Category Archives: politics and Civil Society

The Good, the Bad and Saudi Women, who drive


SaudiWomandrivingAfter a joyous couple of months, during which I was captured by surf and Sri Lankan chill, I had the warmest of receptions in Lowlands Country by both my dear friends Rick and Louis and the weather. Having spent last summer in Central America, experiencing long summer days, with sunsets after 10 pm, which used to be so normal once, have become something to marvel at.



Drive, Baby, Drive

While enjoying a fabulous spring and beginning of summer in western Europe, a country at the bottom of my ‘wanna-go list’ came in the news, as it attempts to catch up with modern times. Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on female motorists. It made me think of cultural relativism and the absoluteness of good and evil. As part of social liberalism and political correctness- there might be a fine line between the two- one is not to judge other people’s practices and beliefs based on one’s own culture. It is considered ethnocentric and just not terribly sophisticated in the eyes of many intellectually inclined lefties.

Travel vs. Residency: the Dark Fairy Experience

During my time at the African Med, a bit more than eight years ago, I realised that experiencing a culture while travelling, is something completely different than doing so while actually living in said culture. I absolutely loved my first time in Egypt. I was based in Umm ad-dunya, my beloved Cairo, for a few weeks. It was Ramadan, which is a very festive time, a bit like Christmas in this part of the world, just with no alcohol and better weather. Life was tame during the day, but after sunset and iftar, the evening meal to break the fast, the city was captured by a festival atmosphere, which was a true joy to experience. During Eid I travelled to the oasis of Siwa in the west of the country, near the Libyan border, where life in the desert seemed peaceful and almost idyllic.

About 18 months later, when I had been living in the country for about six months as part of my academic year abroad, I realised I was far less open-minded towards other cultures than I had previously assumed. Being used to undertake stuff on my own, I found it hard to discover that, women, who want to do stuff solo are rather vulnerable in Egypt, and one needs the ‘protection’ of a man. Ideally your husband or father, otherwise a brother. As a foreigner you need to rely on a male friend, who will always be from a wealthier family, well-travelled and used to friendships between men and women. It’s not that I found my own culture superior, it’s just that I really didn’t dig that aspect of Egyptian culture.

Relative to Culture or Universal Good

Many of us have been raised in a culture of relativism: there is no such thing as absolute good or evil. What is considered okay in one culture is seriously frowned upon in another (sex before marriage, alcohol consumption, female circumcision.) Although I have been conditioned not to judge a foreign culture based on my own experiences, beliefs and practices, I am reconsidering the relativity of good and evil. I do believe there is absolute evil. How relative can shit be when it comes to the act of rape or child molestation?

To bring this back to the lifting of the ban on women drivers, I wonder why I should have considered this ban part of culture. Something that is not intrinsically good or bad, rather than an infringement of the universal human right of freedom of movement in a vehicle of one’s choosing?

There is something weighty and almost sacred about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, as the name says, entails universal values. Where then, do we draw the line between universal good and evil and culture differences that are ‘just’ relative? I am not saying I have the answer. I don’t know who exactly would decide on the universality of good and evil in practice. I am well aware it is not as black and white as portrayed in fairy tales and cartoons, but maybe our culture of relativism is a cop out that is just too easy.



Sri Lanka: What’s in a War


Tamil Tigers Emblem

After a few days of messy surf at the south coast, I returned to the capital Colombo in preparation for my flight to Europe. While consumed by surf in the last couple of months, I haven’t once mentioned the Sri Lankan elephant in the room; the civil war.

Up and Coming out of a War

The land of Ceylon tea- the plant is mainly cultivated for tourists and the export- hasn’t been on the (mass) tourist radar for that long. Although visitor numbers are increasing every year, the big touring companies haven’t found the Serendib island (yet). The reason that tourists and travellers have only been coming to Sri Lanka in significant numbers fairly recently, is because of an ugly thing called civil war.

Seeds of Hatred

The Sri Lankan civil war, an armed struggle between the Sinhalese dominated government army and the Liberation Army of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers for short, raged from 1983 until 2009. The stage for this conflict was set during British occupation and the early years of independence just after the Second World War. Sri Lanka had always been an island, where different ethnicities and religions co-existed, and different regions were ruled by different foreign and domestic powers.

