Poverty and Violence in Quiché
By Floridalma Quintana, USAC Student, Guatemala
Greetings from Guatemala. My name Floridalma Quintana and I am an engineering student at San Carlos University in Guatemala (USAC). I'm working with ConDev and CDF conducting surveys on conflict and poverty in one of the poorest areas of Guatemala: Quiché. According to a UN report, the poverty rate is 81%, the highest in the country.
The violent war that ravaged Guatemala from 1960 to 1996 particularly affected villages in the "Ixil Triangle": Ixcán, Playa Grande and the entire region of Quiché. Even today there is a sequel to this violence, conflicts arise from the current problems of food insecurity and malnutrition, unemployment, migration, drug trafficking, and lack of adequate infrastructure, among others.
Through Engineer Silvio Rodriguez, Director of the Professional Internship Unit at USAC, (EPS in Spanish) at the College of Engineering, USAC, I learned that the Conflict and Development Foundation and the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University (ConDev) wanted to conduct surveys in rural communities severely affected by violence and poverty. I am pleased to have been selected to support these activities, while I'm working on an infrastructure project that includes the design of a water system for Zone 2 Santa Cruz del Quiché.
In surveys I conducted in this community, I've noticed that many people report going to bed hungry. On the streets I have seen children shining shoes and elderly people selling products, trying to earn some money for food. People of all ages worry about where funds for their next meal will come from.
Initial survey results show that many agree that gang violence makes them feel unsafe in their homes, and they do not feel safe walking on the street at night. Many think that the level of violence has increased in the past two years and that factors such as unemployment, inequality and corruption contribute to the problems of violence.
Later I will comment on the progress of my project and the survey results. Although I can do little to help with their poverty and violence problems, I am grateful to have the opportunity to help with a much-needed infrastructure project.