The Wave

A man who said he was  "deportado" or deported says he was shot in a case of mistaken identity by local police. The police said he was involved in a shootout with them, but either way he was in handcuffs as the paramedics tended to his wounds. Photo by Jon Lowenstein

A man who said he was “deportado” or deported says he was shot in a case of mistaken identity by local police. The police said he was involved in a shootout with them, but either way he was in handcuffs as the paramedics tended to his wounds. Photo by Jon Lowenstein

6292 people were murdered in Guatemala in 2008. Most of them were killed in the capital of Guatemala City. The violence in this small Central American country knows no limits and currently it is one of the most violent and insecure places in the world that is not in a declared state war. People are consistently murdered for their cell phones on the streets, bus drivers are shot in the head in broad daylight in front of crowds of onlookers and people are openly extorted and killed if they do not pay.

Violence is on the rise and many here feel that the current government has little or no control over the various forces undermining basic civilian normalcy.

As part of a project examining the collective experience of Latin American migrants to the United States I have traveled to Guatemala at least 4 times over the past several years to show the devastating effect that violence has on everyday people in the nation’s capital and demonstrate why some people choose to leave their country’s homeland in search of a better and hopefully safer life in the United States.

With the daily drumbeat of intimidation, fear, extortion, and murder continually met with impunity, the local population grows increasingly desperate. Because the police often do nothing, it is not uncommon for street justice to take over, with mobs clamoring to protect their neighborhoods and enforce provisional order. This body of work attempts to show shows the bloody impact of organized crime, ineffectual government and grinding poverty on everyday working people.

This story is part of Jon Lowenstein long-term project about immigration: Shadow Lives USA.

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