Back when I was spending a few months in Xela, Guatemala…
I was working at this NGO for the time being that basically served to help some kids in a poorer neighborhood of the city.
Well, I had some American chick working with me who also didn’t have much experience in Latin America.
So we were both in the same boat – in our early moments starting out down here.
Either way, she was about my age at the time and from around Oregon area if I remember right.
Well, she definitely seemed like someone from Oregon!
A little bit on the hippy side – very PC, vegan, etc.
Not to stereotype Oregon folks but that’s always been my impression with the few I have met in life.
Well, I remember in our days walking to the NGO together getting ready for work.
Walking through the neighborhood as you can see below ...
And in her words, not mine, “Just look at this place! It’s amazing. I don’t get why Americans are so ignorant as to think this is a bad place to live!”
“It’s not dangerous!” She said as walked some more here…
In the moment, I was a bit confused…
Looking around, it definitely didn’t seem like the nicest neighborhood to be walking through as you can see more of here.
And after a few months, there were some other neighborhoods in the city that felt very sketchy.
Like one time when I stumbled upon a random street in Xela and a whole group of young adolescents just straight up stared at me while I was walking through it.
And they wouldn’t stop staring at me until like 4 or 5 minutes later when I got to the end of the very long street and turned a corner.
To also the few folks I knew about that got robbed by some random criminals when trying to hike some mountains in the area outside Xela.
Either way, with my limited time in Xela, it definitely didn’t feel like it was this grand paradise she was making it out to be.
And I mentioned that to her – “you sure? I heard about some expat getting robbed the other day?”
And she looked flustered.
“Also, didn’t the office of our NGO just get broken into by some folks who stole a computer and other things?”
At that point, she had it – “Look, not everyone is stealing computers in Guatemala!” she went on about…
“But it doesn’t require the whole village to fuck up a village.
Just a few folks to get together and fuck shit up.
Which can make a place not as safe..”
And through the course of our discussion, she seemed to be getting more and more flustered by me pointing out that it isn’t as nice as she claims it to be.
With a “that’s racist!” somewhere thrown into the conversation.
“You are painting all of Guatemala to be some shithole! I’ve been here for a few months now and nothing bad has happened to me!”
And, to back up her claim about how safe everything was, she asserted how she would totally feel safe walking at night in most neighborhoods down here.
“Where I live especially, there’s plenty of nice people, restaurants, bars and everyone is very friendly!”
In hindsight, I’m not really sure if she would actually test her claim that she would feel comfortable walking in any neighborhood at night down here.
In short, I feel she was just trying to dig in deeper into her initial belief that Guatemala isn’t dangerous! It’s nothing like the news!
And while the news does exaggerate to a degree the danger down here in Latin America for the ratings…
That doesn’t mean the opposite is true that you don’t need to be worried about the danger here.
And it wasn’t just about the danger that she took a strong stand on from my memory.
She was the type to often stand up as the Country Representative of Guatemala – an unpaid position that not even the Guatemalan Government knew she took up.
Where if you laid down any criticsm of Guatemala – in regards to the food, the cultural differences, the trash and shit in the street or whatever else – you would soon hear a very strong…
“How dare you….”
“HOW DARE YOU SON OF A BITCH!”
With a very intense finger wagging – “I hearby declare that there is NOTHING WRONG about Guatemala – it is PARADISE ON EARTH!”
Well, how could I have known that…
After seeing the second person take a shit in the street today and with some guy trying to steal my phone on the chicken bus….
But such a person who often takes to extremes to defend any Latin American country is in good company…
As these folks have their exact opposites running around…
Bolivia is a Shithole! Fuck this Place!
In contrast to the chick that I worked with when in Guatemala…
I was then in Cochabamba, Bolivia about over a year or so after my time in Guatemala working for a different NGO.
Doing pretty similar fundraising work as you can read about here.
Either way, I was working with a few Americans on this project to fundraise some money.
And one of them was a guy named Josh if I remember right.
Now he was a young fella just like me.
A little bit on the short side if I remember right.
And he was there basically backpacking South America for some time.
A little bit similar to me at the time moving around to different South American countries in this time period.
But he hated Bolivia.
He had been to Colombia if I remember right and loved that place.
“The women, man, so fucking great. Medellin – party! All that. Pussy, booze, pussy, booze, pussy, booze!!!”
Unfortunately for Josh, there was a lack of desirable pussy to be had in Bolivia for me.
He simply found the women to be too ugly for his tastes with Colombia in the back of his mind.
And keep in mind that there was literally nothing else about Bolivia that he liked.
In deep contrast to the chick mentioned in Guatemala who would jump on a sword if it meant vanishing any criticisms of Guatemala from ever being spoken..
This guy was actually just straight up racist about Bolivia.
“These fuckin indios, the women here are fuckin ugly, the men are all retarded. They can’t do anything right! Everyone here is fuckin retarded! Fuck these people! Fuck Bolivia!”
To be fair, I feel a part of the reason for why Josh took such a negative view on Bolivia was not only the fact that really the only reason he was in South America was to fuck women.
Granted, that was like 95% of the reason and the other 5% was to travel.
But also he got robbed at some market in Cochabamba some time prior.
Which might have left a bad taste in his mouth.
No excuse though for his comments but that’s likely where much of his issues were stemming from.
And unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a flight out of La Paz, Bolivia and back home until a few months later.
Where he would be home for a few months and then go to Brazil if I remember right.
Where, at least there, he might still get mugged once again but at least will be balls deep in some woman he finds satisfying enough.
Eh, nothing is perfect. Hopefully he had a good time.
Looking for Nuance
But Josh isn’t unusual either.
In the same way that the first type of woman is not unusual from Guatemala.
But in my experience, the first type seems to be more common than someone like Josh.
I suspect it’s probably because if you hate this place so much, you would leave wouldn’t you?
Whereas if you really see nothing wrong with this place, why wouldn’t you stay?
Truth is though both types are annoying and misleading.
Guatemala is not paradise but it is not terrible either.
Bolivia is not a shithole as it has plenty of great things about it – some of the friendliest people I have evr met were from Cochabamba!
And it has plenty of interesting history.
And really amazing scenery in the countryside.
From Death Road to Lake Titicaca and more!
And, if I’m being fair, I like to throw out some criticisms of Latin America also.
Those who have read enough of my articles know that I don’t shy from pointing out the negatives.
But despite all the negatives, I like it here!
Though the low cost of living is the main reason as I wrote here.
There are other things I like also – meeting new people from around the world, enjoying the amazing scenery in the countryside, appreciating some of the historical areas, etc.
And hanging out with all of the friends I have made down here also that I would miss if I left.
But, for me, the honeymoon phase has been over for a while.
I don’t see Latin America as perfect nor a shithole.
It is what it is.
Every place, including the US, has shitty and positive aspects about it.
Truth is this – there is no free lunch.
You take the good with the bad.
And evaluate what you want for yourself in your own life – what is most important to you as of now and in the future.
And from there, you can decide if Latin America is a better offer for you than say the US in terms of what you prioritize in life.
Just have some nuance anyway in making such an evaluation because every place, including Latin America, has its pros and cons.
Anyway, if you have your own take or experience on this topic, leave a comment below.
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