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The duty of aiding Central Americans

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In 1992, I visited Guatemala on a United Nations-sponsored mission to assess the health situation of Central American refugees and displaced people in Central America. I was in Quetzaltenango, home to many indigenous Mayans. There, I learned a lesson.

I had gone to visit the town’s historic cathedral when I saw an old Mayan woman dressed beautifully, kneeling and praying on the steps in front of the church. I instinctively grabbed my camera and was ready to shoot when the woman turned towards me and said, “One dollar!”

Although initially I refused to pay her for the photo, I realized it was her right to demand compensation for something that would benefit me. Unintentionally, I had wanted to take advantage of this woman, something that the Mayans had been used to for centuries following the Spanish conquest of the country.

It was only in 1951, when the Mayans had the opportunity to redress their poor health situation and standard of living with the democratic election of President Jacobo Arbenz. He instituted a series of dramatic reforms to improve their situation, and strengthen democracy in the country. When Arbenz took office, 2 percent of the population owned 70 percent of the land.

The focus of his policy was........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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