Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Power Troubles

So some group decided that they could go around in different poorer neighborhoods in Guatemala and get people all riled up about how much they are paying for power. They give them numbers about how rich people pay less than the poor people for power. (Actually in our specific case we pay 33% MORE per Kw than our low-consumption neighbors)

Different parts of Guatemala do pay different rates. It depends on how close you are to whatever power plant you are using. We are 500km away… at the very end of a long extension cord. We pay more and our power is out very often for long periods of time, but living somewhere rural was our decision, so we pay the rates. Our water and rent is cheaper (when we paid rent). Prices fluctuate inside a country based on your location, like anywhere else in the world.  

The more illiterate a society is, the easier it is to manipulate them. They just have to believe whatever they are told. This group told them that they are being persecuted because they are poor. "Politicians in Guatemala City are paying less than you hard working poor people." They told them that they could pay this group $4 a month and they would attach their house lines directly to the pole, bypassing the meter and giving them unlimited power. So they are stealing all of their power from the electric company, but they are calling it a protest because they are being taken advantage of since they are poor. Whenever the power company comes out and cuts their lines, someone from this group hooks it right back up that same day… so they say. Of course the power company can't keep up.

The power company is reporting that 2 million people are stealing power. Those part of the revolt claim the number to be more like 6 million, almost 50% of the households in Guatemala. Either number is too many for them to arrest or put in prison. (Not that any laws are actually enforced here anyway.) 

This affects those who are paying for their power because a whole lot more households are hooking up to the grid and all those who were hooked up before are using as much power as they want… power that they would never have been able to pay for otherwise. So, if you are at the end of an extension cord, there is hardly any power left because it is way overloaded. Our water pump keeps overheating.
It burned up our first pump a couple weeks ago and melted some of our pipes. Our new pump just turns itself off when it gets overheated which is turning out to be every couple minutes when the water is running! There are other things that just won't work because there isn't enough power to run them. (Like the air conditioner unit in our guest bedroom and we have guests with us right now.) On top of that the power company is turning off entire cities and even counties for weeks at a time to punish the people stealing power, but those who are paying for power lose theirs too, so everybody suffers.

Anyway we keep losing power too. It has been over a hundred degrees each day and trying to sleep without a fan is pretty miserable for my children. They are exhausted and their necks and scalps are covered in itchy heat rashes. Trying to run the generator to keep your food from spoiling is expensive anytime, but when it is becoming longterm like this, it is not sustainable. Think about the businesses around here who don't have a generator and wouldn't be able to afford the gas to run it anyway. It is just all sad. Sad for everyone. These people who are stealing power don't realize it, but this is not going to end well for them either.

Who knows when or how this will end. The government wants to nationalize the power grid here, so this might all just be a big political move. Things always work better when the government runs them, right? Jimmy reported our power issues to the power company, but when they come look at it, they will probably see that we are the only ones in our neighborhood that are paying for our power and will cut the whole line. Yippie! 


  1. Sounds like it's time to start looking for electric alternatives, like solar panels. We pay a crazy amount of electricity and I am not sure why since our in-laws, at the other end of the property, pay about a fifth of what we do and our houses are not much different. I really want to install solar panels and just eliminate that money drain.

    1. I wish there were more alternatives. We keep talking about a propane generator. At least it would be less expensive during all these outages. Why is your house more, that close? Crazy! Our new house has lower electric bills than what we had been paying, but that was because the wiring in our rental was so bad that the wires were overheating.

  2. Hi. I am living in Coban, Guatemala. I love your blog! I found you while searching for missionaries who had given birth in Guatemala. I started reading your blog last week and I am intrigued. I am from NC but I married a Guatemalan from the southern coast. My 21 .month old was born here in Cohan. I have been very depressed but your blog helped me and gave me many ideas. I would love to talk to you and my husband says we could go visit you in Peten because we are not far away. My son is also learning English, Spanish and Kekchi! It is so wonderful!

    1. Hi Hannah! I would love to meet you. We probably have many of the same struggles, haha! You guys should come for a day. It's kind of a drive, you might need some dramamine! Did you come to Guatemala as a missionary?

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  3. Hi. I came as a missionary to study Spanish and Guatemalan culture in the Church of God seminary in Quetzaltenango in 2008. There I met my husband while studying to be a pastor. After graduating we got married in 2011and now we are pastoring a small mission that was closed for 6 years. Slowly it is getting back on its feet and gaining strength. Could you email me so we can figure out when we can come visit you? My email is I would love to hear from you.

    You are so positive in your blog posts that it seems like you have it all under control. I wish I had half your optimism and enthusiasm! It is very hard for me to be here, especially as much as my 22 month old and I get sick from food and water. How do you stay healthy when people constantly offer you foods that are contaminated? As the pastoral family it is rude to reject food and drink when at someone's home. (I know you are very aware of the customs).


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