JUTIAPA, Guatemala – The small village of Horcones sits at the end of a pothole-filled road in Jutiapa, in southeastern Guatemala. Here, about 40 percent of the population is dedicated to raising livestock, earning an income that isn’t reflected in the wealth of the whitewashed, Grecian-columned houses that are found in this farming community.The majority of people here seem to know someone who works abroad and sends money home, a situation that is replicated around the region and accounts for affluent properties springing up in less-than-affluent areas.Remittances, or money sent by expatriate workers to their home countries, have been steadily increasing in Guatemala – despite stepped-up deportations from the United States – and now account for about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to 2012 data from the World Bank.In 2013, Guatemala received more than $5.1 billion in remittances – the second highest amount in Latin America after Mexico – and Guatemala’s Central Bank predicts the figure will grow by around five percent this year.Griselda Toj lives in Sacatepéquez, 40 kilometers from Guatemala City, and each month she receives on average $330 from her husband, who works on a dairy farm in the U.S. state of Idaho.“The money he sends back helps us a lot to buy food for the children, send them to school and buy them medicine if they get sick,” Toj said. “If he weren’t there, we wouldn’t be able to cope, because over there he has a lot of work.”Poverty, violence and family reunification are among the main driving forces behind Guatemalans deciding to make the journey north.“Our life is difficult here. My husband left three years ago because my son became ill with asthma and bronchitis,” she said. “The medicine is expensive and he had to use a special apparatus. We could hardly afford to pay for it.”In October, more than $500 million was sent back by Guatemalans working abroad, predominantly in the U.S., which represents an 8 percent increase compared with the same month last year.Like many people who receive remittances, Toj is saving to build a house – an example of the effect that Guatemala’s Construction Chamber says money sent from abroad is having on reducing the country’s housing deficit.However, experts highlight that while remittances enable some people to save, invest in education and contribute to the local economy, it is an unstable source of income that is often squandered due to a lack of financial information for recipients on how to manage the money.“Yes, remittances can reduce poverty,” said Beatriz de Azurdia, from the National Council of Migrant Services. “But we need to take into consideration the risks migrants face and the abandonment kids feel, which can cause families to disintegrate and children to lack guidance. Also, the senders have little say over how the money is invested.”To combat this, a Guatemalan company recently introduced an electronic remittances gift card, which allows migrants to specify where the money they send back is spent.In July, the Guatemalan government launched a campaign outlining the risks of exploitation and death that undocumented migrants face on their journey north. However, the lack of employment opportunities in Guatemala and many people’s desire to emulate the improved lifestyle of their neighbors who do receive remittances is keeping the “American Dream” alive.See also: Inter-American Dialogue honors Guatemalan businessman, civic activist Salvador Paiz Facebook Comments Related posts:Central American foreign ministers meet in Washington to lobby Obama on immigration crisis Did we forget the lesson the ‘Greatest Generation’ fought so hard to learn? For Central America’s migrant women, life can change in a second Guatemala has no idea how many of its undocumented citizens live in the United States
Red Bee Media CTO, Steve PlunkettRed Bee Media’s chief technology officer, Steve Plunkett talks us through what to look out for at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.It’s that time of the year again. The over-indulgence of the Christmas period, perhaps with some technology overspend on the latest gadgets, gives way to the double whammy of the credit card bill and the world’s consumer electronics companies rolling in to CES in Las Vegas showing off what will shortly make those new gadgets obsolete.As the world’s biggest show of its kind, CES covers everything from connected washing machines, robot vacuum cleaners, Terminator-esque glasses and of course TVs and related media devices. I suspect that much of the focus this year will be on wearable technologies and the long heralded ‘Internet of Things’ (WiFi enabled kitchen goods etc), but as always we can expect to see the current state of the art in the consumer facing side of our industry too. So what should we be looking out for?Ultra-HD, aka 4K, otherwise known as 2160p TVEvery manufacturer you have ever heard of, and many more that you haven’t, will be demonstrating Ultra-HD/4K wares at the show. There seems to be unstoppable momentum amongst the CE vendors to put 3DTV behind them and replace it post haste with UHDTV. Putting aside for now the debate about the practical benefits of 4K resolution on sub 60-inch screens, and the lack of any content, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that these displays will become mainstream over the next five years.However, despite the fact that I make the typical early adopter look like a technophobe laggard, I won’t be buying a 4K TV just yet. There are too many outstanding issues to be resolved before it makes sense for the home. These include the maturity/availability of HEVC/H.265 implementations to make distribution practical – and other contenders such as Google’s VP9 codec, which will be promoted at CES. Ditto for the latest version of HDMI (2.0), which will be necessary to feed your UHDTV with attractive higher frame rate material, and related industry consensus on issues such as colour spectrum and contrast. And that’s to say nothing of the cost to upgrade the entire production, post and broadcast distribution chain to get high-res content there in volume.OLEDOne of the most impressive display technology improvements that I noted at last year’s show was the OLED TVs being demonstrated. OLED is a very different technology to today’s LCD based displays, not to be confused with the somewhat misleading “LED” TVs that dominate at the moment. LED TVs use LCD panels that are backlit using an array of LEDs. OLED TVs require no backlighting and so can be both thinner and less power hungry, but most notably, they provide beautiful images with vibrant colours that have to be seen to be appreciated.Unfortunately, large OLED panels are expensive to produce using current manufacturing processes and the OLEDs themselves deteriorate and lose their colour range over time. Sony and Panasonic teamed up to tackle these issues but that partnership was recently abandoned leaving some to question the future viability of OLED TVs. Let’s hope that breakthroughs can be made as this really is a promising technology.Smarter TVsFinally, we are likely to see more attempts to make your TV smarter, both in terms of how it connects to content and how it connects to us. Internet delivered content is already quite common on new TVs and the earlier technology limitations are being steadily addressed. Gesture and voice control, along with viewer recognition technologies are emerging and are something to watch with interest in 2014.As the ongoing attempts to reinvent television continue, it’ll be interesting to see what CES 2014 brings.