Culture

This Ancient Town Is Proving To The World That We Need To Add Guatemala To Our Bucket List ASAP

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With its stunning architecture and wild natural setting, this former colonial capital is among Central America’s must-visit destinations.

Nestled in the forested hills of southern Guatemala, the small city of Antigua was once the most prominent seat of Spanish colonial government between Mexico City and Lima, Peru. Founded in the early 16th century, it served as Guatemala’s capital for almost 300 years, until 1773, when it was abandoned by crown officials following a series of devastating volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods.

In the mid-1800s, agriculturists took note of Antigua’s rich volcanic soils, and the city thrived once again, as a center of coffee and grain production. It was during this period that its canary-colored Santa Catalina Arch, built in 1694 as a walkway for nuns, received its domed clock tower, becoming Antigua’s most iconic monument.

In 1979, Unesco designated Antigua a World Heritage Site, ensuring the protection of its architectural and cultural legacy.

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Now, the city’s cobbled streets – arranged in an easy-to-navigate grid, with views of the stunning Volcán de Agua to the south and the twin peaks of Volcán de Fuego and Acatenango to the west – are lined with farm-to-table restaurants, contemporary art galleries and design studios.

Beyond the city’s lush Parque Central, these new additions are taking root near 17th- and 18th- century buildings – such as Las Capuchinas, a former convent that is now a colonial-era art museum.

The Santa Catalina arch is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

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Antigua is well known for its rich colonial history and cultural attractions, but none are so iconic as the Santa Catalina Arch. Standing above the cobbled streets and in front of the hulking Volcán de Agua, this saffron-yellow arch has become the symbol of Antigua and the central image on most postcards.

To critics, it might just be another arch, but to locals, it represents the resilience of the city and a history that spans four centuries.

The city’s amazing architecture is only beat out by the city’s dedication to beautiful handmade textiles.

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Made using natural dyeing techniques and sold at workshops and bustling open-air markets across the city, fabrics, and textiles are a must-buy souvenir.

The entire region surrounding Antigua is also a hub of coffee production.

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Guatemala is known around the world for its great coffees and at Finca La Azotea, which has been producing coffee since 1883, visitors can learn more about one of Antigua’s most valuable exports.

During a tour of the property, which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, coffee enthusiasts can see how the raw fruit – which grows in dense, shaded rows of trees – is cultivated, harvested and processed. A portion of the plantation’s profits benefits local education programs focused on the preservation of the environment and Guatemalan culture.

And some of the world’s best chocolates come from Guatemala.

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For chocolate lovers, Guatemala is a sweet place to be.

This is especially true in Antigua, where chocoholics can try chocolate bars, amazing truffles and liquor-filled bonbons. The city is full of artisanal sweet shops.

And as if this weren’t enough to tempt a sweet tooth, Antigua boasts its own chocolate museum. In addition to producing edible cacao products, the ChocoMuseo educates the public about the entire chocolate-making process through interactive workshops, beautifully crafted exhibits and entertaining tours.

The city is surrounded by jaw-droppingly beautiful volcanoes.

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As Antigua is known for its volcanic activity, it would be a mistake not to climb one. Pacaya is the easiest, and you’ll still get the excitement of seeing lava spew from the volcano’s mouth, as well as getting the opportunity to buy lava jewelry from the isolated gift shop near the summit.

And if you want to explore a bit more, Antigua isn’t too far from Lake Atitlan.

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A side trip to the magical, mysterious Lake Atitlán may seem like a long way, but the enchanting beauty of the water, which sits in a volcanic crater, is well worth it. It’s about 2½ hours by shuttle bus or you can catch the local “chicken bus” from the bus station at Calle Principal.

There are more than a dozen Mayan villages to stay in, but your best bet is Panajachel, a bohemian haven. It’s big enough to provide everything a visitor needs, but not so big that you can’t experience local culture.

With its towering volcanoes (accessible by challenging day hikes), booming coffee scene and bevy of boutique hotels, Antigua is quickly garnering appeal as one of the most enticing cities in Central America.

