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Guatemala 2021



Over an open fire, fragrant maize tortillas are prepared in the traditional way at the Don Pedro de Alvarado Spanish School in Antigua. Tuesday is a festive day at the school. To the background sounds of salsa music and children at play, teachers prepare lunch for schoolchildren from a nearby village, who come to the school to play together, enjoy a good meal, and socialize with the foreign students there to study Spanish.
Lisa Kummer © 2018

República de Guatemala
Central America

Area 42K mi2; 109K km2

Arable 8%

Population 17M (405/mi²; 156/km²)

Gov’t Presidential republic

Capital Guatemala City (2.9M)

GCP/capita $8,200

Unemployment 2%

In poverty 58%


Life expectancy 72 yrs

Infant Mortality 22/1K live births

Literacy 82%

Languages Spanish (off.) and 23 Amerindian indigenous languages, including Maya

Religions Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Maya

Health 6% of GDP

Education 3% of GDP (145th)

Military <1% of GDP (151st)

Labor Force Agriculture 31%, industry 13%, services 56%

PCVs 1963–present CURRENT: 158, Health, Youth in development, Feed the Future; TTD: 5,269

Adult Books

Knitting the Fog
By Claudia D. Hernández

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY (July 9, 2019)
Language: English
Setting: Guatemala and United States
ISBN-10: 1936932547
ISBN-13: 978-1936932542

Weaving together narrative essay and bilingual poetry, Knitting the Fog is the complex self-portrait of a young Chapina girl who wakes up to find her mother gone. Claudia and her two older sisters are taken in by their great aunt and their grandmother. When her mother returns three years later, they begin a month-long journey to El Norte. Once settled in California, Claudia has trouble assimilating—she doesn't speak English, and her Spanish is "weird"—but when back in Guatemala, she is startled to find she no longer belongs there either.

A harrowing story told with the candid innocence of childhood, Hernández’s memoir depicts the struggle and resilience inherent to immigration today.

About the author:
Claudia D. Hernández is a poet, editor, translator, and bilingual educator, born and raised in Guatemala. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and writes in Spanish and English, and sometimes weaves in Poqomchiʼ, an indigenous language of her Mayan heritage. Hernández is the founder of the ongoing photography project ”Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color.” She currently resides in Los Angeles.

Editorial Reviews
“In Knitting the Fog, Hernández eloquently captures the hardship, joy, magic, and resilience of three generations of women enduring ‘the battles of this dream’—border after border—from the family home in Mayuelas, Guatemala, through the desert across the Río Bravo, to the streets of Los Angeles. Magnificent!”

—Carol Potter, author of Some Slow Bees

“Knitting the Fog brings us the immigrant experience in a refreshingly new light. This memoir of hybrid forms—moving evocatively between poetry and prose—is not only timely but resonant in sense of place and purpose. How exciting that Hernández's voice joins the canon of contemporary Latina stories.”

-Bridgett M. Davis, The World According to Fannie Davis

"Claudia D. Hernández knits together so much in this necessary, unforgettable book—poetry and prose, Guatemala and El Norte, Spanish and English, innocence and awakening—blurring borders with humor and heartache and the richest, most vivid detail. Hernandez’s harrowing yet joy-laced journey will knit its way deeply into your heart."

—Gayle Brandeis, The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide

“Hernández gives us a multi-faceted look at a young girl and her family from Guatemala.”


Readers Reviews:
Journey and Struggle
Amazing memoir about the author’s strong family matriarchy in Guatemala and their journey to the USA and the struggles they encountered once in the promised land.

Important and Deeply Affecting
Hernandez beautifully defies genre convention in this memoir that uses narrative and poetry to recall her family’s immigration story. Her language is at times subtle, and other times cuts straight to emotion, pulling the reader through her own emotional journey and what she has to hold in to make it through. This book is important not only right now, but to our country’s history. This is one I anticipate being devoured by my students.

A memoir weaving bilingual poetry with an economy of words that are full of such linguistical riches that truly prove that sometimes less is more. I’m not sure how Claudia D. Hernandez was able to do it but she truly transported us back to her childhood and we got to see her life through that innocence. The importance of this story is that it gives voice to three generations of women that are simply trying to survive

A moving memoir told through essays and poems about the author’s childhood in Guatemala and migrating to the US at the age of 10. It’s a very slice-of-life book, full of the details that a child remembers about playing with neighbors, the oddities of the neighborhood, and being raised by strong women.

