Guatemala is an amazing country that’s overlooked by most travelers. It’s not filled with sexy beach resorts or swanky nightlife, but the rainforests, coastline, jungles and river systems are second to none in terms of natural beauty. One of the most fascinating things about this country is the 21 ethnic Maya peoples that are still in numbers there, and the number of dialects they speak, their traditions and of course, their amazing food.
We had an incredible journey in Guatemala, and the show reflects that, but every once in awhile we get the chance to have an off camera experience that is really memorable, and this might be the biggest ever. I do a lot of work with Bono and the ONE organization, and one of their campaigns this year was #povertyissexist. In the developing world, poverty is sexist in the sense that more women are left holding the family purse strings, dealing with raising children with absent fathers, either lost to wars and conflict, or in some cultures men simply find a wife, have three or four children and walk away. There’s no recourse for these women. I’ve seen it all over the place—in Guatemala, in Jericho, in Suriname. It’s a horrific situation. So when the folks at ONE asked me to get involved, I got involved. The idea was to take Rosie the Riveter photos, so I took a photo of a few Maya women in this great pose and put it on Twitter.
Soon after I shared the photo, Otto Perez Leal, a local politician who turned out to be the president’s son, used the photo for his political campaign. This guy, another political crook by the way (not my opinion, but fact) took the photo, clipped it out and used it as a campaign poster for himself, as if to say, “look, even the local Maya support me.” His father had been under investigation for corruption for years, his father’s Vice President had just resigned when we arrived. There were daily protests in the capital that went unrecorded by American news. Put 10,000 people in Tahrir Square in Egypt and it’s on the nightly news. Put 10,000 Campesinos and Maya in the square in the capital city of Guatemala and it seems less sexy I guess. I was on the front page of the local newspaper for three days during this time as people called out the president’s son for stealing my photo. It was just one small salvo in the fight for the rights of Guatemalans to have a government that is fair for all. It turns out, after 6 or 7 weeks, that it started the process that ended up with the president resigning. Add to my list of achievements: I finally toppled a quasi tin pot Central American dictator. I’m just thrilled about the whole thing. The son is gone, the vice president stepped down, now the president of the country is gone.
Find more info on Bizarre Foods Guatemala on travelchannel.com.