Map preview for Day 231

Taken on 30th August, 2009 in Finca Santa Inés, San José Pinula, Guatemala. Open Letter Dated 22nd September, 2009. Photograph by Manuel Rodriguez. More details.

Open letter to Eleazar Canales, owner, and Pablo Braunschweig, manager, at Finca Santa Inés.

We left Finca Santa Inés about 3 weeks ago. Since then I've written online about workers' conditions there but I've waited until now to write this open letter to you because I needed more time to get to know more about Guatemala, so as to place my experience with you in a wider social context.

We left your estate early because we couldn't continue to volunteer our services in a place where the paid workers are given so little respect.

Pablo, we told you this before we left; in response you pointed to the fact that workers on other farms are treated even worse. I know that this is true. Any day in Prensa Libre one can read horror stories about workers conditions throughout the country. The Economist reported recently about the national shame of children dying from malnutrition in a country where others are abundantly wealthy.

Workers and their families are not starving to death under your management, but this does not mean they are being treated fairly and the exploitative conditions there should suffice to cause your own personal shame. As a travelled man, who likes to lecture on lessons learned about fulfilling human potential, how can you possibly justify conditions solely on the basis that they are worse elsewhere?

You spoke freely about the dangers of the ego and yet when confronted about injustices there your ego served only to outright deny any wrongdoing, to the point of blatantly lying regarding wages owed to workers.

You spoke eloquently about your plans for the estate, about a riding school, education centre etc. But your attitude and actions during my brief period there can only lead me to conclude that what you are building will serve to further solidify the gap that exists between the rich clientele of the ranch, and new polo arena, and those who will work there.

Eleazar, I didn't have much of a chance to get to know you during my time there, or to try and understand how you feel comfortable owning an estate on which so many other people are exploited, but I heard tell of some of your rants, particularly about how there is no hope for Guatemala to improve because half of the population is ignorant.

I concur that ignorance is holding the country back, but not about which half of the population holds the blame.

The powerful in Guatemala are purposefully limiting the potential of others for their own gain, and your position, as owner of a large plot of land, on which you live in opulent luxury, while others struggle to make a living, represents a microcosm of this corrupt and unjust structure. The full potential of Guatemala will be reached only when all of the population have opportunities in which to prosper and contribute to the growth of the nation. So long as a powerful landowners, such as yourself, cling to colonial notions of superiority, and government powers continue to ignore the needy in society, the country will suffer its current injustices.

I hope you both will come to see the wrong in these antiquated distinctions and bring change, at least in the small part of the country in which you currently exercise power.

I don't yet see how exactly, but I hear it in the aching bones of this straining nation that change is coming.

A New Guatemala will rise up. If you are not part of the fight to support it, you will most certainly be part of the defeated.

Yours in Anticipation,
Oisin Prendiville

9 Comments

Good for you Oisin for pointing out the hearlessness of these people towards the poorest in their countries.

  • avatar
  • Oisin wrote:
  • 6th October, 2009

Thanks Gerri… It is very disturbing to see that feudal-like systems still exist in the world and are perpetuated by those who have no excuse not to know better

  • avatar
  • Pablo Braunschweig wrote:
  • 8th October, 2009

this message is for Oisin Prendiville

My Dear friend for you is verry easy to come for five days and judge , we are doing the best we can , and you have no right , you have no idea of the trouble we as a country are going through .
So if you are not going to help dont get involved , or you think you will make a diference by pointing out what you think its wrong when you are not familiar and havent got a clue.

  • avatar
  • Catherine O'Regan wrote:
  • 9th October, 2009

You are doing the best you can? give us a break Pablo. I tried hard not to judge for the two weeks I was there, even though from the very first day I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about the world I had just entered, a world that, in my ignorance, I had no idea still existed.

You can make yourself feel better by saying that we (And I say we because I second everything Oisin said) have no right to judge, that we don`t understand, etc well you are wrong. We are human beings and as such we have every right to speak up against injustice... much to your discomfort.

Before we left the farm we approached you about all the things we had seen that we didn´t feel were right. You had the chance to open our eyes to that reality you say we don`t understand,
yet you just lied to our face about the wages the workers were due, saying that you didn´t owe anyone any money. Tell me, how can we take you seriously?

