They Don’t Want to Go: How These Guatemalans Avoid Heading North to the U.S.

PASTORES, Guatemala - Here in this boot-making capital of the country, Eduardo Barahona uses his skills to make Texas-style boots, belts, shoes - just about any leather goods - anything to avoid migrating north.Down the road in Cienega Grande, Celestino and Martina Alvarez show off their plot of land where they grow coffee, apricots, corn and raise chickens, anything, they say, to keep their family together.“I see the television images of my countrymen, humiliating themselves, alongside their children and I refuse to be one of them,” said Barahona, 31, a bootmaker for the past 17 years. He was referring to the rising number of Guatemalan families heading north and turning themselves into U.S. authorities in the hopes of obtaining political asylum. “We may not seem like much here, but all we need is an opportunity to put food on the table. I make boots.”He prefers to see Guatemalan boots head north, where they are worn, among other places, in North Texas. And he wants more opportunity for his countrymen so they can stay at home.Across the stunning highlands of Guatemala, also known for its pristine beaches and striking colonial buildings, there are stories of resilience intermingled with the growing narrative of a desperate people, many who have chosen to flee violence, poverty and a lack of opportunity. In many regions, town people quietly work to keep their families at home.  Continue reading...

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