There was never enough of anything, especially food.: Becoming Minnesotan

Lake Atitlán surrounded by 3 volcanoes:  Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro.

Class & Work

Economics, Food, Latino, War

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Essential Question

Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

Class & Work: How important is work in defining a person’s identity?

Words to look for


Background Information

In Guatemala, campesinos, or agricultural workers, on coffee or fruit plantations faced oppressive conditions which severely limited their ability to own land themselves or to have any complaints heard. Calls for social, political, and agricultural reform in the highly socially stratified country led to revolt and unrest, and the eventual outbreak of civil war.

To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

  • Chapter 1

Download Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin 1
3:6 Minutes | 2.98Mb


Narrator: Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin (RH)

RH: We moved to the northern rainforest of Guatemala when I was about three and a half, four years old. And that’s where I lived, pretty much, till I was seventeen.

Very traditional, rural, farming, campesino community. We had max around two thousand people back when I was a kid. It was in the middle of the war. By the time I turned fifteen or so, the war was pretty much at its worst. We lived within that. Also, Poptún was the home to the largest training military base in the country and also where the elite forces were trained. So we were sort of a magnet for a lot of military activity, and, of course, rebel activity and all of that. Our region was really hard hit.

Within that context, we farmed. We would still travel to our farms outside of the villages, like an hour walk from where we lived to where we farmed. We stayed there for full weeks during school breaks. We’d go there in the afternoons after school and go to school in the main town. That was pretty much what defined every day. It was always a struggle. There was never enough of anything, especially food. Our primary concern was with food. So whatever we did was for the purpose of producing food. Cash, itself, wasn’t really that important to us in the context of our priorities and what we did every day, although it was important, so we marketed some of our produce from the farm. By produce, I mean products in general. We grew well over thirty-five different things from avocadoes to sugar cane to pineapples to some wild, large fruits that we harvested that were very marketable, very good for you, as well. To roots like yuca, manioc, to yams, to oranges, to tangerines, bananas - six, seven different kinds of bananas - and on and on. So we grew all of that. It was really, really a lifelong experience.

That pretty much defined what I even do today. My work here is based on, specifically, those experiences growing up in those conditions. Where you learn values, ethics, hard work, but also you become very aware of what really matters and what really doesn’t.

Related Glossary Terms


Noun: Spanish for farmer or peasant.


Noun:  Circumstances that help to determine the meaning of an object or event.


Adjective: Representing the choicest or most select of a group.


Noun: The standards that govern the conduct of a person.


Verb: To sell. (markets, marketing, marketed)


Noun: A person who resists an established authority, often violently.


Adjective:  Related to less-populated, non-urban areas.


Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
nid: 2164