Guatemalan Gen Xers and Millennials have taken to the streets to stand up for justice in light of a nation riddled with violence and corruption. The past few days, I've been here in Guatemala spending time with a few leaders of "Un Joven Más (One More Youth)," an organization pulling together all the isolated efforts in Guatemala to move from its current environment of exemption from punishment, injustice, and fear to an environment in which freedom and justice drive the country's growth, progress, and future. One of the movement's central themes is "Guatemala, we will never abandon you."
The movement's main blog features this call to action:
La juventud guatemalteca apela a tu responsabilidad, como ciudadano, como guatemalteco, como ser humano, de organizarte y manifestarte pacíficamente, para exigir a nuestras autoridades que cumplan con las obligaciones para las que fueron designados: defender y proteger la libertad, la justicia y la vida de los guatemaltecos. (The Guatemalan youth appeal to your sense of responsibility as a citizen, as a Guatemalan, as a human being to organize and peacefully demonstrate to demand that our authorities fulfill the obligations to which they were elected for: defend and protect the freedom, justice and life of all Guatemalans.)
Several recent events, including a rash of murdered bus drivers; the murder of Rodrigo Rosenburg, a respected corporate lawyer; a startling murder rate of 17 people per day, and so on, motivated a few young leaders to say "enough" and organize a national movement that, if sustained, could have the impact of the America's civil rights movement. These young people are determined not to be driven by fear of retribution in order to pursue what is best for the country.
In just a few weeks, using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and text-messaging leaders from the region, the movement had grown from a few dozen concerned youth to over 30,000 at a recent demonstration promoting justice at La Plaza Italia, the main plaza in front of Guatemala City's City Hall. Other organizations involved in coordinating efforts include Me Importa Guatemala and Christian youth organizations like Emergente.
Many of these young leaders have bravely approached Guatemala's congressional leaders directly to promote justice and peace. Phone taps, being followed, police harassment, and restructuring time spent in public are among many of the new realities these young leaders are experiencing in their quest for justice. Spending the past few days in Guatemala has encouraged me to understand the true power of a few men and women willing to risk safety and comfort to suffer for the promotion of human dignity.