June 20, 2012

Humble Hospitality

Humble Hospitality

I was particularly struck by an interview yesterday with woman who lived in Boca del Monte, a low-income suburb of Guatemala City. As I stepped from the unpaved road into her modest dirt-floor home, I could tell she was somewhat unsure of me. I explained that the goal of the interview was to help FINCA better understand the economic situations of their clients so that they could better meet their needs. I promised that the questions were simple, mostly about household expenses, and that the information was confidential. She agreed to let me begin.

During our interview, I learned that her small business selling undergarments helped to support the extended family of 12 people that lived within the home which she was slightly embarrassed to admit didn’t have running water at the moment. When asked how much she spent on estrenos, new outfits given as gifts to Guatemalan children around Christmastime, she confessed that they just bought whatever was cheapest, meaning used clothes shipped from the U.S. She estimated that their annual expenditure on entertainment was zero. To feed all twelve members of the household, she spent less than $13 per day.

Part way through the interview, she got up to open the door for one of her grandchildren who walked in carrying a 3L of Pepsi that was almost half as big as he was. We resumed the interview but were interrupted a minute later when I was handed a cold glass of Pepsi. Knowing that a visitor from FINCA International was coming, she had sent out her grandson so that she could offer this small hospitality.