Monday, December 18, 2006


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
You can tell a lot about a country from its cars. Motor vehicles will one day prove as useful to archaeologists as potsherds and inscriptions. Their rapidly changing styles make them superb chronological markers. But they are more than that: they reflect the social pyramid; and when you add some statistics as to who owns what kind of car, you have a steel allegory of the human world.

The telling thing about Guatemalan wheeled fauna is that there are so few species between the vermin and the exotica. If you are rich, you’re filthy rich; if you’re not, well a ’58 Chevy or a ’66 Datsun is as close as you’ll get to wheels.

The fincas, which cannot afford to pay their peons more than about $1.20 a day, support flamboyant jeeps equipped with magnesium wheels, balloon tires, roll bars, extra lamps, and bucket seats in the truck box, filled with giggling señoritas. Urban businesses – coffee and cotton brokerage firms, soft-drink bottling plants, arms suppliers – nurture Cadillacs and luxury German sedans with smoked bulletproof windows, as dark as the faces behind them are pale.

The army officers who make all this possible seem to have rather adolescent tastes: Blazers and Broncos with chromium rams and prancing horses. Similar vehicles, devoid of ornaments and license plates, prowl the streets at night, looking for subversios to “disappear.” (A Guatemalan I know claims that disappear was first used as a transitive verb in his country.)

Ronald Wright in « Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico »

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails