Francisco leaves me by the side of the road. At the crossroads of the routes to Nebaj and Uspantan, our farewell is brief—a warm embrace and a mutual blessing. Then, a locked gaze through a dusty minibus window, a last wave of hands, and he is gone. I’m now on my way to Uspantan to find José who will take me to meet Margarita and Beltran in Regadillos, a Guatemalan peasant village.
José meets me at the church square in Uspantan. The van that he found didn’t wait for us, but he came across a young man, Juan, who has a pickup truck. Juan, who lives in Regadillos, asks for three hundred quetzales to take us there. A silent negotiation ensues with them staring each other down. I watch, without saying a word, for about a minute. Juan loses his calm at the sight of José’s dismayed expression. “OK, one hundred seventy-five,” Juan finally suggests. “It’s a deal,” I answer. José gives me a discontented look, as if to say it’s not a fair price.
“A beer, my friend?” suggests Juan.
Peace offering? It’s eleven in the morning, and my stomach is empty.
“Dale! Considering the cost of the ride, I hope it’s on you!” I wink at José, appreciative of my answer, and continue, “But only one!”
José laughs uncomfortably. I study him: with his gray trousers stuffed into a pair of rubber rain boots too big for him, his heavy wool sweater, his straw hat, and his machete hanging from his waist, he really looks like a peasant in this urban setting. Juan must be around twenty. He’s mastered the city vibe with his graffiti T-shirt, washed denim jeans, multicolored runners, and American baseball cap. Getting into his red pickup, decorated with neon and race car accessories, I wonder whether he really comes from Regadillos. Are the youth from these incredibly remote villages already so assimilated? The uniformity of looks from one continent to another, the infatuation with trendy fashion branding reigns even here.
José, the peasant or guerilla, according to the authorities twenty years ago, is a hero. Juan, young, born in the renewal, the reconstruction, the healing, and the memories, channels the hope and freedom of pop culture. From the dream of simply repossessing the land and living peacefully now emerges the desire to leave the land to make something of one’s self. Juan still believes in a Catholic god, but secretly prays to another. Now, it’s not only the cross that hangs from the rearview mirror but also the soccer ball, the guitar, the miniature dream catcher.
In Regadillos, Juan parks the pickup in front of the only store in the village. His window rolled down, he yells out something I don’t understand. From the white metal lattice on the window of the tienda, a somewhat shrill voice replies just as incomprehensibly.