Guatemala has a very special place in my heart. My best friend from college, Mafer Hernandez, is from Guatemala. Having a friend from another country is an amazing experience to learn about another culture but also yourself and your own culture. Mafer and I understand each other in a way that I have never felt with another friend, which is an incredible experience. Visiting her for the first time after she moved back, post-grad, was exhilarating for me and my partner. We were so excited to have her show us her beautiful home.
At the time of our first visit, the Trump administration was cracking down on immigration and detaining families from Central America. There was a lot of negative talk going around about the people from these “shithole” countries as Trump called them.
Our takeaway from our first trip is how easily people in America will believe anything they are told. Guatemala City is an absolutely massive and thriving city. There is so much going on! The country is absolutely beautiful. We were lucky enough to travel to Lake Atitlán which is hands down the most gorgeous lake I have ever seen in my life. People were kind, so so kind. It really bothers me that Americans are so ready to paint a picture of an entire country based on hearsay, or based on the actions of a couple of people.
People that are escaping Guatemala are from the incredibly poor parts of the country, where an average income is only a few American dollars per day. Those who are leaving and coming to the US are ones looking for more opportunities.
Nick and I were heartbroken after that trip because if only more people could see what we saw. The reoccurring theme in my work is humanity. How America lacks so much of it, and how hard it is for Americans to put themselves in another’s shoes. This goes for Americans putting themselves in other Americans' shoes too. This country infuriates me at times because we think we know everything and make assumptions and judge others. Based on what?
“I been incredibly fortunate to visit many countries around the world. Above all else, this experience of travel has made me a more compassionate person. No matter where in the world I travel, I see houses, cars, grocery stores or markets, gas/petrol stations, children, adults, and the elderly. No matter where I have gone, no matter the politics or the quality of the city or country, I see humans pursuing the same basic needs or desires — just trying to get through this thing called life. I find this reality to be tremendously beautiful. How humbling to know that two people on opposite sides of the world can be experiencing the same thing at the same time? Yet, such different lives. I find complete, total beauty and wonder in that.
This is why I travel: to share not only my perspective but the perspective of those I photograph, with the hope of humbling more people with the idea that we share a common humanity.
I hope in viewing my work that you’ll be inspired to take a trip somewhere that is not a “destination” location. Go somewhere gritty and historical. Go explore. Go meet your fellow human beings. Go visit places before travel bans are put into place and you lose the chance to experience an incredible, vibrant slice of our world.” -DMH