From the early 1800s Sri Lanka, then called Ceylan came under British rule and the Brits were the first and only foreign power, that ruled the entire island, bringing the island’s different ethnicities together under one administration. After Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, parliament passed the controversial Ceylon Citizen Act, which was considered discriminative against Indian Tamils. Indian Tamils had been recruited by the British in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century to work on tea plantations in Sri Lanka. The Ceylon Citizen Act set as a requirement for Sri Lankan citizenship, that you could proof that you were at least a third generation migrant. This meant that you needed to be able to proof, that your father- not your mother- was born in Sri Lanka. As most Indian Tamil women would return to India to give birth, most Indian Tamils couldn’t submit such proof and were refused citizenship. In addition to Indian Tamils, who formed about 10 percent of the population  at the time, the country also has a Sri Lankan Tamil population. These  Tamils are mainly located in the North and East of the country and have been on the island for centuries. The effect of the 1948 Ceylon Citizen Act, was that most Indian Tamils had become stateless and hundreds of thousands were expelled and forced to return to India. Only in 2003 the Sri Lankan parliament passed a law giving all Indian Tamils, who had been in the country since at least October 1964 and their descendants the right to get Sri Lankan citizenship.

Language Thing and Militancy

In 1956 the then prime minister passed a law, that made Sinhalese, rather than English, the official language of the country. This is believed to have been a move to push Tamils out of the civil services, as many Tamils were not fluent in Sinhalese. Tension rose between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil speaking minority, that included in addition to Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils, Sri Lankan Moors, who descent from Arab and Indian Muslim traders. In the late 1960s the idea of an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, started to gain more traction. After more discriminating action towards the Tamil minority by the Sri Lankan state in the years that followed, Tamil youth in the North and the East became more militant and started to form armed opposition groups. The Tamil Tigers, became the most prominent of these groups by either merging with or getting rid of most other Tamil resistance groups. Quite a few Tamils opposed the actions and the goals of the Tamil Tiger, as many didn’t support the idea of an independent Tamil state and/or denounced violence. Some Tamils have worked for the government as part of paramilitary factions, while others had been active in ‘legitimate’ state politics. The Tamil tigers main resistance was aimed at elements of the state apparatus like politicians, especially Tamils, police officers and soldiers. These attacks were retaliated by the army, who killed far more civilians than armed fighters.

War what is it good for

In the almost 26 years of war, that ended with the surrender of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, around 150,000 people, mainly civilians died as a direct result of the war. Many more fled the country and the war had a detrimental effect on Sri Lanka’s natural environment and economy. The risk of land mines still exists in rural areas of the north and the east of the island. The total cost of the war is estimated to have been 200 billion US dollars. In 2014 the UN attempted to have an investigation into war crimes, mainly committed by the government, yet the Sri Lankan state refuses to cooperate.

Tourism in Sri Lanka; more and uglier?

While I have been roaming and surfing the south coast and stayed in Arugam Bay in the Tamil-dominated East, I’ve seen no signs of a past war. Tourist- travellers are a relatively new phenomenon in the country and most locals seem very keen on foreigners having a good impression of their country and war doesn’t fit into that picture.  To an outsider, Sri Lankans of all ethnicities seemingly get along without little problems. Since the war ended only 9 years ago, there must still be a lot of pain, anger and resentment. Being in my surfing- traveller bubble, I seldom asked locals questions about the war. After post-colonial unrest, civil war and natural disaster, Sri Lanka has become an attractive tourist- traveller destination once again. So much natural beauty, rich culture and many kind locals in wonderful weather is most definitely worth a visit. Tourist numbers have been increasing since the end of the civil war and there is no sign, that numbers will be falling any time soon. I just hope Sri Lanka will be smart about its tourism. As the country is relatively small and densely populated, it needs a solid infrastructure. Without one, tourism in Sri Lanka could get quite ugly indeed.

Winnie M; Death of A Warrior Queen


MandelasjpgRecent history knows many freak phenomena. The system of Apartheid was one of them. Being an 80s kid, I vividly remember the repeated news stories of black civil unrest and fierce repression in South Africa and the many anti-Apartheid campaigns that ran in the Netherlands. I remember the hits Free Nelson Mandela by The Special A.K.A and Sun City by Artist United against Apartheid, initiated by musician and activist Little Steven. I might have only been a kid, but I found it most baffling that people, who looked just like me, had absolutely no rights in their own country. As a grown-up and after almost a quarter of a century since the declaration of a free South Africa, I’m still astonished that the Apartheid system lasted for that long. One of the icons of that great struggle against Apartheid, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela has died recently. Since those days up until her death, she was considered a heroine and a controversial figure, as many women of that calibre and with similar profile tend to be.

