“There is no hope here.”

Miriam’s neighbors left her small town in search of better prospects. Then it was her son’s turn. Little did she know that her time would come soon enough.

Miriam Mateo was forced to leave the place she called home for a long time. It was built next to a growing ravine that gradually put all structures and lives at risk

We’re all in danger here. Most are leaving or have left in recent years… those who are able to, that is. There is no hope here.

El Barrial, Spanish for ``slough``, is a town located eight miles east of the city of Chiquimula, Guatemala. There are no paved roads, so it can only be accessed by all-terrain vehicles. A few hundred residents remain, but most houses and small buildings are now abandoned.
“Life is too hard here. Too hard. You try and try, but there is no way out,`` said Miriam.
Just like every other town in the Dry Corridor of Central America, El Barrial has seen several decades of climate disasters. These consist of periods of severe drought followed by heavy rains that washed out the soil, flushing the nutrients sorely needed in a once thriving farming community.

Nothing grows like it used to. There’s no rain, no water. You plant beans or corn and maybe they start to grow. You hope. But then the plants wilt and die. All that’s left is rotten, dead. It breaks one’s heart.

The land grows weak from the loss of its structure, as trees and their roots disappear. This gradual scarring of the landscape leaves it vulnerable to countless landslides, which is what now poses an increasing danger to Miriam over the years. The ravine is now nearing the back of her house, growing closer every time the soil loses its grip and rolls to the bottom.
For years, Miriam has seen her neighbors move to other parts of Guatemala and the world. One day, her 16-year-old son left too. He went to the United States, and now lives in California. As broken-hearted as she was, Miriam knew leaving was her son’s only chance for a good life.
“He left because there is nothing here. He didn’t leave because he wanted to, but because he needed to. He wasn’t looking for riches. He wanted a chance to thrive. He left with nothing and, as a mom, I was left with nothing,” says Miriam, as she fights tears of sorrow.
Miriam and her younger son stayed not out of stubbornness, but because they did not have the means to relocate. Recently however, local authorities ordered evacuations, and they had to leave their home behind. It will not be easy finding a new place since Miriam does not have a steady income, but she is left with no choice.
Nature has the power to self-heal. However, the process could take hundreds of years. That is why there is unprecedented urgency in projects that include reforestation in the Dry Corridor. With a little help and investment, the land could return to its full splendor.

When I was growing up, there were trees and plants everywhere. Anything you planted grew beautifully. I remember my dad’s harvests were so plentiful we had enough to sell, to keep, and to share with our neighbors. And now, we can’t even grow enough vegetables to feed our families. These days, that’s what keeps me up at night.