Travel in Guatemala Tropical Storm Agatha
FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- “I receive emails from many tourists who think that they can’t travel here in Guatemala because of Agatha,” I spoke to worker at the Finca Tatin one night over beers.
He looked at me funny. I repeated my statement, reiterating the fact that Agatha was the tropical storm that hit Central America around one month ago.
“El Hurricane?” he questioned.
I nodded my head.
“Why?” was his only reply.
“Because they read the newspapers in their country and they think that there are no more roads in Guatemala and that people can no longer travel here.”
My Maya friend laughed hysterically. “People are very afraid of Guatemala,” he got out between bursts of laughter.
What I said was absolutely ridiculous. During Agatha, the area where we live and work had clear skies with next to no rain. The main highway that goes from here to Guatemala City — the main east/ west transportation corridor of the country — was only closed by Agatha for a single day. The highway north to Flores was scarcely impacted at all. The main infrastructure of Guatemala stood through the storm, and very little impact was left behind: highway CA-9 was only blocked for a day, this country was open for tourism throughout Agatha.
The tropical storm Agatha was scarcely a blip in the lives of most Guatemalans, it had very little impact on the infrastructure of the country as a whole. Outside of the villages that were immediately impacted and wiped out in mudslides or floods, the people here scarcely regard the storm at all. I had to remind my friend that there even was a storm.
As far as tourism is concerned, Agatha had very little real impact. The impact of Agatha on tourism was a knee jerk reaction: the northern press caught hold of the story and blew it way out of proportion. What was a bad storm that washed out some villages was broadcasted as a national emergency, a catastrophic event that virtually destroyed Guatemala, Honduras, and parts of El Salvador.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
But this story sold newspapers, it got people watching the news, I do not doubt the role of the Guatemalan government in playing up the storm to make a larger plea for disaster relief money.
In a time when the USA has taken a break from bombing other countries, the news media scrambles for international copy. They found some in Agatha and ran with it until what was broadcasted no longer represented the actual occurrences. Journalism seeks to find the most extreme parts of any situation and sell it as the whole. The news was full of photos of only the most dire impacts of Agatha, on the displaced people, on the dead. The news failed to show that most of the country was impacted only slightly: there were no photos of the open highways, no lines that said that tourism in the country was business as usual, no videos of trucks and buses moving across the country unimpeded just one day after the storm.
No, the world saw photos of washed out houses and stories of people loosing their homes. They did not see that Guatemala was actually up and running one day after the storm.
Do not cancel your plans to visit Guatemala, the only impact that tropical storm Agatha had on tourism was that potential visitors watched too much news and canceled their trips.