Fearlessness and Militancy

A young Winnie met the much older Nelson Mandela in the late 1950s and they married about a year after their first meeting. They only spent a few years together, as in 1962 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. During her husband’s incarceration Winnie Mandela campaigned tirelessly and fearlessly for his release and civil rights for the people of colour in South Africa. She was arrested, tortured, put under house arrest, intimidated and put under surveillance, yet this never stopped her fighting for the cause. As an intelligent and charismatic warrior queen she had a huge following and as the Apartheid government intensified its campaign against any opposition to keep the racist system in place, so did Winnie Mandela intensify her battle. This meant she was unforgiving to those she suspected of being informers of the regime and reprisals were brutal. In 1989 Winnie Mandela was found guilty of instigating the kidnapping and brutal murder of the 14-year old Stompie Seipie.

Ultimate Victory

Winnie Mandela leading her husband out of jail that sunny Sunday in February 1990 after 27 years of imprisonment, might remain one of the biggest historic television moments of my life. It was an image of strength, joy and ultimate victory. Yet, after that historic day, Winnie Mandela would get several more stains on her image as Mother of the Nation.

The first free elections for all South Africans in April 1994 brought an end to white minority rule and made Nelson Mandela president of the multicultural country. The struggle was over. Winnie Mandela held a post in her husband’s cabinet, from whom she had been separated since 1992, but was fired a year later after allegations of corruption. The couple divorced in 1996. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by another anti-Apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was to assess what atrocities had been committed on both sides. Winnie Mandela showed no remorse for  the kidnappings, tortures and murders that she had ordered. However, the Commission came to the conclusion in its final report that Winnie Mandela was “politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC “ (the Mandela United Football Club, Winnie Mandela’s personal bodyguards).

Despite several accusations and convictions of fraud, she remained very popular and politically active. She was a fierce critic of her former husband’s policies as president, yet seemed to have remained close to him until his death in December 2013. After Nelson Mandela’s passing she got involved in a bitter dispute concerning his estate and legacies and lost a court case two years ago after having gone to court to lay claim on Nelson Mandela’s Eastern Cape home.

Fallible Heroine

The fight against the white minority Apartheid regime was addressed by the racist system with military might and on the television screens it looked very ugly indeed. All the atrocities not captured on camera or written about in newspapers, must have been far worse. As a warrior queen Winnie Madikizela- Mandela was militant, determined and fearless. She must have sacrificed a lot for the struggle. A big cause can blind and power corrupts. Madikizela- Mandela clearly wasn’t infallible, however I wondered if she would have been looked upon differently if she had been a man. Male political leaders and activists tend to be praised for their statesmanship, vision or determination when they pass on, even if wasn’t all that rosy (Nixon, Arafat). Yet, women of the same profile don’t seem to get the same treatment (Indira Gandhi, Thatcher).

Madikizela- Mandela was and will remain a great heroine for many in and beyond South Africa. With her passing we are just being reminded that heroines and heroes are not saints and that our fallible heroines could be reviewed with the same kinder eye as their male counterparts, when they pass over to other realms.

Catalonia and a Farce called Democracy


Catalan flagsAs a former news junkie and politics geek I don’t seem to concern myself much with the news nowadays. I’m too busy deciding what my next destination is going to be, which hostel to stay at and where to set up my office for the day. I do scan the headlines of the British left-leaning ‘quality’ press, that flog us just as much bollocks as other outlets with whichever inclination or paymaster and I’m not quite sure why I actually bother. One recent news story I got rather worked up about is the faux-democratic shenanigans around Catalonia’s independence  referendum.

The faux- Democratic Diet

We folks in ‘western democracies’ are being force-fed so-called liberal democratic ideas and ideals pretty much from when we are able to read and write. We learn about the French Revolution, nationalism, the emancipation of the working classes and how political rule has transferred from the few to the many. Besides that we, the people, apparently rule ourselves, we also have so-called freedom of speech, freedom of press, the rule of law and all those other wonderful aspects a ‘free-society’ should have. Then we have the EU, which has been in the making since the 1950s. What started out as a small economic association grew out to a political union, in which the perceived rule of the many was transferred back to the rule of an unelected few. We get to freely move, study and work within the EU prison, which seems a bone juicy enough for most to pliantly accept the EU dictatorship, but I’m digressing slightly.

