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A migrant's police shooting death in Los Angeles resonates in remote Guatemala

September 27, 2010 |  4:18 pm

Guatemala westlake lapd shooting funeral victim

In the highland Mayan village of Xexac, in Guatemala, the body of Manuel Jaminez Xum finally arrived for burial, the flags of Guatemala and the United States draped over his casket. Jaminez was shot and killed by a Los Angeles police officer on Sept. 5 after allegedly brandishing a knife and threatening others, in an incident that sparked several protests and has become a symbol of the sometimes tense relationship between police and immigrant communities in Los Angeles.

The shooting occurred in the dense, low-income and heavily Central American L.A. neighborhood of Westlake, near where Los Angeles police violently broke up a 2007 immigrant-rights demonstration. Reporting from Guatemala, L.A. Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez and special correspondent Alex Renderos tell us that Jaminez's death also helps illustrate the waves of human migration that have reshaped communities not only in the United States but also in Guatemala.

"Ten years ago, many in Xexac had never seen Guatemala City, let alone the United States," Bermudez writes.

Then one man in Xexac went to L.A., and over the next decade, 60 to 70 men followed, paying between $3,500 and $5,000 to smugglers for the treacherous journey through Mexico and over the U.S.-Mexico border. Jaminez left the village in 2003.

They were lured by the prospect of earning in dollars and the possibility of improving the lives of their relatives. But Los Angeles was an entirely different world, difficult and alienating. When construction work took a downturn in 2007, Jaminez began struggling to pay his share of rent for the tiny Westlake studio he shared with 11 other men. His debt with his lender in Guatemala shot up to $20,000.

Jaminez then turned to alcohol. Read the rest of the story here.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Isabel Marroquin Tambriz, center, at the Sept. 20 funeral of her husband, Manuel Jaminez Xum, in Xexac, Guatemala. Credit: Esmeralda Bermudez / Los Angeles Times