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Travel to Guatemala After Agatha Tropical Storm

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 [...]

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.

Related articles: Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala | Rainy Season Begins in Central America | How To Find Travel Information

Filed under: Central America, Current Events, Guatemala, Weather

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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2 comments… add one

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  • Brian P June 28, 2010, 9:31 am

    Hey Wade,

    I think the flip-side to this problem of the news media inflating “problems” to “international disasters” is that when something really is that bad, people remain skeptical. When the images of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came out, I immediately thought of the flooding you sometimes see in the midwest: a few blocks are flooded and the pictures you see are the worst of the worst. With Katrina (I know because my family lives in New Orleans and I ventured there shortly after the storm), practically the whole city was underwater. Until the tragedy unfolded in the way that it did, I’m sure the general populace was desensitized to the images of flooded streets.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 29, 2010, 8:15 pm

      Hello Brian P,

      It is hard to see through the media smokescreen a lot of times to tell what is really going on in a place. Newspapers want to sell papers, televison news gets more money according to how many viewers — the news needs to be biased, it needs to have an agenda which satisfies its audience.

      I agree, it is confusing when you can’t tell if the images in the newspaper is representative of a situation as a whole or is only a few snapshots of the worse of it.

      The only solution that I can come up with is only using the news as a guide to lend impetus to further inquiry — to get a feel of what a place is really like on the ground you have to ask someone who is there.

      We are really becoming desensitized to the media crying wolf and making any problem out to be a catastrophe. But sometimes these problems really are catastrophes, but we just sweep them under the carpet with the rest of the media smoke.

      Media sources are now in such competition with each other that they have started to make their own news.

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