In Barillas, poverty and frontier justice rule.Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard
BARILLAS, Guatemala - They don't sell postcards in this frontier coffee town, a place so remote "it's where the devil left his blanket," in the words of one Guatemalan.
Think Wild West or life in rural Oregon 75 years ago. This is a place where the water may be running, or not, depending on the time of day, and public sanitation is virtually nonexistent non·ex·is·tence
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.
non , where bank guards tote pistol-gripped shotguns and the occasional horse shares the road with motorcycles and Toyota pickups.
Justice, too, can take on a frontier flavor. In rural Guatemala, where police are sometimes ineffective or simply not around, people take the law into their own hands.
While the Cascade Medical Team was in Barillas, a mob captured and killed four men suspected of breaking into a house in Saclecan, a nearby village, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the United Nations Verification Office in Guatemala.
Police found a burned-out pickup truck with no license plates.
Inside were three badly burned bodies; nearby was another body, decapitated de·cap·i·tate
tr.v. de·cap·i·tat·ed, de·cap·i·tat·ing, de·cap·i·tates
To cut off the head of; behead.
[Late Latin d and burned. Local prosecutors haven't launched an investigation, the U.N. said. It was the third lynching or attempted lynching in three weeks in the Barillas region.
Lynchings aren't uncommon in Guatemala. Since the 1996 Peace Accords, which marked the end of Guatemala's 36-year civil war, an average of 24 lynchings have occurred each year, mostly in rural areas, according to the U.N.
Cascade Medical Team members weren't told about the lynchings. Leaders of Helps International, the team's parent organization, said they had no firsthand knowledge of the incidents.
Rumors are rampant in the western highlands Western Highlands may refer to:
Lynchings are an unfortunate fact of life in Guatemala, but the vigilante vigilante n. someone who takes the law into his/her own hands by trying and/or punishing another person without any legal authority. In the 1800s groups of vigilantes dispensed "frontier justice" by holding trials of accused horse-thieves, rustlers and shooters, and justice is directed at suspected thieves and other criminals, not at Americans there on a mission of mercy, he said.
But team members were told before the trip began not to walk through town alone and not to walk at all at night. Guatemalan soldiers armed with machine guns kept watch over the team's hotels.
Barillas didn't feel particularly dangerous or lawless. Aside from an occasional obnoxious drunk, people were generally friendly and helpful to the American visitors and grateful for the care they received.
Most of the people are indigenous Mayans, descendants of a civilization that flourished through much of Guatemala and the surrounding region for centuries before the Spanish took over in the 16th century.
The town's shopkeepers were happy to do business with the Americans, doing brisk trade in phone cards, blankets and colorful textiles. The town's economy could use the infusion of cash.
Barillas has a brand new school, built with money from the national government, but much of the town is rundown, hurt by a downturn in worldwide coffee prices.
About 12,000 people live here, plus another 72,000 in surrounding villages. The quality of homes varies widely - from nice, stucco-sided homes behind gates and in the hills to those with corrugated cor·ru·gate
v. cor·ru·gat·ed, cor·ru·gat·ing, cor·ru·gates
To shape into folds or parallel and alternating ridges and grooves.
v.intr. tin roofs and dirt floors. Skinny dogs run the streets, and pigs and chickens are a common sight in front yards.
Family-run tiendas, small stores Noun 1. small stores - personal items conforming to regulations that are sold aboard ship or at a naval base and charged to the person's pay
commissary - a retail store that sells equipment and provisions (usually to military personnel) selling soda, fruit and candy, sit on nearly every corner.
A few main roads are paved, but most of the roads are dirt or mud, depending on the weather.
Major roadwork road·work
1. Sports Outdoor long-distance running as a form of physical exercise or conditioning.
2. The activity of taking a band, typically a rock band, on extended tours.
3. Highway construction. was going on when the medical team visited, but not a backhoe or excavator ex·ca·va·tor
An instrument, such as a sharp spoon or curette, used in scraping out pathological tissue.
excavator (eks´k was in sight. Hard-working crews used picks to dig out to depart; to leave, esp. hastily; decamp.
See also: Dig road beds and shovels to fill the beds with rock and gravel.
Farmers here grow cardamom cardamom (kär`dəməm): see ginger.
Spice consisting of whole or ground dried fruit, or seeds, of Elettaria cardamomum, a perennial herb of the ginger family. , sugar cane, fruit, beans and corn, but coffee is king in Barillas. About 95 percent of the town depends on the coffee trade, said Francisco Castillo, assistant to the mayor of Barillas.
Coffee is the fifth most widely traded commodity in the world, and its prices are notoriously volatile. Coffee prices have been in a slump since fall 2001.
And when the price for 100 pounds of coffee fell to $32, down from a high about $63, Barillas felt the hurt, Castillo said.
"What keeps the economy running is the coffee," he said through an interpreter. "When the price of coffee goes down, the economy goes down."
A Guatemalan soldier stands guard at the hotel where the medical team stayed in Barillas.