Things That Matter

Guatemalans Are Fleeing Drug Violence Flourishing Because Of This Dangerous Flower

The global drug trade is a complex network of producers, distributors and consumers. Consumers are generally stable and located mostly in affluent countries like the United States and affluent Western European nations like Great Britain, France and Spain. Producers and distributors, however, often change according to geopolitical events such as the Cold War or the War on Terror, or local shifts in government.

For years, the main producers of opium poppy in the world were located in South America and the Middle East. But as armed conflict affected big producers such as Colombia and Afghanistan, criminal organizations, including the Mexican drug cartels, looked elsewhere for growing fields.

Guatemala, just South of Mexico and home to a warm climate ideal for the crop, became one of the regional epicenters for opium poppy production. 

Credit: Digital Military Magazine

Violence in localities such as the  Ixchiguan and Tajumulco municipalities in the department of San Marcos have experienced unparalleled levels of violence in recent years, mainly because of fights between rival Mexican cartels. “There are signs Mexican citizens are participating. Poppy is produced, harvested and cultivated here … it is [then] transported to Mexico where it is processed and then sent to the United States,” said Guatemala’s Interior Minister Francisco Rivas to VOA News in 2017. This has led to an increased presence of the Guatemalan military in the Mexican border. 

Guatemalan farmers were struggling, so they turned to poppy flowers to survive.

Credit: PlantID

The Mexican cartels pressured farmers to produce poppy flowers. Farmers who used to survive by harvesting potatoes, oats and other products didn’t ask many questions, and some were told that the plant was to make “medicine”. This has happened elsewhere in Latin America: in the Mexican state of Guerrero, for example, the lack of government support has led farmers to raise poppies. President Lopez Obrador has even called for an amnesty for farmers who have been pressured by the cartels. 

But then the government, under pressure from the United States, destroyed their poppy fields: extreme poverty ensued.

When the government destroyed the poppy crops during the last decade, Guatemalan farmers, most of them of indigenous heritage, had no other crop to replace poppy. They basically were left without their main means of income. Violence has ensued (gang activity is, in most cases, product of economic strife and social alienation). Citizens see no other way out other than crossing the Mexican border in the hope of getting to Los Estates. 

“Amapola”, of course, is the red flower used to produce heroin.

Heroin is made from the milky fluid that seeps from cuts in the poppy seed pod. This liquid turns into a dark, brownish gum that is then processed into heroin. 

With a bleak future ahead of them and no crops, Guatemalans are fleeing the country in record numbers.

Credit: USA Today

As USA Today reports, the situation for Guatemalans is beyond challenging and leaving the country is now a matter of survival: “People are fleeing widespread government corruption, poverty and violence. Six in 10 Guatemalans live in poverty, and more than 50% of the country’s poor are indigenous people, according to the World Bank. Twenty percent of Guatemala’s population lives in extreme poverty.

Indigenous communities are most affected by poverty, with 79% living in poverty, on less than $5.50 a day, and 40% living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day”. Just think about it: your Starbucks coffee costs about double the daily income of thousands of people. 

Over 250,000 Guatemalans have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol since 2016.

Credit: Unsplash

According to the United States Customs and Border Protection, unaccompanied minors, family members and single adults from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have tried to cross the Mexico-US border in record numbers since 2016. They are fleeing corruption, State abuse and gang violence product of the drug trade. The situation in Central America has been chaotic since the 1980s, when the two opposing sides in the Cold War, the US and the then Soviet Union, used the region as an ideological and sometimes military battleground. 

Guatemala has attempted to legalize marijuana and opium poppy, but efforts have fallen short.


Guatemalan authorities have attempted to legalize the drug. In 2015 then president Otto Perez broke ranks with the United States and presented a plan to legalize poppy production. In 2014 he told Reuters: “we’re exploring … is the legalization of the poppy plantations on the border with Mexico, so they’re controlled and sold for medicinal ends. These two things could be steps taken on a legal basis”.

These efforts, as we now know, went nowhere. However, the debate  over the legalization of certain substances is ongoing and could perhaps offer an alternative solution for curbing violence. But would legalization work? The eternal and perhaps unsolvable dilemma. 

