Guatemalan baby-stealing

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@NIU.BITNET)
Tue, 21 Jun 1994 12:08:00 CDT

Guatemalan stories about baby-stealing by powerful foreigners are not
new. In the 19th century, it was British travelers who were accused
(and, on occasion, mobbed) because there were rumors that the Brits
were kidnapping innocent Guatemalan kids.

Back then, the story was not about organ banks or transplants: it
was about those canned meats the Brits were so fond of eating. And
mothers would tell their kids to behave or they'd be given over to
mincemeat for some passing stranger from British Honduras.

So far, I haven't heard any recycling of the canned meat stories
from Guatemalan sources.

Just in case nobody said it before, the body parts stories make no
sense at all. These stories have kids' bodies turning up with the
heart, or the liver, or kidneys, sliced out. And one "gringa" was
unfortunate enough to be wearing a backpack, and the story went out
that her pack was full of body parts. Now that's NUTS, and if it
isn't obvious why then there's no sense trying to explain.

The whole question has special importance for me. Next week I leave
for Guatemala City, where I'll work with a photojournalist friend.
He's been photoing street kids for a couple of years on vacations.
He introduced me to some of the kids last year while I was working on
something else in Guatemala City. What we want to do now is get the
kids doing their life histories with me, while Brian Quinby--my
field partner--continues the photographing. Our target is a book in
which the words and pictures of these kids might have some influence
on programs . . . The title of our grant request says it all:
"Guatemalan street kids: Their words, their images, their world".
(We'll do the work with or without the grant, but it would be nice
to have some of our costs covered.)

These are homeless kids. They run to petty thieving, glue-sniffing,
and substance abuse. They are the targets of incredible oppression;
some have been tortured, some killed, by the police and by death
squads. So the whole proposition is a pretty iffy one to get into.
The stories of gringo childsnatching do not fill me with joy right
now. (Don't worry, we're both experienced in this milieu, cautious
as can be, institutionally backed up, and I'm using old connections
to get the police to lay off. But if there are any Quakers out
there, please keep us in the Light!)

mike salovesh <>
anthro department, northern illinois university