It must now be quite obvious, that not only when it comes to countries with brown and black people and plenty of natural resources, the so-called beacons of the free world turn a blind eye to non-democratic aspects and (in)action. Even in Europe, the will of the people can be forcefully denied if it’s not to the liking of the state. In the case of the Catalonia independence referendum, Spain might as well still be lingering in Franco- fascist- dictatorship times.

Democratic Terror State Spain

A bit less than a month ago, the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia held a referendum on its independence, which was approved by the Catalan parliament, yet declared illegal by the Spanish state with the argument that it was in breach of the Spanish constitution. The referendum was held nevertheless and voters were forcefully removed by the National police and the Guardia Civil. If this had happened in Russia or any other’shady’ state, this action would have been universally condemned. With a voter turnout of 43 per cent, 92 per cent of the votes were cast in favour of independence. Now you might think, that if less than half of the electorate could be bothered to vote, could one consider that a mandate? In the first place, many voters were forcefully prevented to cast their vote, so we don’t know what the turn out would have been if the brute that is the Spanish state would have allowed and actually encouraged a truly democratic process. In the second place, in American presidential elections, on average 25 per cent of registered voters- so not 25 per cent of all the people, not even 25 per cent of the electorate, but 25 per cent of the registered voters– get to decide via an electoral college who the country’s president is going to be. That is considered a free and fair democratic process. In the UK about 30 per cent of the votes decide, which party gets to rule the country. That too is considered a legit process in a liberal democracy.

Instead of declaring independence straight away, Catalonia has been dragging its feet and wanted to negotiate with a state that displays terrorist tendencies. Then, yesterday, the Spanish terror state dissolved the democratically elected Catalan parliament and calls new elections, with the argument of ‘restoring democracy’. Opposing the will of the people to restore people’s rule, is a case of double speak not even George Orwell could make up. A Facebook friend made the analogy of an abusive relationship; while Catalonia wants a divorce, the Spanish state uses violence and abuse to maintain the union and at the same time claims how much respect it has for the autonomous region. Meanwhile, leaders of the ‘free world’, US, UK and the EU super state, force-feeding ‘democracy’ abroad, have stated they won’t acknowledge the democratic will of the Catalan people. In case I was still hanging on with a pinky finger, I got off the fake-democracy band wagon for good.

Democracy is a farce. There is no such thing as people’s rule, only the appearance of it. Let the walls of prison dissolve.



top image:
bottom image: sceptical

Leon; Revolutionary Vibes and more colonial Shabbiness


Signs of a Revolution, Leon

After spending a week in Granada I took a shuttle, which basically is a small van transporting tourists, to the city of Leon, which is another colonial town in Nicaragua. Lonely Planet describes it as an off-beat, political town and a more left-leaning and quirky rival to Granada. The distance between the two cities is no more than 120 kilometres, yet it took us half the day to reach our destination. Upon arrival, I was yet again underwhelmed, as Leon even looks shabbier than Granada. Despite it not being love at first, or even second, sight, I stayed in the city for more than a week and the place did start to grow on me.


Dutchies Galore

I was taken by surprise by how many Dutchies I met in town as both residents and traveller- tourists. In the almost three months I spent in southern and eastern Mexico, I could count the Dutchies I had come across on the fingers of one hand and wondered where they were all hiding. “In Nicaragua” might have been the answer, as on average I met a bit less than a handful of fellow and sister Lowlands People everyday. Norwegian travellers, in my experience a rather invisible travelling force, were also well presented in town. Like Granada, Leon has a shed load of churches to find salvation or refuge from the rain or heat and pleasant cafes and eateries to set up office.

Leon and its Place in History

The city was founded in 1525 about 33 km to the east of its current location. In 1620 the city was damaged by  earthquakes caused by seismic activity from nearby volcanos and the Spanish invaders, who lived in the city decided to relocate the settlement to its present location. The old city was slowly covered by ash and other volcanic sediment from several volcanic eruptions and was only discovered in the late 1960s.