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Apple Named The Top App Of 2020 And It Was Developed By Two Guatemalans

Things That Matter

Apple Named The Top App Of 2020 And It Was Developed By Two Guatemalans

The winner of this year’s iPhone App of the Year by Apple went to Wakeout. The app is a workout app created by two Guatemalan developers and has grown in popularity since it was first released.

Pedro Wunderlich and Andrés Canella are the minds behind Apple’s top app of 2020.

Every year, Apple picks an app to be celebrated as the best app of the year. This year, Wakeout, the brainchild of two men in Guatemala, took home the coveted prize. It is a fun app, especially in the time of Covid and self-isolation.

The app is designed to motivate people to wake up and move to start their day on an active note. This lowers the user’s stress level throughout the day giving them a more successful day.

Apple focused on the apps that helped the world connect and stay healthy this year.

This years was a wild ride for everyone around the world. We had to find new ways to stay active, stay connected, and stay happy while the world stood still. Wakeout was the top app to make sure that people stayed active and motivated during these days.

The two men behind the app were clearly very excited to be the best of the year. The two of them sent tweets back and forth congratulating each other in surprise over the honor.

Tbh, seeing the two shower each other with love and praise is so sweet to see.

It is nice to see the two celebrate each other and give each other so much recognition. It was a team effort and these two are unapologetically showing the world what it looks like to be true team players.

Wakeout has become a valuable part of thousands of people’s mornings. The app gets people moving in ways that can be done anywhere. It is so important to have tools like this when your world is on pause. Being physically active is important for so many reasons.

We can’t wait to see what the duo comes up with next.

Clearly, if they are able to make something so successful during this wild imagine what they can do in normal times.

READ: Many Native Languages Are Dying Off But Here’s How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech To Save Them

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Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America


Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America

Christmas is a special time of year. Families have their traditions to mark the festive year and some of those traditions are rooted in culture. Here are some of the ways various countries in Latin America celebrate Christmas.

El Pase Del Niño Viajero – Ecuador

El Pase del Niño Viajero is a pageant that happens in Ecuador that lasts weeks. The parade is meant to represent the journey of Mary and Joseph. The parade highlights the religious importance of Christmas in Ecuador and is most common in the Andean region of the country.

The biggest and most important parade is in Cuenca, a deeply religious city. Citizens near the city have all day to see the parade as it starts in the early morning and runs through the late afternoon. This gives people a lot of time to make it to the city to witness the parade.

La Gritería – Nicaragua

La Gritería comes after La Purisma. La Purisma is celebrated at the end of November and is meant to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. La Gritería is celebrated in early December and involves literal yelling. Someone would shout “Que causa tanta alegria?” (“What causes so much happiness?”) People respond “La Concepción de María.” (“Mary’s Conception.”)

Las Posadas – Mexico

Mexican posadas are the most recognizable. Posadas take place in Mexico from Dec. 16-24, though this year they are most likely to be virtual. The posada begins with a procession in the neighborhood filled with people singing and sometimes led by two people dressed as Mary and Joseph.

Another part is the posada party. Before guests can enter, there is a song exchange with the people outside playing Joseph looking for shelter. The hosts sing the side of the innkeeper saying there is no room. Eventually, the guests are welcomed into the home to celebrate Christmas.

Aguinaldos – Colombia

Aguinaldos are a series of games played by people in Colombia leading up to Christmas. There are certain games that are common among people in Colombia. One is pajita en boca, which requires holding a straw in your mouth the entire time of a social event. Another is dar y no recibir, which is about getting people to take something you are giving to score a point.

El Quema Del Diablo – Guatemala

El quema del diablo is celebrated in early December and is a way of letting go of the previous year. People burn piñatas and effigies of the devil to let go of all negative feelings and moments from the previous year. If there was every to try a new tradition, this would be the year. Burn an effigy and banish 2020 to the past, where it belongs.

READ: These Seriously Sad Christmas Presents Were Worse Than Actual Coal

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