It is winter in Guatemala. I had no idea winter really came to Guatemala; countries south of the Tropic of Cancer generally do not vary too much in their climate. Perhaps some times are more rainy, or less, more sunny, or less. But extremes in temperature? It happens, to be sure. In the wide plains of the western highlands of Guatemala, around the second largest city of Quetzaltenango, farmers have been tilling the land for centuries. The products that come from their efforts are transported to all regions of the country as well as abroad. While not wealthy by any standards, the farmers in this region generally live comfortably. But they still live dependent on each year’s harvest. And this year has not been good for them.
I do not like feeling I am always writing about the trials and tribulations of farmers, but the reality is that farming is an unstable profession because it lies in the mercy of nature. And lately, nature seems to be merciless. While the temperatures normally dip during what the northern hemisphere calls winter, this year the cold front has lingered, and has brought even colder temperatures than usual. Cold enough that there was a frost. A FROST! In the tropics! Yes, it happened, and it’s not completely unheard of, but it’s a (thankfully) rare occurrence.
Farmers have lost almost all of their crops due to this frost. The lost harvest includes cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese peas, carrots, lettuce, radishes, among other vegetables. The carrots have survived the best, since they were protects by the soil. Much of the carrot loss is because there was a lot of frostbite on the carrot, which although doesn’t necessarily ruin the carrot itself, it causes the outside of the carrot to turn colors that are not orange, which of course renders the carrot unsalable. Some farmers have been able to sell some carrots, and they’ll use that money to buy more seeds to try again. Other farmers have had to sell off some of their livestock in order to earn enough money to buy the seeds and replant. But the profits from those efforts will of course not been seen for a few months. In the mean time, it is going to be tight times in the Highlands. And what do I mean by “cold” in the tropics? Each night it drops into the low fifties or high forties. That’s cold for a place where no house has heat!
I apologize for two things: one, for not having any pictures (I’m having trouble with my camera…namely the trouble is that I left it in El Salvador!), and two, for any spelling errors. The computer on which I’m working at a tiny Internet cafe in Xela is set for Spanish, so nearly every word I type is underlined in misspelling red!