Blog: Leonie BarrieGot to Guatemala

Leonie Barrie | 5 May 2004

Travelling can be stressful at the best of times, what with making sure you get to the airport on time, no delays or missed connections, and of course that you haven't forgotten vital pieces of travel documentation like passports and tickets. In this case the latter didn't matter to me; DHL managed to mislay my tickets so I set off for the airport not actually knowing whether I would fly or not! Luckily it was fairly easy to persuade Continental to reissue the ticket - for a fee of course - and it was with a huge relief that I touched down in Guatemala City 22 hours later. Never mind the culture shock - and with 75 per cent of the population below the poverty line there certainly is one - it was just good to check into my hotel.

Two days into the trip and I've already visited six companies making everything from fabrics to lingerie. Luckily they've all been located in and around Guatemala City, and the road network seems pretty efficient so it's been easy to get from one to another - although hurtling along to the sounds of Erasure and Haddaway remixes is a pretty surreal experience.

Another surprise is the amount of investment into the industry by South Korean firms; to put it into perspective, I was told today that 78 per cent of clothing manufacturers in Guatemala are South Korean-owned businesses, many of whom have set up here to take advantage of its quota-free benefits and close proximity to the US. One such company, T-shirt maker Shin Won, sits between two volcanoes, one of which looked pretty active. When I asked when it had last erupted, it was a bit of a shock to be told: "This morning!"

One thing that hasn´t caught me unawares is the amount of time being given over to the CAFTA question. Will it be passed or won't it, and what are the implications either way? The concensus seems to be that it has to happen; the alternative is too depressing for many to contemplate and being left in a state of limbo while the politicians grapple with the minutiae of the agreement is already holding up investment into the country. No doubt this is something that will be aired again over the next few days as we move into Apparel Sourcing Show mode. A breakfast with the country's president kicks off the opening day tomorrow. 


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