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.
You are free to use this image under the conditions of its Attribution Share Alike License.
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,