Despite being a country that exports goods used all over the world, people living in Guatemala are poor. The housing reflects the economic problems Guatemalans face, as well as the ever-widening gap between those with money and power and those without. The following piece is an in-depth examination of housing in Guatemala.
About the Country
Guatemala primarily exports sugar, bananas and coffee, but has dabbled in exporting cocoa and illicit substances. The working class has historically been very poor, while the people who run the privately held export companies make lots of money. This continues to be the case, even today. Many do not have access to proper education or healthcare, and ,despite aid from groups in other countries like the United States, change is slow.
For much of the population, simplicity reigns supreme when it comes to housing. The floor is usually dirt. The walls can be exposed wooden support beams or even cornstalks. Houses often have thatched roofs made from dried vegetation and are sparsely furnished. Running water and electricity are precious luxuries reserved for the upper class.
Houses for the Wealthy
Travelers going through Guatemala will probably find themselves in a bed and breakfast or a well-appointed hotel. People with money live in more modern housing with access to water and electricity. They have floors with tile, lamps, fans and other amenities one might consider reasonable and necessary.
Housing Costs vs. Income
Between labor and supplies, a house can cost very little compared with the prices of homes in the United States. But even at a few thousand dollars, most homes are well beyond the reach of families earning as little as $3 or $4 per day. And since eating takes precedence over housing, there is simply not enough money to go around.
Aid from Other Countries
Groups like From Houses to Homes, Habitat for Humanity and the Arms of Jesus Children's Mission have set their sights on Guatemala and are determined to create sturdier housing. They use cement flooring, tin roofs and cinder block walls to create a home that can withstand the elements but costs no more than a few thousand dollars to build.