By Lauren Markham
Last year I traveled to southern Guatemala, the source of one of the largest migrations of unauthorized immigrants to the United States in recent years. It’s clear why people are leaving: Guatemala is a country rife with political conflict, endemic racism against indigenous people, poverty and, increasingly, gang violence.
But there’s another, lesser-known dimension to this migration. Drought and rising temperatures in Guatemala are making it harder for people to make a living or even survive, thus compounding the already tenuous political situation for the 16.6 million people who live there.
In the town of Jumaytepeque, which is in Central America’s dry corridor, a group of farmers took me to see their coffee crops. Coffee was responsible for the majority of the community’s income but had been decimated by a plague known as coffee rust, or la roya. Plagues like these aren’t necessarily caused by climate change, but it exacerbates them, and roya is now infecting plants at higher elevations as those heights become warmer. Making matters worse, stress from the drought has made these plants more vulnerable to the plague.
“We can’t make a living purely off coffee anymore,” one young farmer told me in the dappled shade of his coffee plantation, pointing to the limp, yellow roya-pocked leaves all around us. Young people like him, he explained, either move to the cities and try to make a go of it amid the gang violence, “or they go north,” he said, to the United States. MORE
Via: The New York Times