The Million Mile Walker Dispatch, August 2023 Issue: The Making of The Guatemala Reader


Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,

This month, I’ll reveal the secrets of making my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader, which is especially timely given the watershed events following the Presidential elections. In Culture Watch, I’ll tell how one teacher and her daughter organize a Summer Spanish Camp for the grandkids while some State officials try to eliminate bilingual education. I’ll share the latest Arizona Authors Association newsletter in My Writing and Reviews. Voices in Action will include a provocative quote and an updated Calendar.

Although recognition of My Saddest Pleasures as the 2023 recipient of the Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Travel Book is a special honor, I’m already bringing to fruition my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader: What You Might Not Know And Why You Should Care.

Since becoming a full-time writer in 2016, I’ve penned 20 essays about Guatemala published by English-speaking “Revue Magazine,” published in Antigua for a broad literary community throughout Central America. These essays are the basis of my next book.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

For every world traveler, there is a place in one’s memory that is a paradise – mysterious, beautiful, and full of alluring secrets—a place where one can return to by closing one’s eyes.

 A place that will never change in one’s memory; Guatemala is mine.

My journey began as a Peace Corps Volunteer when I met and married a local lady and had three children there. For over fifty years, I’ve worked in and returned to, The Land of the Eternal Spring as a development manager, fundraiser, and tourist.

 Over the years, I’ve met and gotten to know people from all walks of life in Guatemala—from the poorest, most humble Mayan farmers in the highlands to wealthy plantation owners, some “Ladinos” (Guatemalans who have replaced traditional with European-style clothing and speak Spanish), some Mayan, and leaders from innumerable Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), writers, painters, filmmakers, and professionals of many types. Some are politically conservative, pro-business, some left-leaning, but each one has an appreciation of Guatemala.

 Fortunately, I took the time to explore the country and appreciate its complex culture and many spectacular sites such as Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Quetzaltenango (Xela), the coast, Rio Dulce, and the Mayan ruins of Tikal encompassed in a jungle with howler monkeys screaming and throwing branches at passing tourists.  Many images come to mind when thinking of Guatemala, the volcanoes, high arid mountains to the Piedmont and endless coffee plantations, the South coast with vast fields of sugar cane and pastures for humped Cebu cattle.

 The pungent smell of wood fires in the rural highland villages is my most memorable odor, although the earthy, moist smell of the fecund jungles in the Peten has its unique scent…

And I’m just warming up…

Over the last 50 years, I’ve traveled to places most Guatemalans have never seen. I use encounters with ordinary Guatemalans, profiles, and stories from local Mayan leaders, advocates, writers, and poets to bring a new appreciation and understanding of this country. Maps, graphs, and photos support 19 stories to provide insights into the inner workings of Guatemalan society.

I start with stories seen through literary and biographical prisms, then tap into my “Yin and Yang of Travel Series,” which transports the reader to the far-off reaches of the country and includes some of my “saddest pleasures”—horrendous journeys that “gave me eyes.”

The remaining stories focus on contemporary Guatemala, from the impact of the Peace Corps over the last 60 years to the dynamics motivating so many to leave their communities to head north in search of a better quality of life, ending with an insightful overview of political, cultural, and economic life in Guatemala today.

The last chapter will provide an update on the situation in Guatemala, with a focus on the recent Presidential elections and the attempts by the existing regime, known as the “Pacto de Corruptos,” which jailed respected editors like Jose Ruben Zamora, and exiled judges who reported on corruption. They’ve eliminated many viable candidates, like Mayan leader Thelma Cabrera. Surprisingly, one little-known candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, won with 68% of the votes, but the government sanctioned his party, which won’t end the resistance to a change in leadership.

I’ve submitted the manuscript to one publisher, which turned it down, although they made some excellent recommendations on improving it. Some editing will be necessary, and someone will need to create the book cover (in case you know a graphic designer). Options for production include an Indie publisher or maybe self-publishing to ensure the stories stay intact. I’ve asked a well-known Guatemalan novelist to write the introduction. I need an intern to find the data for “The Guatemala Fact Sheet” and “Atlas of Impunity.” At the end of the book, I’ll include a bibliography for those who want to learn more.

Culture Watch

The Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, said he’ll continue to block bi-lingual education in the state. He’s blocking English learners from taking approved dual language immersion classes and has already cost Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars to fight against it. Mind you, 1/3 of the population in Phoenix is Hispanic, and we have a border with Mexico, the State’s primary trade partner. Why would we want bi-lingual speakers in our State? Notwithstanding, most European children speak two to three languages other than their mother tongue, putting our monolingual children at a disadvantage in the global working/cultural scene.


 This is just one of the joys of living in a Republican-run state that spends less on education per child than any other state other than—well, Mississippi, of course. This is why my bi-lingual wife, with over forty years of teaching experience, has organized a Summer Spanish Camp for our grandchildren over the last twenty-plus years.

