• Carrin Robertson

April in La Esperanza

April 2nd, 2019.


So I’m sitting eating breakfast, and I’m pretty stoked as it’s “Tamale Tuesday!”, so have been dancing around this morning. Also, prepped some grapefruit ceviche for dinner later. YUM. I'm getting a little more into food beyond avo and toast, although ceviche requires “cooking” with lime, so not really cooking....

Anyway, I’m sitting eating tamales for breakfast with Misty and Ryan and Pegga, when all of a sudden, Misty- who never gets ANYONE’s name correct, and often says random out of the blue things (which usually I love her for...and my mum is sometimes similar :P) said:

“Bill Murphy died”

and my tummy did a drop.

“WAIT. WHAT. Do you mean Bill MURRAY?!”

“Oh yeah him. I heard yesterday”

“Noooooooooo! No fucking way, he’s NOT dead. I love that man”

Immediately I check google. There is nothing.

“But I heard yesterday…..”

“MISTY, yesterday was April Fool’s Day.”


“For fuck’s sake, don’t do that to me.”


I’m out in La Esperanza, actually outside in the street on the way to Francis’ house to interview her. We are currently updating the United States side of the online store (well, to be specific, Alisa is), and has asked for some photos and interviews with the UPAVIMA artisans, so I'm off out. with my camera snd some questions. I had asked Sonia this morning if she’d do one and she was like “nope”. I joked with her that famous artists never do interviews, right?!

So en route to Francis’ house, its sunny and I’m with Angela and Elsa, there are houses with pretty flowers growing. We pass the gringas cart which always brings memories back to me of the shooting my housemates and I had been little bit too close to in January. But today, I smile and think about how that hasn’t happened in like two months (at least on our street) and how much I love the food from the cart. I feel safe in my new neighbourhood. I had taken a friend, Anthony there to get dinner the other week and I hadn’t been terrified.

We head down a side street to Francis’ house- I’ve never been to anyone’s house before…

(FYI I’m writing separate posts about interviews)


Got into yet another conversational debate on religion with my colleagues. Apparently I’m off to the bad place, off to burn to in hell. I’m reminded of my pal Dave saying “What church do you worship in?” In his mock shit Irish accent, so I pop him a message. Very funny.


I feel like I got a lot accomplished today- had a meeting I was unaware I was supposed to attend with the Consejo; where I wasn't entirely prepared, but expressed my design concerns. The funny thing about saying what I mean in Spanish is that I come across as even more blunt than I usually am in English, hahahaaa. But at least I was smiling.

Plus I translated Francis’ interview into English for the site and edited her photos. Also managed to finally figured out my soldering issues for earrings with the right kind of wire and solder paste. Score.

I stayed behind work a little late as I was asking Mayra if she was cool about being interviewed which she said was fine. She has shared a lot with me about her life, about her kids and how her husband had treated her before he passed away. He treated her in the most awful ways imaginable, but for now, its not my story to share.

I hugged her and she said “I used to cry about this when speaking about it, but I’m so, so much stronger now”. We spoke about UPAVIM and she told me about how good it was and how it’s her second home.

I headed upstairs after saying bye and Ryan is on the roof outside in his usual Tuesday spot speaking with Gustavo who comes every Tuesday to practice his English. I always make a point to stop and talk with them and have a wee chat.

The Sound is unmistakable. Always five shots.

Both Ryan and I pulled a face. Not a scared or horrified face, just a sad, disappointed, hurt eye closing of “oh god, not again”.

There was a shooting today on the street outside, Pegga, Ryan, Gustavo, Marie and I looked over the wall to see the commotion at the end of the garden. We see a crowd of people so assume its directly opposite. The ambulance arrives and the lift the injured person is lifted into the back. A woman is screaming and crying.

That is the first time I’ve heard a sound like that. Like a banshee in pain. Or the Guatemalan equivalent: La Llorona. It goes through you.

All we know is that there is hope to save this person as they actually take him or her away. I can’t process this time. None of us can. Everyone around on the street are looking, but some are getting back to their business. Again, as it’s not a complete surprise, there isn’t much shock. I feel numb. I ask Marie how she is as its the first time she’s experienced this in Guatemala and I want to be there if need be. She says she can’t process and is a little desensitised from what she has heard. Misty is the same. I wonder aimlessly around the roof, useless and clueless to what my plans to do should be. I can’t leave the building. I sit in the kitchen and pour wine and start typing about my day until there is nothing left to drink or type.

I feel I need to share this with someone outside of it all. I’d been chatting with Anthony throughout the last few days and I mention what’s happened and he is shocked and worried. He’d stayed with us a few days ago and I know he can visualise the street and the buildings, so I tell him I feel weirdly not in touch with whats happened, and that it worries me. I don’t know this person who has been shot, but I know I’ll find out more tomorrow. I sense that there will be more to come because that seems to be the case. I didn’t want to ever feel the desensitisation, I’m almost forcing sadness and confusion because that’s how any human should feel, isn’t it? If I was there on the street that’s how I would feel, but I’m only removed by the height of our building. We can still see what’s going on. Does the human body naturally adjust to its surroundings in such a way? And so quickly? I know that this is not a normal thing, yet if I were in London there would be outrage. It. breaks my heart that there is not outrage here when there fucking should be.

I type and type. That person is a son or daughter of someone here in the community.

April 3rd

I’m interviewing a few other ladies today- and this is when it hits. I’ve been speaking with Carmen, and I didn’t even have to ask her any questions on the list, except,

"Can you tell me your story?” And she spoke. For forty minutes. She cried, I cried.

At the end, we're just talking and we speak about the shooting yesterday, the man who had been shot had two little girls and a wife, he was just a man trying to make a living. He sold fruit and vegetables. His own business. That’s what upset me most, a person can try all they like to make it, make their own living and. way in life- but the gangs still ask for their payment, and if you can’t pay… well, that’s it.

But. And I’ll say this over and over again and I mean it- La Esperanza is still the friendliest place I’ve lived, and it truly embodies both the words “Community” and “Hope"


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