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Sanarate, El Progreso, Guatemala, Central America.





Village of El Carmen

The village of El Carmen is the center around which orbit several villages and hamlets on the west side of the Municipality of Sanarate, in the region of El Progreso, Guatemala. It is the village with the greatest strategic significance, since it is the only one that has a National Institute of Basic Education in the entire area. It also stands out from the other villages in that its homes are set up quite far apart along the edge of the road that runs from Sanarate toward the Municipality of San José El Golfo in the region of Guatemala.

In El Carmen, the economic interests of the villages of Plan de Buena Vista, La Lima, El Amatillo, El Peñasco, El Paraíso, Panajax, Cerro Blanco, San Rafael, El Limón, El Caracol, La Loma, Puente de Barranquilla, Laguna de San Jacinto and other more or less nearby communities all converge.

Despite the importance of this region, the access road is not in very good condition, with a lot of loose ballast which forces one to drive with extreme caution, particularly when riding a motorcycle, since there is the constant risk of skidding if one fails to take the necessary precautions. Similarly, traveling on this road on a four-wheel drive vehicle is very uncomfortable due to the constant bumping that one is subjected to as a result of the pot-holes and the loose rocks which are found almost along the entire route.

However, these inconveniences are more than compensated by getting to observe the typical landscape of the region which is full of natural beauty and has a great number of birds which are native to the area. One can also get to see a number of migratory birds which remain in this area for a few months during the dry season. Knowing this stretch of road, it normally takes about 45 minutes to travel from downtown Sanarate to El Carmen. Although if one wants to travel cautiously due to the poor conditions of the road and to have the chance to observe the landscape along the way, the trip commonly takes about an hour.

The residents of El Carmen enjoy a standard of living and have a purchasing power above that of the other villages, because in addition to deriving income from agriculture, farming and trade, they also receive financial income from the monies that are sent to by relatives who live and work in the United States. It is estimated that close to half of the male population has left for the US, and in addition to sending cash, they also send vehicles and all kinds of domestic appliances. That’s why visitors are not surprised to find many adolescents in this village entertained using their iPhone, iPad, iPod or iMac, all of which being the most recent versions. Some of the homemakers in the village have even started using their own “iGrill (Grilling/Cooking Thermometer)“. It would not be strange if, in the near future, one could come to the village of El Carmen and buy a coffee at Starbucks, or a hamburger at McDonald’s. Who knows, in these times of globalization, anything is possible.

El Carmen has all of the basic services which are vital for any community, such as abundant drinking water, even enough to allow for the generous irrigation of the small farms, gardens and lawns of most of the houses in the village. There is also electricity from the national supply network, cellular telephone service and satellite internet service. In other words, the village has all the comforts of modern life.

This village gets its name from the patron saint of the place, the Virgin of El Carmen, and in her honor, a festival in her name is celebrated on the 16th of July. This festival is famous for being so joyful, and its main attractions include: the popular dances, string races (on horseback), cock fights and naturally, the religious rites such as prayers and processions in honor of the Virgin del Carmen. The success of the festival, which is attended by people from all the neighboring villages, from Sanarate, and from the capital of Guatemala, is due to its friendly and attentive nature of the residents of the village who are always helpful and kind with visitors.

When it comes time for the visitors to leave El Carmen, they take with them in their minds and in their hearts the mark that is left by a community whose philosophy of life is worthy of imitating.

tono herrera gudiel

Reportaje y Fotos:
Jorge H. Herrera

Translation to Ukrainian and Russian:
Світлана Шинкарук

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