The Gomez Brito Family, Guatemala

By Jacob Aue Sobol

1st Prize Award, Daily Life Story, World Press Photo 2006.

The Gomez Brito family lives in a remote area of the mountains in Guatemala near the village of Nebaj. Nebaj is part of the Ixil triangle, an area of three towns that maintains one of the strongest indigenous cultures in Guatemala. Even though the majority of the population are natives, they are still discriminated against in many ways. Most of them live in poverty and many work on farms only earning a wage of two to three dollars a day.

In the late 1970s and 80s, the Ixil region was engulfed in a civil war, killing and displacing thousands of lxil Mayans. During the war, the family lost their youngest child, who died of hunger and disease when hiding in the surrounding mountains. Today, in the very same mountains, the mother Juanita and the father Andrés live with their nine children. Unlike many other families from this area, they have succeeded in keeping the family together by working hard on their own pieces of land. From early morning to sunset the daily routine is to collect fruits and berries, cultivate the crops which mainly consist of corn and beans and breed the animals.

Even though the chance of a change in their life is most unlikely, all the children have different dreams for the future. Maria, 7, wants to continue school and get an education, Faustino, 18, is eager to find a way to enter the USA, while David, 6, claims that his wish is to take over the family’s farm when his father retires.

I lived with The Gomez-Brito family for one month in the fall of 2004 and one month in the spring of 2005.