I met the younger woman in this photograph coming home from the dump loaded with two large sacks of scavenged goods. They were reluctant to be photographed, but agreed once I had convinced them that the pictures would only be published on the other side of the world. They had no time to be interviewed that evening, so we arranged that I would come back in two days time. I turned up as we’d said, but when the grandmother finally came to the sheet-metal door, she opened it only an inch and refused to even give me her name. She had spoken to her son, who had told her to have nothing to do with the media; it would only bring trouble for them all.
Suspicion, jealousy and fear are constant amongst Guatemalans, they fear each other almost more than they fear strangers. This is one of the legacies of the civil war; an all-pervasive lack of trust, where the only safe way to behave is to keep quiet. This makes a lot of sense in a country where the government is chronically corrupt, street gangs run the city with guns, poverty is grindingly constant, and your neighbour is likely to sell you out at the mere possibility that you might be doing better than him.
My friend Carlos told me a story; If there are some frogs trapped in a bucket, they will find a way to help each other to escape. If the frogs are Guatemalan, they will wait for one to find his way to the top, just so that they of them can pull him back down.