Kids' Books

Elena’s Story
By Nancy Shaw; illustrated by Kristina Rodanas

Series: Tales of the World
Format: 32 pp.; color illus.
ISBN: 978-1-58536-528-9
Age Range: 4-9 years
Publisher: Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012

Elena lives near a small town in western Guatemala, with her mother, her younger brother, Luis, and her baby sister, Ana. Her father is far away, working on a plantation. Elena struggles to keep up in school. Her teacher says she needs to practice her reading, but it’s hard to find time to read. She must help her mother with the cooking and housework, as well as the hard work of planting and weeding their garden. As the big sister, Elena is also in charge of watching over Luis to keep him out of mischief. It isn’t always easy and she gets impatient with her little brother. But at the end of the day, when Elena shares a book with Luis, carefully sounding out the words, she comes to better understand and appreciate her role in the family.

Editorial Reviews
From Booklist
A young girl relates her hardships in learning to read, primarily because of where she lives in western Guatemala with her mother, younger brother, and baby sister while her father is away working on a plantation. Family chores make it difficult for Elena to find time to practice reading as she must help her mother with cooking, planting, weeding, and keeping her young brother from mischief. The plot, however, focuses more on establishing the culture than on the story. Along with other obstacles, Elena faces a language barrier: her mother speaks Mayan and can’t read, while her father speaks the Spanish his daughter is learning in school. Rodanas’ folksy full-page illustrations are richly colored and add plenty of cultural details, though without a stronger narrative, the story sometimes strays into purposeful territory. Features a glossary of five Spanish words and an author’s note that cites how the book is fiction but was inspired by a visit to her daughter in the Peace Corps. Grades K-2.

—Julie Cummins

Reader Comments
A much needed look into the experiences of Latin American children outside of Mexico, Cuba, or Puerto Rico.

A lovely story! As mother of a young child adopted from Guatemala, I’ve really appreciated this book. It gives a wonderful glimpse into the life of a Mayan girl. My son and I enjoyed getting a sense of Elena’s everyday life with her family, in her home and community. There is a sense that life isn’t necessarily easy in her rural village, since she has many responsibilities that kids in the US don’t have (which makes for good discussion)—however, her feelings are still relatable. The overall tone of the story is warm and inspiring, as we see Elena and her family embrace her important role as “reader.” This is a heart-warming and sensitively-done book, with lovely, simple prose and colorful illustrations. So glad to have this to share with my son!

I’m glad that children could learn that even kids that live in a Spanish speaking country like Guatemala don’t necessarily speak Spanish.


Film: Septiembre, un llanto en silencio (September, A Silent Cry)
Genre: Drama
Director: Kenneth Müller
Date of Release: 2017
Language: Spanish
Run Time: 70 minutes

Summary: A dying Guatemalan war veteran agrees to accompany a girl searching for information about her grandfather, his comrade in arms. Flashbacks show the campaign the men fought in when young.

Septiembre, un llanto en silencio is a drama inspired by the struggles faced by Müller’s brother Fausto after a guerrilla terrorist bombing left him permanently deaf. “What happened to my brother really affected me, because my first language was sign language and not Spanish. With this movie I wanted to exorcise something I was carrying from seeing my brother suffer all these years,” the filmmaker explained.

For the fictionalized version of the story, Müller changed the gender of the protagonist and centered his narrative on a young deaf girl named Theresa (played by non-deaf actress Constanza Andrade). Theresa wishes to have a fulfilling life, but is constantly ostracized by those around her. Since Andrade isn’t hard of hearing in real life, Müller took the actress to meet his brother and to spend time with the deaf community of Guatemala. The experience helped her understand what it means to live in a country that doesn’t provide opportunities for people with disabilities.

“I named the film Un llanto en silencio (A silent cry) because I thought the image of a deaf person screaming and crying was very powerful, as we see in the film. If I cry, I can hear myself. But for a deaf person, no matter how hard they cry they can’t hear themselves or their pain,” he noted. With his film, Müller hopes to not only create awareness and empathy for those who deal with hearing loss, but to give a face to the victims of the armed conflict in Guatemala’s recent past.


Artist: Bohemia Suburbana

Bohemia Suburbana is a Guatemalan alternative rock band formed in 1992.

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