  • avatar
  • Pablo Braunschweig wrote:
  • 10th October, 2009

So come and take my old job, I dont control the monies in that farm, so write to Eleazar not to me .
And if you want to make a diference go and do something good
instead watering the weeds. water the flowers and fruits in life
I wish you a verry good life

  • avatar
  • Pablo Braunschweig wrote:
  • 10th October, 2009

And Eleazar owed the monies to them not I
It is Eleazars farm not mine
I met hi three months ago
And I dont need you to take me serious
I bearly know you
And like I said Have a great life

  • avatar
  • Oisin wrote:
  • 15th October, 2009

Hi Pablo

Thank you for responding here.

I don't mean to pretend I understand the complex nature and roots of the problems facing Guatemala, or to suggest that merely writing about it here is the solution.

I understand that Finca Santa Ines is Eleazar's property and the financial responsibility lies with him to pay the workers. The letter was addressed to both of you however since the conditions on the estate, and particularly the attitude of both Eleazar and yourself towards the workers, vividly illustrated to me at least some of these national problems.

We arrived as volunteers to lend a hand towards what we hoped and expected to be a worthwhile cause but instead we found discrimination and exploitation. Other volunteers have and will continue to arrive there, especially when the paid volunteer programme you discussed is implemented. I made the letter public so that others considering investing their time and/or money there would at least be aware of what I found. Others have had different experiences to me (for example http://bit.ly/2BAu2Q) and this information is also freely available, as well as your comments here.

Your allusion to watering flowers instead of weeds is of course beautifully poetic, but deceptively suggests that we should not even acknowledge and discuss the problems that exist. Indeed, from the time we tried to discuss the problems with you in person, to your responses here, you seem inclined, like one of the ostriches on the estate, to keep your head firmly in the sand.

Best regards
Oisin

  • avatar
  • Eileen wrote:
  • 16th October, 2009

Pablo,
It is clear that you feel shame and wish to be dissociated from the practices and conditions at the farm and for that we can all take you seriously. You are not responsible for the deeds and policies of Eleazer. It is good that you recognize that there are weeds, for you remain in a place where you can stop watering them and plant flowers in their place. You and the workers deserve that and you hold some power to ensure that those who report to you are treated with dignity and respect. Maybe it is time to stand up for them and for yourself? Some of your workers are barely adults, in fact some are still children, and you have power which you can either use to enrich their lives and demonstrate justice and equality, or if you choose not to use your power to become part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Only you can decide where you stand and how you move. The fact that you show guilt and shame is positive - but remember, you are not powerless. Nobody expects perfection but I suspect that if you follow your heart, and let your defences down a little, you will make a positive difference - especially as you are fully familiar with the difficulties in your country.

I truly hope that you do have a good life and contribute to a better life for workers on the farm. As Oisin said, just because there is worse elsewhere does not mean that you (or anyone else) should settle for less than good enough.
Eileen

  • avatar
  • Pablo Braunschweig wrote:
  • 19th November, 2009

Eileen

Thank you for understanding that layer
The kids are out of the farm and so am I
It is not the right place for them and my selfe
Starting my school with others and its really great
You are right but that not what I am seeking for
but to awaken from the day mare of all mental toxins
that dont allow us to see what it is but instead we see what we think it is.
to remove al dirty glases of race , religion , patriotisme ,
age , sex , public opinion , inferiority complex , etc
and not see throug them , the goal free conciensenes. at a personal level , and then global,Humans ho live in the darknes of thought do not have union with life wich is now
and happiness that is free and with in us just need to let it out. we can draw out from us the perfect mental climate
and awarnes is what we get when our conciense mind is expiriensing what we see what we hear what we feel what we taste what we smell and then we become conciese of the paradise that suraund us . and that dreams come true when all inerdouts are disolved fear fobias etc we live in a world
that is not real and full of mental programs that we follow unconciensly and we need to wake up and raice our level of humanity and as advance beens. we have the potencial we all do. We think we are advace because of tecnology , it is an achivement but nothing compare to our true nature.
stop the mental efort and will expirience better health more energy , happines , succses in all areas .
this is a gift that someone gave to me
and my goal for me and the world.