Protests over day laborer's shooting death in Westlake resonate all the way to Guatemala
Los Angeles police say Jaminez Xum, whom acquaintances in California had identified as Manuel Jamines, was drunk and threatening two women with a knife when an officer shot him Sept. 5 in Westlake. Word of the fatal shooting prompted protests in the neighborhood, where angry residents threw things at police.
In Guatemala, too, his death was news. Political leaders spoke out in his defense. And the day before his funeral, a throng of media lined up in Guatemala City for the arrival of the day laborer's body, flown back from Los Angeles, where he had lived for seven years.
Five hours to the west in his damp, lush village on the steep slope of a small volcano named Xac, or Charred One, the Maya community of 2,000 reacted to the shooting with shock and indignation. In the decade or so since they began sending their men to the United States, Jaminez Xum was the first to have died there.
Like many of the 6 million Mayas who make up nearly half of Guatemala's population, the people of Xexac have little to do with the outside world. They speak to each other in the Maya highlands language of Quiche. They cook with firewood. Converts to Christianity, they have six churches in the village but only two cars. Some of the young boys have skinny jeans and spiky hair, but the women dress in traditional knitted skirts and cotton shirts embroidered with brilliantly colored flowers.
Ten years ago, many in Xexac had never seen Guatemala City, let alone the United States.
-- Esmeralda Bermudez in
Photo: Isabel Marroquin Tambriz, center, is carried toward the cemetery during her husband's funeral by her relatives, Maria Carrillo and Antonia Guarchaj Ixquiactap. Credit: Esmeralda Bermudez / Los Angeles Times