By Israel Alberto Monteros Arbizú
Israel Alberto Monteros Arbizú, 26 years old. I studied physics because it was always easier for me to understand life through numbers. Entrepreneur from Chiquimulilla, small founder and co-owner of REFUERZATE Tutorías and Vivero Mandragorah.
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Mayan gastronomic culture
Mayan culture in pre-Hispanic period was dedicated to agriculture, hunting, fishing and animal rearing. Examples of ingredients that we know included in their daily diet are: bean, pumpkin, cassava, sweet potato, potato, plum, guava, papaya, chilies variety, mango, cocoa, bananas, avocado, mamey, pineapple, various herbs and species such as coriander, nutmeg, cloves, wormseed, sesame and anise. They also consumed wild vegetation such as fungi, cocoa seeds, anatto, oregano, vanilla and other edibles. (Jager Duran, 2004)
The most important in their culture was the corn and the influence it reached was so powerful that it was considered as a gift given directly from gods. About this and all the religious traditions they had, were capable of being pioneers and revolutionaries in fields like mathematics, astronomy, art, architecture and calendrical system. (Jager Duran, 2004)
The traditional mayan cuisine is a cultural fusion that can be described as: the major part is the physical space in where the food is cooked, it is called fogón –stove-, made of three stones located in a pyramidal form, in where at the middle of them, they put the leña –wood– and over that they put the comal –skillet- which is made of mud. Today, the comal is still used, most common in the rural areas of Guatemala; it also can be made of metal. (D, 2009)
Guatemala’s Energy Landscape
After the historic walk from the birth of our customs in Guatemalan cuisine, knowing why the common use of some ingredients in gastronomy to the origin of comal stoves, we finally come to what represents the Guatemalan routine for the energy scene. This will allow us to realize the relationship that exists between our energy customs and the development of the country, with special emphasis on how they directly affect the environment and the health of Guatemalans.
First we define primary energy such as that obtained directly from natural sources and which has not undergone any kind of transformation; for example: solar, wind, hydraulic, firewood, as well as could be obtained after an extraction process, for example: coal, ore, oil, geothermal, among others. (Third et al., 2018)
According to the “Perfil Energético de Guatemala, bases para el entendimiento del estado actual y tendencias de la energía” –Energy Profile of Guatemala, bases for understanding the current state and energy trends- developed by the Instituto de Investigación y Proyección sobre Ambiente Natural y Sociedad (IARNA) in collaboration with the Instituto de Investigación y Proyección de Ciencia y Tecnología of Rafael Landívar University (INCYT), it is essential to count the primary energy supply in the country to better understand its development and think about solutions to the problems that this count reveals; for this, local production is considered, along with imports and inventory variation, minus exports. This means that the primary energy supply quantifies the primary energy resources that are available in the national territory. (Tercero et al., 2018)
This research and data processing informs us that the main energy supply in Guatemala is firewood. The annual supply of firewood has been approximately 30,000 to 36,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) from 2001 to 2016, representing 60% to 78% of the country’s primary energy supply. On the other hand, oil supply is very low, as more than 80% is exported out of the country. And most of the remaining part in the national territory is used for asphalt. The supply of coal in Guatemala is fully imported. Primary sources such as biogas, solar and wind power began to be harnessed only in 2013, but almost imperceptibly compared to others such as firewood. The increase in primary energy supply from 2011 to 2016 was 43%. (Tercero et al., 2018)
Given the above information, it is no surprise that the most widely used fuel in Guatemala is firewood, which occupied up to 65% of total fuel consumption during some years of the period analyzed. (Tercero et al., 2018)
In the graphs shown in Guatemala’s Energy Profile, it can be seen that the residential sector has the highest energy demand in the country, followed by the transport sector. The industrial trade and services sectors are the ones with the least demand. That most of the energy consumption is to meet domestic needs is interpreted as a low industrial development. The data collected also show that the residential sector meets its energy needs mainly with firewood and in a smaller proportion with electricity and oil-liquefied gas. The transport sector has a high demand for gasoline and diesel, while the industrial sector, shops and services use a variety of energy sources. Even if we consider all energy consumption, of the different sectors and types of fuel, the consumption of firewood that represents the residential sector remains higher. (Third et al., 2018)
With this we notice that Guatemala has a strong dependence on firewood as a primary energy source. It is the main primary energy supply, the main energy consumption by sector and is the one with the highest energy demand by fuel type. Firewood is mainly used to meet domestic needs. These are indications that Guatemala has not achieved industrial and technological development, which strongly impacts the energy production sector despite the high availability of resources and tools for cleaner and more sustainable energy production. Firewood is an inefficient fuel, emits particles of material harmful to users’ health, and generates pressure on the country’s forest resources.
There is a high demand for firewood as an energy source due to the precarious conditions in which more than half of the country lives, as a primary strategy is essential the implementation of projects related to making home stoves and biodigesters more efficient. These technologies would increase the energy efficiency of firewood, so less fuel would be used to obtain the same amount of energy. In addition, emissions of toxic gases concentrated in households would be reduced, indirectly reducing health care costs from respiratory diseases.
Although it is a short-term plan that attacks the problem directly, it is also advisable to think of long-term solutions that solve more eminent problems such as the development of technologies for cleaner production of primary energies. Also worry about decentralization of energy resources and equal opportunities in all areas of the country. We need to raise awareness among the representatives who have the power to expedite change, that improving Guatemalan living conditions means industrial and economic development for the country. And do everything in our power to ensure the development of the country and improve the living conditions of Guatemalans.
Jager Durán, D; (2004); Caracterización de la Gastronomía en el Departamento de Santa Rosa; http://glifos.unis.edu.gt/digital/tesis/2004/12840.pdf
Unknown; (2009, agosto, 17); Los Mayas | Comida Típica Guatemalteca; https://comidatipica.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/los-mayas/#:~:text=LA%20COMIDA%20ENTRE%20LOS%20MAYAS&text=Huellas%20de%20ese%20pasado%20prehisp%C3%A1nico,pozol%20y%20en%20los%20atoles.&text=La%20comida%20entre%20los%20mayas%20adquiere%20caracter%C3%ADsticas%20especiales%20porque%20se,ma%C3%ADz%20es%20la%20materia%20principal.
Tercero, M; Fuentes, S; Méndez, L; (2018, junio); Perfil energético de Guatemala Guatemala, junio 2018 Bases para el entendimiento del estado actual y tendencias de la energía; http://www.infoiarna.org.gt/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Perfil-Energetico-de-Guatemala.pdf