Entry by Marjorie Amon
Today (Jan. 18, 2016) we had the honor of meeting with DESGUA at their hub, Café Red Kat in Xela. The group (“We are not an organization or an NGO”) was founded by Willy, a former migrant to the United States. DESGUA calls itself “anti-immigration.” They believe people shouldn’t have to leave home to survive and prosper. Instead, DESGUA focuses on building the “Guatemalan dream.” They are working with minimal resources and by refraining from working with charity they don’t create a monetary dependence in the community. Instead they deal in networks, foster connections and nurture ideas.
A few notes from the presentation: DESGUA defines what it does as “economic and educational development for former refugees, ex-guerrilla fighters, return migrants and Mayan communities.” The “Four Pillages” that destroy culture are invasion, neoliberal reform, civil war, multinational corporations.
Guatemalan migrants to USA
2006= 1.5 million
2013= 1.6 million
Guatemalans deported from USA (numbers are approx.)
After learning about the work of DESGUA, several of the members shared their personal experience with migration. I am overwhelmed with respect for the men who told their stories today, not only for the resilience they showed in the face of adversity and the strength of their dream, but for the love they transmitted through their testimony. Violence weaves a common thread throughout their lives, though they represent multiple generations. Santiago was born the same year the first guerrilla groups were being formed in Guatemala. He became a guerrilla soldier and eventually a “comandandte” (commander). When Willy joined the guerrilla, Santiago was his commander and trained him for combat. Years later and on a different continent, Giovani Lopez, who immigrated to the USA at age three, was growing up in a violent neighborhood in Colorado. He said it was important that he be tough in order to survive and protect his siblings. He channeled himself into music, breakdancing and boxing. He achieved notable success with his art and sport, but he lost everything when he was incarcerated for a traffic ticket and subsequently deported. He found DESGUA and is now using his talent to inspire youth and contribute to the Guatemalan Dream.
Santiago, Willy and Giovani are warriors. The language of “la lucha” (the fight, the struggle) is repeated throughout their mission at DESGUA. Because of the pressure our world puts on men to be strong, I often associate a lived experience of violence with a hardened exterior. While Café Red is filled with a sense of justice, it is also overflowing with love. The sense of family, hope and joy for life is palpable in the presence of DESGUA. I am honored to have plugged into the “red” (web).