Our community, La Esperanza, which means Hope, is a squatter settlement located to the south of Guatemala City in the area of Mezquital. The community of La Esperanza and its surroundings were established by an invasion of approximately 40,000 people in 1984. These neighborhoods began in the 80’s with the arrival of people displaced from rural areas during Guatemala´s 42-year Civil War. Today there are five settlements in our area; Mezquital, Villa Lobos I, Villa Lobos II, El Búcaro and La Jolla. Even though our group is located in La Esperanza, we help people from other nearby communities in our medical clinics and schools. La Esperanza has more than 5,000 citizens, and the neighboring communities have tens of thousands more.
In the beginning, La Esperanza consisted of shacks made from scraps of tin, plastic, wood and cardboard. There was no sewage system, electricity or potable water. Since its creation, La Esperanza has been transformed into a viable community with cement block houses, underground sewage pipes and other basic services. These improvements were carried out by the active participation of the population and with support from international organizations such as UNICEF. At the same time, new squatter settlements have arisen on the margins of the established communities due to the poverty in the countryside and in the communities themselves.
We, the women of UPAVIM, made it our mission years ago to dedicate ourselves to making a difference where it is needed and tackling many of these issues in our community.
Without a doubt, La Esperanza continues to suffer from many of the social problems that characterize marginalized populations like gang violence, discrimination against women, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, illiteracy, unemployment, child and adult malnutrition, the lack of health services, child abuse, and the lack of sufficient schools for our children. As a result, depression, fear, and apathy flourishes in our community.
With the extreme poverty that characterizes La Esperanza we find many mothers, including ourselves, whose families have disintegrated, leaving us as the sole supporters of our families. Out of necessity to work and make a living, mothers must leave their younger children alone at home with neighbors or older relatives, or to wander around by themselves in the streets. Lacking in financial resources, proper supervision and basic community services, the optimal growth as well as mental and physical development of our children is diminished. We are working towards improving these problems.