I took Ben to Mexico City where we hung out with my friend for three days before flying off to Guatemala where we spent another five. He is 18 and this was his graduation present from last year. Ben had only left the United States once before and that was to Jamaica with his family to stay at an all inclusive resort.
He chose Guatemala. He chose it because he figured, as he told me later, that he would most likely go to Europe or Iceland on his own. Guatemala on the other hand was completely out of his comfort zone.
Quietly I worried. I worried about being robbed. I worried about being beat up or even kidnapped. I worried that my nephew whom I hardly knew would be harmed and that I would be incapable of protecting him. The US State Department suggested that we change our travel plans to Guatemala because of the insecurity.
I worried. And I finally mentioned my concerns to my partner who confided that he too was worried. This wasn’t like bringing Nate to Costa Rica or Natalie to Argentina. It was nothing like bringing Alec to Spain.
Oh yes it was. We had a wonderful time. We had a spectacular time! We saw Lake Atitlan which I had never seen before, and we hiked up the back side of Volcán de Agua. We watched exhibitions of cocoa production and weaving, we ate hearty food at small restaurants and laughed with the locals. We sat in parks and walked on cobbled streets in old colonial towns.
Sure, Guatemala has its problems. It has its corruption, its desperation, its poverty, its drugs. Sure I was worried about violence.
In the nine days we were away there were 49 people shot in mass shootings that resulted in ten deaths. That was in the United States. It’s a dangerous country.