The “Frijolero Revolution”

Image credit: Luis Echeverria / Reuters

This is what Guatemalans are calling the demonstrations taking place against the government. The demonstrators labeled themselves “frijoleros,” or beaners, after one of the members of Congress made a statement saying that he would only take a knee to God and never to any of the “bean-eating” demonstrators. These comments only fueled an already incendiary feeling in the hearts of millions of Guatemalans who have been struggling to overcome the effects of chronic poverty, malnutrition, violence, and now COVID-19 and two destructive hurricanes in the span of one month. 

These demonstrations officially began on November 21, when thousands of people gathered at the main plaza in Guatemala City to demand a stop to the proposed budget by the government of president Alejandro Giammattei. The proposed budget would have slashed funding to public services such as healthcare, education, housing, and social services for the poor, while allotting thousands of dollars to the meal allowance of members of Congress. Those must be some very expensive beans!

After the first round of demonstrations saw confrontations with the police, many people injured, and the Congress building set on fire, the government decided to stop the approval of the budget. But this didn’t stop people from coming out. Many signs during the following demonstrations read, “It is not the budget, it is the system.” The demonstrations are now demanding resignation of the president and a radical change to the power structure of the country. Guatemalans, like many people across the world, are fed up with the excuses made by those in power, while the lives of thousands are risked and lost. Guatemalans, like the Peruvian people, the Polish, and many more, are saying with their voices and their bodies, enough is enough.