Leon had been the capital of Nicaragua since the arrival of Spanish greedy bastards and remained  the capital when Nicaragua became an independent nation in 1839. In the first decade after independence the capital shifted between Leon and Granada with more conservative administrations favouring the latter and liberal rulers giving the preference to Leon.  As a compromise, neutral Managua was chosen as the capital of the young nation in 1852.

When I was growing up Nicaragua was synonymous with dictatorship, revolutions and civil war. Besides that, air travel and therefore travel outside Europe was considered terribly exotic and a rather distant dream for most and the only people, who would consider travelling to Nicaragua, were war journalists. Nowadays, tourists numbers in the country have been increasing year by year and for most travellers, the civil war is just a history lesson, if the awareness is there at all.  For decades Leon has been the epicentre of political left-winged activity and a fair amount of, mainly mature, travellers, are interested in the city, because of its prominent role in the revolution.  Because of its left-leaning inclination, Leon always had strong links to the Sandinista movement, that formed the main opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, which led to the toppling of the regime in 1979. If the revolution to overthrow the dictatorship wasn’t bloody enough, the Contra war, that followed, brought extended suffering to Nicaragua, claiming tens of thousands of lives. This Contra war was waged by Sandinistas and by US-sponsored right-winged opposition groups and made Nicaragua a major proxy war battleground during the Cold War.

Leon; the Verdict

Leon still carries its revolutionary colours with pride and the city has a museum dedicated to this turbulent episode in history. Besides political, the city is also very intellectual and is, as one can imagine, a major student town. Alongside the politics and the intellectualism, the city does literature quite well too, as it has been home to the country’s most well-known poets Rubén Dario, Salamón de Selva and Alfonso Cortéz, and still houses a great number of bookshops.

Although, as stated earlier, the city grew on me in the course of the days, despite a rich culture and plenty of good and very affordable eateries, I just wasn’t able to catch the vibe. Would I recommend visiting Leon? If you are interested in churches, Nicaraguan recent history and the revolution in particular, then yes, definitely; go. Would you like an urban base to visit the many volcanoes in the region and the nearby beaches, whether you go for the deserted beach of Salinas Grandes or the closer by playas las Peñitas and Poneloya, then yes, consider it. If you are expecting a ‘cool’ Latin city like Medellin or Panama City, which are both considerably bigger, or even Xela in Guatemala, which is more or less the same size, than just forget it. Although I will report on Panama City’s in a few weeks’ time, perhaps Central America is just not so much about cool ondas urbanas.

Fear, Loathing and James Bond Across the World


Live and let dieAs I am spending my last few days in Xela, I am longing for some beach in-action at the Oaxacan coast in Mexico. Until then, I have to deal with yet more rain and fucked-up pavements and the world at large, and the UK in particular, involved in more scaremongering. And on top of that, yet another legend has passed on.

To Live and Let Die

A few days ago Manchester was hit by what is being sold to us as a terrorist attack. First of all, I am very sorry for anyone, who might have lost a loved one. Within 24 hours the perpetrator was known and apparently, the act was claimed by IS. I wonder if the perpetrator left his passport on the scene and I’m also quite keen to know who IS’ spokesperson is, informing the media that it was them causing the mayhem. Now the military is roaming the streets of the British Isles as a precaution against more terrorist attacks, yet based on what intelligence is unclear. Again, the alleged perpetrator was known to security services, yet those same services couldn’t prevent an attack. So we are being fed the same fear-mongering old bollocks stories until we willingly accept martial law or some sort of other rather unfree state of existence.

Bond; No More James Bond

Then the great Roger Moore, for many the one and only James Bond, has passed on at the age of 89. Sure, he has done some other stuff, but pretty much everyone associated Mr. Moore with James Bond and the actor didn’t mind one bit. I’ve always been a Bond fan, especially the 20th century Bond films, as you watch them like you are reading a comic book. There is this terribly suave and sophisticated man person, who happens to be a British secret agent, saving the world from the evilest forces. He is clever, indestructible, a saviour and a massive babe magnet, who never seems to get anyone pregnant or catch an STD. And then there are the exotic locations, the fight scenes and stunts; what is not to like. If it wasn’t for the escapism, there might be plenty not to like.  Bond, even the 21st century films, still hold on to the idea that Great Britain is an empire, that needs to wield its influence all over the world. Then there is this misplaced loyalty to this entity called the Crown; a ‘position’ that can only be filled by people from a certain bloodline and they can use and abuse the country and its resources in any way they see fit. So much for equality.

