When the angry mob in the highlands of Guatemala got out ropes, gasoline, and then made the hand gesture of slicing necks, I did not have to speak Mayan to understand what they had in store for us. I came to the shocking realization that this could truly be my last day alive (see the two C&K articles Access denied, Rio Copon Update). My thirst for adventure and expedition boating style had taken me deep into the Guatemalan highlands in an attempt to run the secretive Rio Copon, rumored to be the best multi-day river trip in all of Central America. This is where our group of would-be river-liberating boaters and documentary filmakers was mistaken for corporate meddlers associated with dams and mining, and held hostage by four seperate villages each of which threatened live burning as punishment. Heroic negotiations and a selfless offer of ones life in exchange for those of our group (by one of our Guatemalan companions) eventually won our release. Only then did I realize it wasn’t my “last day,” after all.
That hostage experience was a life-altering event for me; one that is difficult to describe, especially the depth of emotion I felt. Once I was safely back at home, I began intense research into Guatemalan history. I discovered some gruesome facts. Modern destruction of the traditional Mayan lifestyle……..