Tuesday, May 05, 2020


Make Antigua Guatemala Antigueño.

This is not so much a call to action as a likely outcome of the pandemic. 

Or maybe one likely outcome. 

The gringo economy has sunk. Survivors are floating around on a dodgy raft looking for someone else's vessel to board. 

Thus talk of a 'new economy' is disingenuous. One sector of the economy is basically defunct as it has lost all its customers, and now aims to piggy-back on the more or less resilient customer-base of other sectors. 

Given that the cake has been shrinking of late, cutting it up into ever smaller pieces may not make such economic sense for the city as a whole. 

Businesses that have become non-viable as a result of the virus are already trying to re-jig themselves as competitors to the remaining viable businesses. The risk here is further, avoidable damage to Antigua's SMEs. 

Many of the non-viables are owned by foreigners. If they fail, they will tend to leave. But if their bolder strategies striving for persistence end up ruining some of the locals, these locals have nowhere else to go. 

I'm a foreigner here, but one with no economic skin in the painful mitigation game. This does not make me objective, just subjective in perhaps a more unusual way. 

If I were suddenly struggling to make ends meet, I could start selling ceviches, but this might take a chunk out of the market share of the company created by my wife's late cousin Hugo. 

If I were even more precariously in the situation of a gringo pelagatos, I could come out at the weekends and sell tostadas. In so doing I'd be going head to head with my Guatemalan neighbour, who has done this for as long as I can recall. 

Crucially, like many of the new entrants into the pizza or roast chicken delivery trade, I'd be looking to drop this new venture just as soon as the situation returns to normal. In the meantime I will almost certainly have dented the income of small Guatemalan firms that are more perennially dedicated to this business model. 

The effect could be like gangrene spreading from already necrotic parts of the economy, and where ex-pat entrepreneurial limberness tends to encroach on the informal sector here, it should be actively discouraged. 

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