Today we were discussing Justo Rufino Barrios in our literature class and discussing the qualities he had that made him heroic. Unlike other archetypal heroes, he wasn't born into royalty. He was born in a village called San Lorenzo.
His super powers were things like intelligence and energy. I was glad they brought up how both of those are needed for success: Intelligence coupled with laziness gets nowhere. Energy coupled with ignorance also makes no positive progress.
Barrios put this energy to good use first by going to the capital to study law and get his degree as a lawyer. We talked about how when the revolt happened he proved himself to be a capable military leader and what that meant. How much pressure leaders in the position to make life or death decisions are under.
When Barrios was eventually elected president, he used his position of power to help Guatemala. He installed telegraph and railroad systems, and started a public school system. He was an advocate for freedom of the press and an accountable police force. He wasn't know for letting power corrupt him or for diverting public funds into personal gain.
Perhaps one of the most eye-opening parts of the discussion occurred when we talked about what he was fighting for and eventually gave his life for: Reuniting Central America. They could not understand why instead of being just Guatemala, he would want to unite what is now Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. We talked about how from a world viewpoint, all of those countries together could do more than they could separately.
We discussed how this tied to European invasion of the New World and how they would make allies with anyone who was an enemy of their enemies. (Such as the Spanish alliance with the K'iche' vs. Kaqchikel in earlier Guatemalan history.) Groups of people who can bind together against an invader are more powerful than individuals most of the time. If the Native Americans could have found a way to get beyond their differences long enough to fight for the common cause of keeping their land, it's possible that history would look very, very different.
I think it was one of the first times many of them saw their country from the viewpoint of "Team World" rather than "Team Guatemala."
I truly believe that I am teaching future leaders of Guatemala. I hope that when they have the power of change in their grasp that they, like Justo Barrios, can use it for good and for progress instead of personal gain.