Written by Emelia Ferrero. Media by Kelsey Neier.
Guatemala started appearing more frequently in the news a few months ago. An entire nation protesting together to end government corruption? What was going on in this country? American interest piqued when the president of Guatemala resigned and was jailed in September.
Marlene Saravia, a freshman Worship Arts major at Greenville College, gave depth and insight into a movement driven by circumstances that Millennial Americans today may find difficult to truly understand. Not only is Marlene from Guatemala, but she played a part in the peaceful protesting that garnered international attention and brought about change to the government.
“I’ve just been to one, and I really liked it. There’s a sense of patriotism, very strong, and it’s beautiful because you get there and there are thousands of people there, and we’re all shouting. It’s like a civic party, and you definitely feel like you’re making a difference,” she says of her experience protesting.
Taking place every other Saturday since March until the resignation of the president, the larger protests were done in the central park of Guatemala City, with a minimum of 10,000 people present. Multiple protests took place across the country for those who wanted to show support in their own townships.
Marlene explains the reason for the protests in the first place:
“[With our protests] we were asking the president and vice president to resign because of what they’ve done. The money they’ve stolen – it’s insane. As a people we wanted to see it change. You can expect things from this [American] government, even demand things; you have rights. You have your health care, and even if you don’t agree with [your taxes] you know they’re gonna be used for good. Back home, you can’t rely on the government at all, and the crime rate in Guatemala is crazy! But where are the job opportunities? The government doesn’t supply them. Health care is such a major issue, [as well as] infrastructure. The government is not doing their job.”
Concerning this issue, there were no violent protests, “and that’s why it was so exciting. Other countries…they were using Guatemala as an example. That’s why we kept doing them every other Saturday because people were actually committed and apparently we all wanted the same thing. I know that people will be more careful now because we’ve done something. I wouldn’t say [the situation] changed, but there’s definitely something going on.”
Marlene gives a message to those who protest violently:
It’s so easy to make it violent, but if you wanna make a difference, do the hard thing. Do it peacefully. It’s actually better. More people can unite under a peaceful protest than [under] a violent protest. You might actually think that you’re not gonna be heard if you do a peaceful protest, but… the key factors of a peaceful protest are consistency and patience. We started this back in March, and it was not until last month that things actually happened. So it was going there and having faith and believing that you will be heard eventually.”
Faith that God will provide a better tomorrow was vital to the protests’ success, according to Marlene. Many Christians of all denominations would meet in the mornings on the days of the protests to pray and worship God for hours for Guatemala. Marlene was a part of this movement as well. Even though the president is out of office, this prayer movement is still happening every other Saturday.
“Prayer has so much power,” says Marlene, and through that power, with the aid of other peaceful tactics and the determination of a people to improve their situation, Guatemala is changing for the better.