I am a veteran expat who has lived in Guatemala for the last thirteen years without having been back to the states. I have had many experiences in jobs and business. My most recent business was a well known restaurant in San Pedro la Laguna. I have seen much of what tourism can do to the cultures of Guatemala. It is a double-edged sword.True it does bring economy but also it introduces the habits (good and bad) of foreign culture to the local population.
Unfortunenately, I have recently experienced one of the major effects - Greed. I have rented my restaurant for 7 years from an indiginous Guatemalan. Always paying the rent on time, helping my landlord with his hotel, fixing things, making improvements. etc. Also assisting the local expat community and business owners. Along comes a foreigner with investments jn a local community and decides he wants my locale. Whereby he offers more rent for my place then I am currentlly paying to my landlord who thereby arranges with the ministerio publico to have me arrested for the possession of 4 marijuana plants that "someone" placed on the restaurant balcony, the previous night of my arrest.
Because I am a foreigner I was not allowed bail and was held in a prison for the three months of investigation. While I was there the first week my landlord, neighbors and even the police took advantage of my situation and robbed everything from my business - money, equipment, personal belongings... leaving me penniless. None of the expat community came to my aid and yet knowing what could happen to my business.
Eventually, after a very difficult time under horrendous conditions of the Guatemala prison, I was released with a fine of US$1000. which fortunately was in my savings account and unreacheable by the locals..
I have since then been struggling to get back on my feet but to no avail and after thirteen years I must now reconsider repatriating to the USA.
I have noticed that in the areas of Guatemala that are not tourist sectors the locals are not of such character and tend to be humble, honest, poor "counrty folk". Yet where toursim rears its head the local population can become money hungry and greedy beyond moral considerations.
Another 2 examples of this comportment:
1) In the same village of San Pedro a young business owner of a very successful restaurant/hotel passes away and again the locals took all of his business equipment and personal belongings before his family could come and reclaim the items.
2) Many times it's the fault of the foreign investors who come here without familairizing themselves with the local economy . i.e. Foreign investors in the village of Lanquin buy property at an outrageous price and the next thing you see all over town is "lote en venta" at prices that are beyond the local economy.
It is a fact that foreigners come to Guatemala to take advantage of the local economy. You are here because it is affordable to your income. If not you would be in Costa Rica. The other edge of the sword is the locals see you can afford to come here so why not take you for what you are worth.
I may seem critical but I live in the local economy for thirteen years. I don't even use dollars anymore. I could not afford the economy of the states and it will be extremely difficult for my return.
So at the very least please consider your actions, investments and comportment while you ae here because you will have a long term effect on Guatemala and its citizens.