Mike On Purpose

Finding purpose in the twenty-first century

Fear and curiosity

Posted by mikeonpurpose on July 23, 2010


Going to Guatemala has inspired me to do a lot of research into the country, its history, and its culture, and one thing that I find myself coming back to again and again is the problem of crime.  Guatemala City in particular has a terrible reputation as one of the most dangerous, if not the most crime-ridden, major cities in the world.  And yet, while guidebooks do mention this problem, they also give plenty of information about places to visit and things to do there, essentially presenting the city as a worthwhile tourist destination.  If you search the internet you find that a lot of people discuss the crime problem there, and you get a mixture of responses.  A frequent response is that if you use common sense, watch your surroundings, avoid the public buses, take taxis at night, and avoid dark alleys, you will be fine.  Some say they have gone to Zone 1 in the city without problem, and others say to avoid it like the plague.

I don’t expect that my travels to Guatemala City will actually take me into the city.  The plan is probably that I will just take a shuttle from the airport to Antigua.  But I still find myself strangely attracted to the idea of seeing Guatemala City for myself.  It is almost as if there is an exotic appeal about a place that is off the tourist radar.  I find myself looking in Youtube for videos of Guatemala.  For example, one video is taken by an American man as he walks through a market in Zone 1 of the city.  There isn’t much taking place in the video–just images of people doing things in the market, and it seems quite innocuous (although at the beginning the man points out that he is being discrete about filming), and it brings home the point that Guatemala City is a place where millions of people go about their everyday lives:

I you type things like Guatemala Crime into Youtube’s search engine, you will find a great number of videos that come back–news reports and documentaries that tell a tale of a society in which thousands are murdered each year, with only a tiny percentage of those murders ever resulting in a conviction in Guatemalan courts.

The worst of this is clearly found in Guatemala City itself.  Antigua, I am told, is light years apart from the violence found in the capital, although I also am aware that Antigua is hardly crime-free either.  Since I don’t expect to be spending time in Guatemala City, this is all a moot point anyway.  Still, there is a part of me that is strangely intrigued by Guatemala City.  It is a place that inspires in me both a sense of fear and a strange sort of curiosity.

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