TBT - "The Trouble With Driving In Guatemala".

This is the third installment of "The Trouble With Driving " series.

The Guatemala civil war 1960-1996.

The first time I tried to drive into Guatemala was from Mexico in 1965. At the border crossing in Tapachula we talked with a group of American Hippies escaping Guatemala because the civil war in that country was heating up. We did the prudent thing and returned to Mexico City

Back then Guatemala had a very large indigenous population (and still does) that were fighting the small ruling elite, who had the backing of the American banana corporations and the CIA. For the last couple hundred years the United States could always find a rational for supporting dictators: "It is in our best interests!". Apparently democracy for others is only good if it protects the interests of our international corporations.

In the 60's & '70's I made several trips in and through Guatemala. The country is very beautiful with a kaleidoscope of colors in the lush tropical scenery and the costumes and customs of the indigenous people. At night you can see the glow of some of the active volcanoes reflected on clouds passing over their cones or in the smoke rising up out of the caldera. I made these trips while driving back and forth from the U.S. to our residence in Honduras.

In the '80's civil unrest in the area got a big boost from a flood of weapons being pumped into Central America from the United States and some Communist countries for a 'proxy war'. This provided me a great business advantage at the time because I was active in buying plant cuttings in Guatemala for a tropical foliage nursery in South Florida. The personal dangers of traveling in Guatemala greatly restricted competition from other foreign buyers !

At that time, Guatemala was divided up between government held territory and rebel held territory. This made driving the highways very dicy if you did not know the boundaries - and there was check points everywhere that added to the stress of being on the roads. I asked one of my local suppliers that had a big plant nursery in rebel territory (and drove around in a Mercedes!) how he was able to operate and come and go at will. He said he paid big 'taxes' - to both sides.

There was always a curfew in place - no driving on rural highways after dark. Unfortunately there was times I would get caught up in what I was doing in the countryside and then have to race back to Guatemala City in an effort to beat the curfew. Being late to return I would often suffer the wrath of the military stationed at the city entrance checkpoint - but there was a few times when things got even worse. My vehicle would get fired at by rebels. The adrenaline really gets going when racing around burning vehicles blocking the road and watching the tracer bullets passing over the hood of your vehicle at the same time! Crazy thing is - you adjust to even that kind of stuff after you have done it a coupe times.

Advantages often come at a price. So determine what it might cost you and if can you afford it!