Having survived the travails of travel, including eight-hour flight delays, evacuation of terminals, and long-line indignities, let me post a few photos that illustrate how one village is improved by mining-derived money. I first saw this village about three years ago. It was picturesque but dilapidated. Poverty was the norm: unpainted houses; a decaying church; rudimentary places to eat; no banks.
This past week I returned to the village center. Here are some current photos that emphasise the change wrought by mining-derived income. Now the houses are painted; the school looks proud; the priest is building a new rectory; the restaurant is almost luxurious; and most of the young men are riding shiny new motor bikes.
The village is San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala.
On the plane back to the USA, I sat in first class next to a well-dressed, obviously wealthy lady who told me she heads a Cincinnati church charity that is building schools in places like Mataquescuintla that is too poor to build for themselves. “They oppose the local mine,” she told, “So they get no money from the mine. Although they told me the priest is very brave in opposing mining.”
I challenged her and others like her to go compare the two adjacent villages and tell me why it is nobler to sit in first class and dispense church money than to mine and become self-sufficient. Thus our conversation ended. But that is not really the end of the matter. My challenge stands.