Latin America today is growing at a faster pace than at any time since the 1970s; it has consolidated and deepened its democratic roots like never before and is more willing than ever to play a responsible role on the world stage. The U.S. needs the region dearly, as resistance to its world hegemony springs up everywhere and with greater virulence than at any time since the end of WWII. -- "Morning in Latin America," Jorge G. Casteñada, Foreign Affairs, Sept-Oct. 2008.
Not so long ago and not so far away, in one of the fastest-growing Central American cities, news of Barack Obama´s victory tickled the dancing shoes of many a gringa. Youthful cheers and celebratory calls home made grander the moment -- and also the man, whose campaign charisma and political value of change suddenly mattered more than ever. As glasses clinked, softer now, so as not to interrupt the sober welcoming of the president-elect, I was struck by the relative silence. Absent were the bursts of firecrackers that mark holidays in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Conversations about the presidential election with a few Guatemalans afterwards suggested something similar: tempered enthusiasm. The election of Obama for some represents progress in terms of U.S. race relations, hope for an overhaul of immigration policy, and expectation of increased engagement with leaders in the Latin American Region. This anecdotal sentiment appears to be shared by op-ed contributors to the national newspaper, La Prensa Libre. The history of U.S. foreign policy with regards to Guatemala and the small unscientific sampling of public opinion leave the U.S. a critical opportunity to open new doors of dialogue and sustain development.