Culture

This New Netflix Documentary Will Show The World The Rich Cultural And Environmental Beauty Of Guatemala

You might love or hate the fact that streaming services have changed the way in which we watch television, but there is no denying that we have way more entertainment options than before, and that the depth and reach of the topics that are accessible cover almost the whole planet. Through streaming services we can learn about other cultures, particularly through documentaries, a genre that is getting more financial resources and wider audiences.

A few years ago documentaries used to be the boring stuff that abuelitos watched when the soccer season was off, but they are becoming increasingly relevant to popular culture with releases such as the true crime series “Making a Murderer”, which got folk really obsessed. 

But documentaries are also a way to travel without leaving your couch. So key to fostering a different and more nuanced view of Latin America (a region that has been vilified during the Trump years through harrowing and sometimes over the top migration stories) is the dissemination of documentaries that showcase the cultural and natural richness of the continent.

A new Netflix production promises to do exactly this: the feature “Guatemala: Corazón del Mundo Maya” (Guatemala: The Heartland of the Maya World)  will prove that the Central American country is a beautiful place with plenty of past, a present that us trying to come to terms with recent historical trauma, and a future that is promising. 

The documentary will be available from November 30 and promises to showcase the natural and cultural beauty of the Central American country.

Credit: Guatemala: Corazón del Mundo Maya / Netflix

Particularly as recent geopolitical understandings of Central America in the United States tend to characterize the region and its inhabitants as troubled and a “nuisance” in regards to migration, the fact that a Netflix documentary focuses in las bondades of Guatemala is a welcome development. The documentary will be a cultural and geological survey of the country, and is directed by Luis Ara and Ignacio Jaunsolo. It will be narrated by Christian Morales. This audiovisual journey will take us from the mountain range Sierra de las Minas to Esquipulas and Chiquimula. Netflix has also delved into the ancient traditions of other Latin American countries such as Peru and its Inca legacy. 

Sure, Mexico has a rich Mayan heritage, but Guatemala tiene lo suyo!

Audiences will get to know important tourist sites such as Antigua (perhaps the most Insta ready city in the world!), but also be witness to the glorious Mayan past that has permeated Guatemalan culture, language and identity for centuries. Archeological sites such as Peten will be showcased, alongside cultural manifestations such as traditional attires. Production lasted for about seven months, a lengthy shooting. The music was created by artists such as Eric Kinny, Songs of Water, Luke Atencio, Thad Kopec, On Earth, CHPTRS, Ryan Taubert, Kingpinguïn, Albatross, A. Taylor, Dexter Britain, Jordan Critz, Tony Anderson and Kerry Muzzey, 

So Netflix wants to compete with NatGeo in exploring the Mayan world.

Netflix realized that NatGeo documentaries about the mystic Mayan world had good ratings, particularly due to the obsession that some Global North countries had with this ancient civilization after the year 2012, which according to some interpretations of Mayan codes would signal the end of the world. And well, we all know that didn’t happen right?

BTW, now that Star Wars fever is at an all time high… did you know the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala were feature in Episode IV: A New Hope?

Credit: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope / Lucas Films

There you go, you can surprise and impress even your geekiest friends with this piece of warsie trivia! Tikal was used as the location of a rebel base in the planet of Yavin 4. As the Wookiepeedia states: “The shot where a Rebel oversees the Millennium Falcon landing on Yavin was taken on top of a building known as Temple IV looking east where Temples I, II and III can be seen on film”. So yes, Han Solo has been in Guatemala! 

And there are other Latin American documentaries on Netflix that are totally worth checking out. We recommend “Lorena: Light-footed woman”!

Credit: Ready Set Cut

Our favorite is “Lorena: Light-footed Woman”, which follows an indigenous ultramarathon woman of tarahumara descent who follows her people’s tradition of running in the mountains for distances that far surpass a traditional marathon. And they do this up high in the mountains, where oxygen is scarce. They are some of the most resilient athletes in the world! This documentary was shot by Juan Carlos Rulfo, an experienced filmmaker and son of writer Juan Rulfo, perhaps the greatest scribe that Mexico has ever produced. 

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

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Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

@Delmar_Martinez / Twitter

Migrants often group together to form large groups for reasons of safety, child care, and increased presence during confrontations with police, gangs, and immigration agents. It’s these reasons that helped spur the large caravans of migrants that traveled from Central Mexico to the United States in 2018.

In 2018, the migrant caravans were a major talking point for conservative politicians who used them to instill fear in voters. However, few migrants actually made it to the US-Mexico border and those that did were turned away to await their asylum claims in Mexico. Now, thanks to new immigration agreements and unilateral pressure by the US, most migrants realize that their journey across Central American and Mexico won’t likely result in them successfully making it to the United States.

Hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants grouped together to try and form a caravan to help aide passage to the United States.

Credit: @Delmer_Martinez / Twitter

So far, according to reports, about 1,300 Honduran migrants have successfully crossed the border into Guatemala.

Guatemalan police officers were accompanied at the checkpoint by four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agent Alex Suárez told the AFP that ICE was there to train Guatemalan authorities in immigration control.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Homeland Security personnel — ICE as well as Customs and Border Protection — are in Guatemala “providing advisory and capacity building support” to deal with irregular migration.

According to Guatemala’s new president, Mexico plans to contain the caravan before it’s able to make it to the US.

Credit: EqualityNow / Instagram

Mexico’s government is bracing for the arrival of hundreds of Central Americans on its southern border in coming days, an event likely to be closely monitored by the U.S. government, which has made curbing illegal immigration a priority.

Guatemala’s president said he had met with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who had told him that Mexico would not allow the caravan to advance into its territory.

“The Mexican government advised us that it is not going to let them pass … that it is going to use everything in its hands to keep them from passing,” Giammattei said. 

“We will warn those in the caravan that they are probably going to be able to arrive to the border (with Mexico), but from there on they are going to collide with a wall that they will not be able to penetrate and we believe many of them are going to give up.” 

Later, Mexico Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, said Mexico would welcome those seeking asylum or protection and offer opportunities for those who wanted to enter legally and seek permission to work or study.

Giammattei said travel agreements between Central American nations required Guatemala to grant the migrants passage.

Credit: ZaraConZ / Instagram

In his first full day in office, Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said the Hondurans would be allowed to enter Guatemala, which they must cross to reach Mexico and the United States.

“We cannot prevent people who have identification” from entering, Giammattei said. “We are going to ask for their papers from the parents of guardians in the caravan, and if they don’t have them they will be returned to Honduras. We have to protect the rights of children.”

Arriving in Guatemala chiefly via crossings on its northern border with Honduras, around 1,350 migrants had been registered entering legally by late morning, said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s National Migration Institute.

The US has put Mexico and Central American nations under pressure to accept a series of migration agreements that aim to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers on to them, and away from the United States.

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

Most attempts at forming caravans in 2019 were broken up by police and the national guard in Mexico, which has come under increased U.S. pressure to prevent migrants from arriving at the U.S. border.

The prospects for any kind of caravan like the one in 2018, which involved thousands of people, appear remote. Many of the migrants from the 2018 caravan applied for asylum, something that is now difficult or impossible.

The U.S. has used a carrot-and-stick approach in bilateral agreements struck since July with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to deny people an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. They are instead to be sent to Central America with an opportunity to ask for protection there.

“The truth is, it is going to be impossible for them to reach the United States,” said human rights activist Itsmania Platero. “The Mexican police have a large contingent and they are going to catch all the migrants without documents and they will be detained and returned to their home countries.”