Behind the Surge from Guatemala
Posted on: 09/15/2014 05:23 PM

Indigenous Guatemalans are a miserable lot who have no business in our country; they come for one reason–to make money–and will lie and cheat to get here and stay here

by Thomas Jackson

An eye-opening account of Central American dystopia.

David Stoll, El Norte or Bust!, Rowman & Littlefield, 2013, 281 pp., $32.95.

Why are all those unaccompanied minors coming here from Central America? El Norte or Bust! is an eye-opening–even astonishing–account of how indigenous Guatemalans live, why they come north, and what happens when they do. It was written before the latest wave of minors, but casts a pitiless light on the motives and methods of Central American peasants who take huge risks to get into the United States.

The author, David Stoll, is a far-far-left anthropologist at Middlebury College in Vermont. He would love to think of indigenous Guatemalans as noble creatures, faithful to ancient Mayan traditions, but he is too honest to paint them in false colors. These people are materialistic primitives, both gullible and exploitative, who treat women like cattle, and are incapable of building a modern society. Studying their antics may be great fun for academics, but these are obviously not people we want in our country.

Behind the Surge from Guatemala

Prof. Stoll has been doing research in Guatemala since the 1980s. He reports that probably one of every nine Guatemalans is in the US, most of them illegally. In 2010, they sent home $4.16 billion, which was the biggest source of foreign exchange. This shower of cash has produced a wave of mugging, robbery, and kidnapping. Since the legal system is corrupt, angry mobs lynch suspected criminals, usually by burning them to death.

There is very little public trust, and the country is riven by clans and kinship groups. No one cares about the greater interest, and politics is “a conspiracy to plunder public resources.”

In short, the country is a mess:

[A]ll fourteen million Guatemalans are at constant risk from collapsing infrastructure, corrupt officials, and out-of-control criminals. More and more have concluded not just that their country does not function very well, but that it will never function very well, not least because it is inhabited by each other, so they would prefer to leave. The national desire to escape is why the country’s leading newspaper, Prensa Libre, covers the U.S. immigration debate in greater detail than many American newspapers do, and why Guatemalan peasants are often better informed about the latest crackdown than Americans are. The annual flow of remittances from the United States has become an anxiously tracked index of national well-being. New schemes to escape Guatemala receive prominent coverage, spark rumors, and enrich scam artists who, in exchange for hefty fees, offer foreign visas that never come through.


Aid bureaucrats share “the still widespread assumption that Native Americans are better persons than the rest of us, that they have a strong cultural disposition to place the interests of the group ahead of the interests of the individual, and that they are inherently communal and unselfish, at least until corrupted by Western civilization.” Indians have learned to tell the donors exactly the sort of Mayan nonsense that will make the money flow, but “inherently communal and unselfish” they are not. Aid projects set in motion what Prof. Stoll calls the “ruthless subterranean competition for the spoils of office,” and aid projects become self-enrichment schemes and patronage machines. If the uplift artists ever tumble to how ruthlessly materialistic and competitive their darlings are, they blame it on neo-liberal capitalism or right-wing oppressors. Prof. Stoll confesses that he, too, once had similar illusions.

More, VERY eye-opening....

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