where basics do not lack.

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