An Undocumented Girl From Guatemala Was Locked In A Room And Sexually Assaulted By Relatives, According To A Report

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An Undocumented Girl From Guatemala Was Locked In A Room And Sexually Assaulted By Relatives, According To A Report

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TW: This story contains disturbing anecdotes of sexual violence.

Arizona’s Customs and Border Patrol Agency (CBP) announced the arrest of an Iowa couple for human smuggling and sexual assault after a Guatemalan girl was found in the streets of Sioux City and told her story to authorities. The girl, whose name will not be released for her own safety, is being referred as  “ABF” on the federal affidavit detailing the perpetrator’s charges. Amy Francisco and her husband, Cristobal Francisco-Nicolas have been arrested and charged.

The couple was arrested in San Diego, but will likely face a federal court in Iowa.

ABF was found wandering Sioux City, urgently telling pedestrians she’d been sexually assaulted.

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From there, Sioux City police interviewed ABF to learn that she and her father, Fernando Bartolo-Francisco were smuggled into the U.S. by relatives, Cristobal Francisco-Nicolas and his wife Amy Francisco. She said they were released from El Paso Detention Center because of overcrowding and were flown to Omaha by their relatives.

The couple then locked ABF in a room with a metal bed and a bucket for a bathroom.

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Above is a Google image of the couple’s home where she was allegedly locked in. The affidavit said that, “ABF then stated Cristobal raped her and that Amy watched it happen from the door to the locked room. After being raped five times, ABF stated that one morning Cristobal left for work and did not lock the door.”

She then snuck out of the house while Amy Francisco was sleeping. She roamed the streets looking for someone who spoke Spanish to help her. 

The Iowa couple admitted to smuggling ABF in but requested an attorney when law enforcement began questioning them for the alleged rape of ABF.

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Francisco-Nicolas told police that he made arrangements for a coyote to transfer the father and daughter to the U.S. after learning through his sister that they were desperate to leave Guatemala. 

“Cristobal stated he knows he messed up and the mistake he made was receiving these people,” the affidavit said. “Cristobal requested an attorney when law enforcement began to question him about the alleged rape of ABF.”

In response, some folks are taking the opportunity to demand CBP shut down the concentration camps and seek justice for victims within the system.

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In February 2019, a report was released that detailed thousands of immigrant children saying they were sexually abused in U.S. detention centers. Between 2012 and March 2018 alone, there were 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse filed with ICE. Certainly, not every victim files a complaint. 

Last year, the ACLU helped an asylum-seeker from Honduras file suit against an employee at a detention center for failure to protect her from sexual violence.

Untitled. Digital Image. ACLU. 17 July 2019

 Court documents detail how her abuser threatened her with possible deportation while their coworkers stood by and continued the jokes. There are laws in place that criminalize any kind of sexual behavior between a correctional facility staff member and the people in their custody. That’s because consent cannot happen when powers are imbalanced. This facility is still trying to deflect responsibility by saying the detainee “consented.”

Some people are taking the opportunity to blame Democrats for ABF’s assault.

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Given that ICE and CBP are not being held accountable by anyone. That fact, among many others including the conditions of the camps themselves, has incited public outrage, nationwide protests, and finger-pointing on both sides of the aisle. 

Everyone seems to agree on one thing: prosecute.

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Folks who don’t want to see immigrants in this country are weaponizing the tragedy by alleging it as cause to close the border. Folks who care about immigrants see the instance as a clear example of why undocumented immigrants should be granted basic rights that would allow ABF’s father to be lawfully employed and to live openly.

The culture of fear for undocumented immigrants makes them among the most vulnerable members of our society. ABF was not registered with a school. Her father couldn’t go to authorities without risking deportation. It’s clear that an undocumented child wouldn’t go looking for the police unless her claims were valid. 

Yes, prosecute these individuals, and also make it safer for every family to exist without harm.

