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Hey everybody! My name is Emilio Morales and I’m very happy to be a part of renegadepress.com. As you may know, I come from the country of Guatemala, which is located in Central America between the countries of Mexico and El Salvador. I lived in the village of Santiago Atitlan with my mother, my two sisters and my older brother. Now it’s just my mother and my one sister living there. There was a really bad mudslide in my village not too long ago. Santiago wasn’t damaged as badly as some other cities like Panabaj or Tzanchaj, but there have been many deaths. My mother and sister are okay though. The mudslide missed their house, but the community has experienced immense loss. People, property, it’s difficult to speak of everything that was lost, and since then the conditions have worsened with food becoming scarce.

My older brother Mario got involved with the gangs when he was younger. Because of this, he was killed. My sister Julia also died not too long ago, because she was frail and there wasn’t enough to eat. It’s because of all these reasons that I decided to move to Canada. My mother didn’t really want me to leave, but I explained to her that it would be easier for me to get a job and provide for them. So, that’s what I did; I had no other choice but to leave my family and everything I have ever known to come to a strange country to try and help them.

Canada is a beautiful country, but quite a bit different from Guatemala. The main thing is the cold. It took me some getting used to at first, and to tell you the truth I’m still not completely comfortable with it yet. Back home we’d never seen snow, so it was quite a shock (and very exciting) to see it for the first time. I’ve also noticed that many people here aren’t as friendly to strangers as they are back home. In Guatemala you say ‘hello’ to everyone, even if you don’t know them. I tried that here, and it didn’t go over very well. I didn’t get beat up or anything like that, but I sure got some funny looks.

Guatemala is a wonderful country. If it wasn’t for the corruption amongst the people in charge, I think it would be one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. There are the Mayan ruins in the city of Tikal, and a place called Panajachel, which is very close to my home. There are three active volcanoes and the amazing Lake Atitlan, which is probably my favorite place to visit.

Unfortunately, on the darker side, our country has been plagued with civil war, gang violence and a corrupt police force. There is also racism and inequality towards the native people of Guatemala. It is because of these problems, that I worry for the safety of my family every day.

Since I have moved here I have met some great people who are trying to help me adjust to the culture and way of life. It’s nice to have friends who will help when you are in a new place, like telling you when you are embarrassing yourself by saying the wrong thing or doing something that is culturally confusing. The friends I have made here are doing everything they can to make me feel right at home.

This next year will probably be a very difficult one, but I hope that I can make enough money to help my mother and sister and still have some time to do well in my schoolwork and make some new friends.

[Translated from Spanish] Mama and Julia, I hope that you are safe and that you get to read this message. I miss you and will see you very soon. Stay strong, I love you both very much.

Ciao,

Emilio

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/4324038.stm

http://gomexico.about.com/cs/guatemala/a/guatemala.htm

http://www.terra.com.gt/turismogt/

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