Need for Self- Super Heroism

Whether we are staunch republicans, fierce royalists are somewhat on the fence, we, the people, need to be very aware of who claims authority on what basis, especially in these times. There seems to be a desperate need for a boogie man, so states have an excuse to exert their power by culling civil liberties and display more police and military force. It’s very easy to sleep-walk into the abyss with the idea that the state will save and protect us. The biggest problem is, that the state is not there for our protection and James Bond won’t come and save us. The one and only James Bond, Roger Moore, passed on and besides that, he doesn’t really exist.

Guatemala; Kindness and State Terror


QuetzalMy experience with the people of Guatemala, is that they are a very friendly and kind people. Despite Guatemala being located in Central America, I haven’t experienced it as very Latin as such. Many Guatemaltecos love to dance and typical Latin music genres like salsa are by no means unpopular. Yet, it is perhaps the stronger presence of indigenous cultures that gives the country a non- Latin vibe. Around 40 percent of the population are considered indigenous, the vast majority of which are of Mayan descent. This percentage might be even higher, as the majority of the population is a mix of indigenous people and folks of European descendants, but quite a few don’t acknowledge their indigenous heritage. About two percent of Guatemaltecos are of African descent and they are mainly located in the east of the country at the Caribbean coast.

The Issue with Guatemala

Like all Central American countries, Guatemala has suffered greatly under Spanish colonialism as well as, more recently, under American imperialism. The nastiest symptoms of this imperialism are explained with the more conventional term of the Guatemalan civil war as part of the Central American crisis. In the 1960 an awareness of and objection against great inequality started to grow in wider Central America and also in Guatemala. Democratic elections had brought leftist forces in power, but a military coup in 1954 instigated by the US government, brought about a military dictatorship and the military stayed in power until the mid 1990s. While the military was in power social injustice only increased in the form of great income inequality, non-existing labour regulations in favour of workers and a lack of freedom of expression. Any protest was forcefully put down by the government, backed by the United States, who saw the support of military regimes as a necessity for the protection of its huge corporate interests in Guatemala and the wider region. US corporations owned most of the farmable land, yet only used a fraction of it and deprived Guetemaltecos from the right to produce their own food and provide for themselves.

In the Name of State Terror

Both the rural and the urban poor organised themselves and especially the rural poor formed guerrilla groups, who fought the army. From the 1960s and especially in the 1980s the army fought bloody campaigns, not only against guerrilla groups, but mainly against civilians, both rural and urban and of all walks of life, of which the army might have had the slightest (phantom) idea that they were supporting any opposition groups. I object against the term civil war, as the conflict consisted of a fight of the military apparatus against the population. So in that sense it wasn’t a war between people, but an unfair fight between the state apparatus supported by the US government and a very tiny minority forming the Guatemalan elite, against the population. Around 200,000 Guatemaltecos died or disappeared during the decades of state terror, and with these number the term genocide is appropriate.

The official year that the campaign of state terror ended is 1996, when the UN negotiated a peace deal between the government and opposition groups. A truth commission was installed by the UN, that concluded that more than 90 percent of the violence during the campaign of Guatemalan state terror was conducted by the army and CIA-trained para military forces. Since the peace accords the country has known democratic election, economic growth and a successful anti-fraud campaign. The country still suffers great income inequality, with half of the population considered to live below the poverty line and domestic violence against women is widespread.

The Only Way is Up

Attitudes in the country seem to be rapidly changing especially in the cities. This is noticeable in small and bigger things. There are more women with short hair, which only three years ago seemed quite rare. There is a slightly bigger acceptance of gayness, despite still prevailing machismo and although I have been here less than two weeks, I haven’t been asked once whether I’m married and/ or have children. As Guatemala is mountainous and has many towns and villages that are fairly isolated, change might not take place as rapidly across the country. As I am an optimist, I’d like to say, after a tough recent history and a kind and willing population to make their community and country a fab nation; the only way is up.

A very insightful documentary about the conflict in Guatemala is the documentary When the Mountains Tremble, made in 1982 at the height of the campaign of state terror.