The community of one Guatemala's many asentamientos or shanty towns are highly organised and politically motivated.

Guatemala city, with a population of around three million people, is the capital of the Central American country of Guatemala, a country about twice the size of Ireland with a population of around ten million. Like any city, it has its problems. Many of the poor living in Guatemala city are displaced Mayans who have flooded into the city in an effort to set up a home and a life for their families.

It's a city of extreme contrasts. On the one hand, you have a minority that have access to great wealth. On the other, there’s a poverty that we in Ireland known nothing about.

There are all the signs of a thriving city but it is in the outskirts that poverty is evident. During the civil war in the 1980s, many left that land to seek refuge in the city.

Sister Evelyn Flanagan who works in a densely populated parish on the outskirts of the Guatemala suburbs describes the situation for many living in poor and squalid conditions.

Some of the residents tell how they came to live in these settlements. Reporter Mick Peelo and The Would You Believe crew are given a typical Guatemala present to bring luck.

Ana comes from a background of poverty, unemployment and crime. When one of her brothers disappeared and her father was murdered during the conflict, she and her sister moved there to find work to support their mother.

Overpopulation in Guatemala means housing is a massive problem. Many have resorted to illegally taking over land and built houses for their families on what are known as asentamientos (settlements).

In Guatemala city, there are 280 of these settlements.

In one particular settlement, the people live in shacks on the edge of a cliff next to a dump with no running water or electricity. Their homes are self built from cardboard.

They’re a close knit community. Highly organised and politically motivated.

President and representative is Doña Carmen tells Mick Peelo about this particular asentamiento in which 140 families live including 400 children live. 

Sometimes there is money to buy food. Sometimes, there isn’t.

Conditions are very poor and many children face malnutrition. The residents are hopeful that the land will be made theirs legally.

This episode of ‘Would You Believe’ was broadcast on 22 February 1995. The reporter is Mick Peelo.

‘Would You Believe’ television documentary series examining religious matter It was first broadcast on 3 October 1991 and marked the return to broadcasting of Religious Programmes Editor Father Dermod McCarthy, who had previously worked as a producer and director on ‘Radharc’.
Initially, there were two presenters, Michael Ryan and Rita Wall, with Antoinette Dawson as a reporter. Mick Peelo joined the team in 1992. Other presenters included Iseult O’Doherty.