IPS Blog

This is the complete text of a work in progress. It is our translation of a book. It has been published in installments on Google My Business.


Posted on Google My Business on April 10, 2019:



“No, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” said my aunt Consuelo, as she shook her head when she heard about the cow disaster.

I never knew if she really believed what she had just said, which would make her the most irresponsible person I’ve ever met in my life, evading her own faults and blaming others, or if she was simply trying to make others believe that she had nothing to do with that or any other disaster.

For us, on the other hand, this matter of the cows marked an important change of life, and in my case it meant that I and my children were now in the category of poor relatives. Those kind of relatives who do not get invited with much desire, but that have to be received with warmth and devotion when they come. In short, annoying.

I was born in the Hacienda San Juan, inherited by my father in the municipality of Estanzuelas, a small town that God could not have forgotten for the simple reason that God never knew that Estanzuelas existed.

In the time of my grandfather, Víctor Monteverde Catalán, his Hacienda was a prosperous plantation of indigo. That’s why my father, Víctor Manuel Monteverde Castañeda, was educated with the care of a prince, because he was going to take charge of an empire: La Hacienda San Juan de los Monteverde.


Posted on Google My Business on May 1, 2019:

The farther away his small empire was from the big cities of the time, the greater it seemed, in the absence of proportions and comparisons. My grandfather had been the director of people’s lives and estates in San Juan; and his son, naturally, would be too. For that reason, my father was sent to study. First he attended high school in San Salvador where he obtained his High School diploma, which was an uncommon achievement at the time. Following that, he attended the University of Guatemala. This was such an achievement at the time that it was equivalent to obtaining a doctorate today.

Later, a couple of years attending the Universidad de la Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, turned my grandfather into a Graduated in Philosophy and Jurisprudence, a title that seems all the university graduates of that time used to exhibit.


Posted on Google My Business on May 15, 2019:

In any case, that was the education my grandfather wanted to give my father. My grandfather had the belief that a literate person knew how to manage property better than a non-literate person. This was a mistake that in the case of my father was downright terrible.

The years as a student taught my father three fundamental things that always accompanied him on his way through life: a taste for politics, carousing, and literature. They were all absolutely useless when it came to caring for cattle or sowing a few hectares of indigo. His sisters, however, lived each and every one of the problems of the Hacienda.

The end of the 19th century was full of political turbulence and significant changes. Indigo or añil, also called xiquilite in the Nahuatl language (a native language), had been the export crop and the blessing in my grandfather’s life. San Juan was a relatively large hacienda but with a quality of land that was not suitable for cereals. It was arid and stony, but this made it suitable for the cultivation of indigo or xiquilite. Alternatively, it was land destined to extensive cattle raising.


Posted on Google My Business on June 10, 2019:

When Europe and the United States needed indigo, hacienda San Juan and my grandfather’s fortune prospered. Unfortunately people in Europe invented synthetic aniline at the end of the XIX century. This came to be something akin to a coup de grace to an economy that had always been, and still is, shaky in the international markets.

Thus, the new century found my grandfather and his children at a crossroads. They had to change their way of making money. They had to change the product that had made them rich for something they did not fully understand. This entailed the risk of making mistakes and then falling into poverty.

On one side of the hacienda were the huge pools, called obrajes, in which the macerated shrub that gave off the valuable blue dye was deposited. The whole town worked in these pools. Up to that point in time, for some years now, indigo had no demand in the international market and the little that could be sold was consumed by the national textile industry. Sadly, in this part of the world a crop that does not generate foreign exchange is a crop that makes you lose money, not earn it.