‘People are dying’: how the climate crisis has sparked an exodus to the US

Mon 29 Jul 2019

As part of the Running Dry series, the Guardian looks at how drought and famine are forcing Guatemalan families to choose between starvation and migration

by in Camotán

At sunrise, the misty fields around the village of Guior are already dotted with men, women and children sowing maize after an overnight rainstorm.

After several years of drought, the downpour brought some hope of relief to the subsistence farmers in this part of eastern Guatemala.

But as Esteban Gutiérrez, 30, takes a break from his work, he explains why he is still willing to incur crippling debts – and risk his life – to migrate to the United States.

“My children have gone to bed hungry for the past three years. Our crops failed and the coffee farms have cut wages to $4 a day,” he says, playing nervously with the white maize kernels in a plastic trough strapped to his waist.

“We hope the harvest will be good, but until then we have only one quintal [46kg] of maize left – which is barely enough for a month. I have to find a way to travel north, or else my children will suffer even more.”

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