Out of the Blue


January 3, 2010

When I arrived at the bus stop today coming home from Antigua, I discovered that it was raining. It had been cloudy all day, but I didn’t expect actual water to fall. What made this occurrence of precipitation right in the middle of the dry season even more strange, was that it was the second time it has rained during the dry season this year. The last time it rained during the dry season was, I’m told by my Spanish teacher, Guadalupe, about 5 years ago and it was due to some really large hurricane or storm.

IMG_5573You and I would almost undoubtedly attribute this odd weather to the ever more increasingly pressing issue of global climate change. In fact, I read in the national newspaper Prensa Libre that the climate summit in Copenhagen listed Guatemala as one of the 10 countries to be most affected by global climate change– meaning increases in floods, droughts, disease, hurricanes, and much more.

Now when I said before that “you and I” would attribute it to global climate change, I was insinuating that not every Guatemalan would. And I was basing this assumption off of a number of generalized observations: the fact that it appears to me that more Guatemalans read the smutty Nuestro Diario, with its scantily clad bikini models and gory photos of gang violence victims gracing the front page than they do the Prensa, which gave front page deference to the aforementioned article; the immense amount of trash that litters the streets; the way that every single chicken bus exudes scandalous amounts of acrid black smoke as it pulls away from the bus stop; just the typical things that would alarm any environmentalist in the U.S. But back to my point: for these and many other reasons, I assumed that this hot button phrase “global climate change” was not at the tip of the typical Guatemalan tongue– including my family and others in my town.

Now here’s where Fina comes in and totally surprises me. We were visiting her older sister shortly after Christmas to see her massive nativity scene. (It filled a whole sofa. Yes, I mean that exactly.) We were ushered into their front room where stood their Christmas tree. It was a real pine tree, not huge, but definitely not a sapling either. Nor was it a true Christmas tree, but just a regular pine tree. Although it is illegal to cut down pine trees here due to deforestation issues, I don’t believe the rule is very carefully followed due to the fact that my own host brother waited until night-fall to cut some pine branches for our home. But apparently the key is that he cut a few branches. Fina’s nephew had cut down the whole pine. And when he proudly announced this, Fina laid into him: “You cut down the whole pine tree?? That is ILLEGAL. Do you realize that you’re harming the environment by cutting down trees? That’s why it’s raining in the middle of December, idiot.” (No, she didn’t call him an idiot, but since you weren’t there I had to give you some insight into what her tone seemed, quite strongly, to imply.)

Well, I was totally shocked. And so pleased. But it left me with a ton of questions! I had never heard her talk about climate change before, nor any other environment-related topic, and I didn’t know where she had learned about it. I’ve never seen her read the newspaper, and the only radio I’ve heard her listen to is Catholic radio. Maybe they have discussed it in church? I honestly can’t say, and I’m going to have to find out, but I will say that if Fina had been in Copenhagen she probably could have shamed the leaders of just about any country into making a deal.