Couple nights ago, I heard my first of many gunshots ring out in the streets of Esperanza. Although UPAVIM is completely safe, my first instinct was to duck and crawl on the ground. Other residents who have previous experience with these incidents, turned off the lights and ran to the windows to see what had occurred.
When I first arrived at UPAVIM, they informed us of two normally reoccurring sounds we would hear while living there.
The first are fireworks. Guatemalan set off fireworks to celebrate birthdays or just another day of life. Everyday around 5am (or earlier) in the morning, I am awaken by crackling fireworks or the sound of a rooster.
The second are gunshots. Gangs fight for control over the streets of La Esperanza. When violence erupts among or between warring gangs, it is always targeted. The only time innocent bystanders are in danger is if they are caught in the crossfire. Due to this risk, we have a curfew of 8pm every night.
The curfew might seem early, but the sunsets very early in Guatemala. There are also noticeable signs of impending gang violence. If there is no police patrolling the streets, it is an almost guarantee. Gangs will pay off the police to refrain from their nightly watch.
Many of the students of UPAVIM and Reforzamiento have become desensitized to the sound of gunshots. They will tell me different stories of how they know people as young as 7 who are gang members or times where they have walked out of there house to be greeted by a pool of blood.
My heart goes out to these young children. It makes me closer to them, and harder to leave La Esperanza after six weeks. I wish I could bring them with me back to the U.S. For now, I just continuously try to instill in them the importance of an education.
Sleep tight La Esperanza.