READ: Major Hotel Chains Are Rolling Out Panic Buttons To Protect Their Employees From Sexual Assault

A Guatemalan Child Migrant Had His Throat Slit And Was Found Next To His Dead Father In Mexico

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A Guatemalan Child Migrant Had His Throat Slit And Was Found Next To His Dead Father In Mexico

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The migrant crisis has a death toll. Whether it is migrants dying trying to traverse some of the most hostile parts of North America, violent gangs, police brutality, medical negligence in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention, or homicidal coyotes, the death toll is rising. Immigration policies in Mexico and the U.S. are partly to blame for the deaths and the desperation to live a life free of fear and violence is what forces families to be put in harm’s way. That is the story of Cristian, a Guatemalan boy left to die with his father’s body.

A 10-year-old Guatemalan boy is recovering after being left for dead in the desert with his father’s body.

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CNN reports that a 10-year-old migrant boy was left for dead with his throat slit next to his father’s body. The boy was found in the Mexican state of Morelos. The father and son were making their way from Guatemala to the U.S. with the help of a coyote.

Despite having hired the smuggler to get them from Guatemala to the U.S., they were abandoned in Mexico.

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The father and son were abandoned by the coyote and that’s when they were kidnapped, according to CNN. That is when the pair were kidnapped by members of the Los Zetas drug cartel and held for ransom. The cartel members contacted Cristian and his father Rudy’s family in the U.S. demanding $12,000. CNN reports that they could only get $8,000 and that’s when the cartel ceased communication.

Cristian and Rudy were on the journey with Rudy’s brother and his son.

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Rudy’s brother and his son managed to escape the gang members and CNN reports that they are now in the care of Mexican authorities. Cristian was found on July 6 with his throat slit lying next to the body of his dead father. Cristian’s survival is a miracle.

Migrants are regularly the victims of crime when passing through Mexico to the U.S. border. The crimes committed in Mexico against migrants range from robbery to murder.

The latest tragedy in the migrant crisis has Christians calling out Evangelicals for their harmful and dangerous approval of Trump’s immigration policies.

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The “Remain In Mexico” policies and the increased restrictions on asylum claims is leading to an increase in deaths for the migrant crisis. Men, women, and children are dying trying to get the U.S. and some have started dying once in immigration authority custody.

The deaths of migrants desperate to reach the U.S. border have garnered more attention in recent months.

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The tragic deaths of Óscar Martínez Ramírez and his very young daughter shocked the U.S. but haven’t spurred any change. The father and daughter were desperate to reach the U.S. border to apply for asylum from El Salvador. The father and daughter tried swimming across the Rio Grande after being denied a chance to request asylum at a port of entry.

The migrant crisis has become so prevalent in the U.S consciousness that presidential candidates are being asked how they will save lives if elected.

“Watching those images of Óscar and Valeria is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off,” Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said during the Democratic Debates. “If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, the ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy, and the metering policy. This metering policy is basically what prompted Óscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river.”

Castro added: “They had been playing games with people coming and seeking asylum at our ports of entry. Óscar and Valeria went to a port of entry and then they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim. So, they got frustrated and they tried to cross the river and they died because of that.”

The policy of metering at the border is not new but Trump has ramped it up making it more and more dangerous for asylum seekers.

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According to NPR, “metering is the term that Customs and Border Protection uses for a process by which it limits the number of people who can request asylum at a port of entry at a U.S.-Mexico border crossing each day.”

NPR reporter James Frederick explains, “As far as U.S. asylum law says, anyone who steps foot in the U.S. has the ability to request asylum. So what CBP is doing is they’re stationing a guard at border crossings. Asylum-seekers that show up there, they tell them they have to turn around and go put their name on a waitlist, basically, back in Mexico and wait for their turn to request asylum. And these lists are getting very long. People are waiting weeks or sometimes months for their opportunity to request asylum. The latest figure we have is that 19,000 asylum-seekers are waiting on the Mexican side of the border for their chance to request asylum in the U.S.”

It is important that Americans stay engaged in the discussion about immigration and asylum seekers.

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The Trump administration is further restricting asylum claims and only making it harder and more dangerous for people to seek legal asylum in the U.S. Call your representatives and senators and let them know what you think about the change to asylum laws attacking migrants.

READ: Yesterday’s Attack On An ICE Detention Center Could Have Resulted In The Mass Murder Of Migrants

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