Hurricane Stan and Guatemala, We Hardly Heard About Ya

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  10.14.05 | 12:24 PM ET

In his essay Why We Travel, Pico Iyer writes that we travel, in part, to “learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.” I was reminded of that recently while traveling in Mexico. Aside from migration-related news, we in the U.S. see little coverage of life south of the border. But it seems that our newspapers don’t accommodate much news about Central America even when it involves a major disaster. That was brought into relief for some recently after Hurricane Stan hit Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The storm affected more than 3 million people and killed hundreds—perhaps thousands. Yet according to a survey of news coverage in 22 major U.S. newspapers from Oct. 7-10, only 10 stories about the disaster appeared. That, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, is “shameful.” Granted, Stan had a lot to compete against, including the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. The trouble is, the lack of coverage is part of a pattern of neglect. And as the association points out, media coverage often leads to much-needed international aid.

Remarked the association’s president: “The loss of life due to catastrophic events is a tragedy no matter where it takes place. It usually prompts news coverage and immediate help, as was the case after the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and just this past weekend, after an earthquake leveled parts of Pakistan. But what seems appalling is that the destruction of Hurricane Stan in Central America has been virtually ignored by the U.S. media.” has more on what some call “charity fatigue.”

7 Comments for Hurricane Stan and Guatemala, We Hardly Heard About Ya

Hilda Rossi 10.14.05 | 4:01 PM ET

I’m truly desappointed with the media coverage of Hurricane Stan in Central America especially Guatemala.  do they value people less because of their culture (Mayan natives) or monetary status.  You should be asheimed of your hartless actitude. Do something about it!

Randy Marchand 10.14.05 | 5:48 PM ET

I agree the coverage is shameful. As a trading partner Guatemala deserves much more attention, as a country closer to home it deserves much more coverage. The scope of the damage, missing or dead deserves much more coverage. The blame for this is not only the big boys… the blame goes right down to local TV and radio with little to no coverage. The death toll there is reported at 2000 but with what I hear that figure could get much larger. The final tally will not be know for 12-18 months as the affects of almost atotal loss of crops in the wheat growing areas of Atitlan and Zela. A sad day in our history.

todd merrick 10.14.05 | 9:33 PM ET

i live in san pedro on lake atitlan in guatemala , fortunately i have heard from my friends that they all made it through this . but they are the lucky ones , they ‘re ex-patriots so they have access to money from friends and family . the poor people there have no one backing them up . their government has been neglecting them and now the world is neglecting them . the tragedy of the whole thing is that they deforrested the area so they could grow food to eat , and now they have mudslides that kill them . all the good land is owned by a very few rich families and companies that have repeatedly continued to keep the indians living in poverty . this has been backed by force supplied by the american government to keep thier companies wealthy and in control . it sickens me and it should sicken you .

Garry Sagel 10.15.05 | 12:22 AM ET

I too am sickened by the seemingly total lack of concern I am witnessing. I was at Lake Atitlan and San Pedro with 47 others in August of this year. We are all sponsors of children through Compassion International, and as such, are all wating to hear about our sponsored children. Concerning the people’s culture, I have been to Guatemala three times, and you can’t find more beautiful people than the Guatemalans, nor a more beautiful country.

Help a child.

Francisco Jose Arroyave Asturias 10.16.05 | 12:03 AM ET

I too am devasted not only from loss of human lives, but also because of the total lack of media coverage.  It may be true that Guatemala is a small country, but we are human beings no different from you!!  That is why I can’t begin to explain myself the lack of interest of American newspapers and every where else pretty much.

Jane B 10.18.05 | 1:17 PM ET

I passed the hat in my evening Spanish class at the local community college and we were able to send $30 to for Central American aid. 

Last August I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Atitlan which was magical.

Marquetta Harrison 01.12.06 | 4:29 AM ET

I have had the wonderful experience of being a medial mission nurse to Guatemala twice and therefore have been to Lake Atitilan,Zacualpa,Chichicastengo and Antigua. I too wish more people could see,learn and know these precious people. I truly believe I could not ever be on vacation there because I would want to provide nursing care for all the people & clinics I could.Hope to return again

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