Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Living on One Dollar": Grad students and filmmakers from NYC experience living as poor people in Guatemala

In “Living on One Dollar” (2013),  two grad students and two filmmakers from New York City live for 56 days (in the summer of 2010) in a village in Guatemala, simulating extreme poverty of the native Mayan population (it doesn’t even speak Spanish, let alone English), and learning how to survive with elbow grease and microeconomics.
The four men are Chris Temple, Zach Ingracsi, Sean Leonard, and Ryan Christoffersen.
Because most villagers earn erratic income based on piecework in the fields, the young men draw numbers for the money they have to spend in the market that day.  A diet of rice and beans doesn’t provide enough calories, so they learn from the villagers how to use lard and make refried beans, which explains why this is common in Mexican restaurants.
The men also experiment with the world of microfinance, and then with the world of slightly more substantial loans from village.  They have to deal with health care on a budget when one of the men gets a common parasite, to which villagers have more natural immunity. At the end of the film, one of the young men teaches Spanish.  
The film shows the effects of a hurricane that had struck Guatemala in late May of 2010.
The official site for the group is here
I watched the 56-minute film on Netflix. 
A distant relative worked for two years on a water project in northern Guatemala after graduating from college in mechanical engineering.   Guatemala does have major Mayan ruins that tourists see – relics that remind us that we can fail as a civilization.
Guatemala does have problems with corruption and drug cartels, leading to illegal child migration, but probably less severe than Honduras and El Salvador.  
Wikipedia attribution link for volcanic lake, similar to what is shown in film 

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