It’s Semana Santa – Holy Week coming up and my Guatemalan wife and I will be celebrating in Antigua, Guatemala watching all the magnificent parades with our family and friends.

The current population of Guatemala is 16,576,567 and according to official statistics, 40 percent of the Guatemalan population (6.6 million) is indigenous, and include Maya, Garífuna and Xinca peoples with their colourful traditional dress and culture which is sorely lacking in Costa Rica.

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In comparison, Costa Rica’s total population is only 4,814,144 and of that, there are 8 indigenous peoples in Costa Rica with a total population of 104,143 people, comprising approximately 2.4 percent of the national population.

Free Video Slideshow – Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala 2016.

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Guatemala is a much cheaper place to live than Costa Rica however, if like me, you are accustomed to a secure and comfortable life in the US, Canada, Western Europe or Costa Rica, you might visit Guatemala but you would probably never consider living or retiring there.

Although you would forever remember and marvel at the suicidally insane bus and truck drivers that hurtle along every highway and byway… Not since my days in Africa have have I seen anything like it anywhere.

My wife is originally from Guatemala and more than a decade ago, during the first week of dinners we enjoyed with family and friends from Guatemala, one of the main topics of conversation was kidnappings.

In Guatemala this is unfortunately not rare, it’s a business and can be a very profitable one for the kidnappers and a very bloody one if you’re not doing what they ask. While we were there, two young teenage students had been kidnapped and then executed…

Everywhere you go, you see ‘successful’ people with their armed bodyguards and sometimes there are ‘teams’ of them… Just in one small restaurant car park at lunchtime we counted more than a 15 bodyguards and that’s about three times more than the total number of bodyguards we have seen in Costa Rica in 16 years!

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There are wealthy Guatemalan families who travel around with six cars… All the same car, same colour, same model, all bullet-proof with well armed bodyguards in each but for obvious reasons, nobody outside knows which of the six cars has the ‘VIP’ in it…

The United Fruit Company (UFCO) was the largest employer in Guatemala from 1901 to 1970 and a large proportion of the farmable land, forty-two percent, was dominated by UFCO.

So in 1952 when the President of Guatemala tried to promote land reform and expropriate large, uncultivated tracts of land, United Fruit, which had no shortage of connections and influence in Washington, was understandably unhappy and called on the US government to help and they obliged.

President Dwight Eisenhower and CIA head Allen Dulles devised a plan to overthrow the President of Guatemala Jacobo Árbenz in the summer of 1953, and the coup was carried out in June 1954.

Unfortunately, as it does in most countries, US interventionism has helped defeat working-class struggles in Guatemala, resulting in enduring violence and poverty.

This has created a very ‘fearful’ environment and I swear that you can still see the ‘fear’ etched in their faces… The attitude amongst any one with even minimal assets is understandably one of ‘insecurity’ and ‘mistrust.’

And the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is staggering. There is a genuine, substantial middle class in Costa Rica whereas in Guatemala, it appeared to me that you’re either rolling in money or you have absolutely nothing.

There are of course many beautiful areas in Guatemala, incredible ancient ruins and the magnificent, old colonial city of Antigua is a delight although quite touristy however, if one could never escape from that aura of ‘fear,’ ‘mistrust’ and the fact that nobody everybody appears to be ‘on alert’ and not relaxed, it takes some getting used to…

We enjoy our regular trips to Guatemala but it’s always good to be back home. This visit to Guatemala once again reinforced the fact that for me, I am already living in one of the most beautiful homes in the world – Costa Rica.

Written by Scott Oliver, author of 1: How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa, 2: Costa Rica’s Guide To Making Money Offshore and 3. ¿Cómo Comprar Bienes Raíces en Costa Rica, Sin Perder Su Camisa?

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There is one comment:

  • Molly at 12:10 pm

    When I visited Guatemala, it made a controversial impression on me. I had to check its cultural peculiarities at, because I’ve heard a lot of stereotypes concerning this country and its capital city itself.

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