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Guatemala

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Andi McDaniel

Andi McDaniel is a journalist, photographer and radio producer currently studying at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Orion and Utne Reader. She produced this piece as a correspondent for Round Earth Productions, a nonprofit that focuses on underreported stories throughout Latin America.

In Guatemala's Countryside -- the Beat Goes On

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After attending President Alvaro Colom's inauguration in January 2008, reporter Andi McDaniel followed a group of young indigenous musicians back to their hometown of Ixtahuacán. The group, a Mayan rock band called B'itzma (which means “singing in harmony” in the Mam language), had been invited to perform at the inauguration ceremony, along with several other musicians. While Xulem, Eduardo and other band members remember Guatemala’s civil war, they choose to write songs that focus on a more hopeful future.

The town of Ixtahuacán, in the western highlands of Guatemala, suffered badly during the civil war, caught between guerrilla groups and government forces fighting in the hills surrounding the town.

Many of their songs deal with the lives of indigenous Guatemalans and the fragility of the environment. They are part of a younger generation of Guatemalans who recall peacetime just as vividly as war.