I am not a local and I am not a teenager. I love it here and I see a lot of happy people including the locals. It took a conversation with a smart 16 year old for me to start thinking about this issue. Now that I have, I would like to think about what we could do to address it.
First, let me state the problem. Kids finish their basic education at 16. Some will be able to go off to a university somewhere, many will not. There is no local university so your opportunities are really limited by what your family can afford. Because of the tourism and resident Gringos here the local population is doing a lot better than in many other areas of Guatemala. But, in general, that doesn’t translate to teenagers being able to go away to college.
That leaves them with some less than exciting options:
- Go to one of the trade schools and learn how to work in an office
- Get married (all too young) to someone who can support you
- Do what your mother did which usually means working as a maid, maybe a waitress or selling things to tourists
That will probably be good enough for some but what about those who have plans/a vision. It is likely that their parents will tell them that’s a nice dream but it is not possible. They will see their peers with a family who can afford it go off to college somewhere. Those that remain will repeat the poor local path of their parents. Worse yet, their peers and parents will see that the idea of education and a future really was no more than a dream.
I don’t have a proposed solution. This post is really about me realizing something that I just would not have seen without the help of a local 16 year old. I do think we owe it to the community to do something. For many of us, this area has been an amazing place to live. What can we do to return the favor?