Perceptions and narratives are very important to the course of history. If one simply complains that the beliefs of historical actors are a poor facsimile of reality, one is missing the chance to fully understand their impact on events in real time. They inform the discourse, and in doing so, shape the landscape of possible actions.
Right now a narrative has formed around the meaning of this week's events in Guatemala. It goes a bit like this...
The country has come full circle since 1954. Back in the early 50s it was a beacon of political possibility for the whole of Latin America, with newly-established systems of public health and education. But then the US intervened to remove the democratically-elected, reform-minded government and a protracted civil conflict ensued in which perceptions of possibility were often violently constrained.
Now Guatemalans have made it back, after 60 difficult years, to roughly where they were before. Once more a beacon of hope for the region, this nation remains a far from a completed project, but its citizens are once again free to pursue a better future.