This year, my oldest daughter, a professional bilingual translator, helped out. They spoke only Spanish for three days, and four grandkids watched Paw Patrol in Spanish. They played games like identifying clothes and food and various Spanish reinforcement activities. The grandkids also know something about the countries their parents were born in, Guatemala and Peru. Life is too short, and our politicians are too compromised to expect them to develop viable educational programs that respect the rights and cultures of many of those not represented in our halls of power.

 My Writing, Interviews, and Reviews

For several bonus book reviews and a host of articles and resources for the literary community of Arizona, click twice on the Million Mile Walker Poster at the top for my column and more in the Arizona Authors Association newsletter, Authors Digest.

By the numbers, my literary production includes 80 book reviews, 28 essays/articles, and 62 Million Mile Walker Dispatches. One hundred sixty-two pieces have been published or posted since 2018. Essays submitted to 115 journals- most were rejected or withdrawn, as many journals’ acceptance rate is under 1%. The moral to this story: If you can’t take rejection–don’t become a writer!   #readabook #bookreviewer #travelwriter #Loveofstory #bookrecommendations

Here are two of my recent reviews of books by local writers:

I met Earl and his wife, Suzanne, several years ago over lunch in Phoenix, discussing fundraising strategies for an NGO they set up in Guatemala, “Seeds for a Future,” which provides training to impoverished rural women on the South Coast. I soon learned that we shared a love and appreciation of Guatemala and the Desert Southwest and that Earl was also a writer and, in his case, a poet.

Stories from this book take place in 1962 when de Berg and three other rebellious students set out for a three-month trek looking for adventure. Earl provides stories and photos of young men putting themselves to the test on the longest peninsula in the world. I visited the area between La Paz and San Lucas thirty years after the author was there. I will never forget the stunning contrast of giant saguaros of the Sonoran Desert looking off into the Sea of Cortez.

You can find the full review at

I’ve read and reviewed three of the author’s Mystic Bay series books, starting with Town of Angels, and appreciated that this inspirational book, like all books in the series, proved the power of the human spirit to move on despite incredible tragedy and personal loss. The author’s daughter, Kate, was killed in a tragic accident, and her husband died. And during a difficult period where many would have succumbed to despair, Jody had a dream in which a voice told her to read “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.V. White, a children’s book. Initially, she didn’t know why she should read it until the last line of the text revealed that “Nobody would take the place of Charlotte in the heart of Wilbur.” This thought helped the author go on and honor her beloved daughter and her husband.

20 Moon Rd, An Angel’s Tale is a story like no other. Miracles still happen in the town of Mystic Bay, California. Angels live as humans there. A former football coach, Angel Ken, is surprised when his late best friend, the indomitable psychic Madam Norma, appears in spirit form and asks him to write her life story through the memories she will send him. Surprising to Angel Ken, Madam Norma has seen thousands of angels since childhood during her 100 years.

For the remainder of the review:

Voices in Action

A poem cannot stop a bullet. A novel can’t defuse a bomb. But we are not helpless. We can sing the truth and name the liars. Salman Rushdie, an American, British, and Indian novelist, was recently stabbed at the Chautauqua Institution.

What Others Are Saying

About my book reviews:

Hi Mark — You are such a good friend. It makes my head spin.  Thanks for promoting my book(s). I must tell you that I have been surprised at the favorable reactions from so many quarters.  It makes me wonder if I chose the right career after college graduation. I had no idea I could write prose that would appeal to others. On the other hand, maybe I needed all those experiences after college to give me a more sober view of reality. And I am still writing like mad. I fear I may not live long enough to get all my ideas on paper. Your encouragement put fire in the furnace. Earl Vincent de Berge, poet and author of Allegro to Life, A Finger of Land on an Old Man’s Hand: Adventures in Mexico’s Baja Wilderness, among others.

I responded, “Well, Ernest Hemmingway said it best, ‘In order to write about life, first you must live it.’”

On the July Million Mile Walker Dispatch:

Congratulations, Mark!   It is fun to get your newsletter. I would love to reconnect sometime.  Scott Sabin | Chief Executive Officer, Plant With Purpose.


  • September 9, Zoom Presentation by Mark D. Walker for the WOW Group on “Challenges and Opportunities for Writers and Publishing Industry Trends which don’t favor most writers.” (This will be available on my website as a U-Tube later this week).
  • September 16, Phoenix Writing Club at Gallagher’s, Flash fiction with Sudha Balagopal.
  • October 12-14, Tempe, AZ, Desert Nights Writers Conference, hosted by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

You can find my 80 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, on my website, including a reduced price for my new book if you read it and pass it along to your local library: “Follow” me on Twitter—at and Facebook at for the latest international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, the Best Travel Book according to the Peace Corps Writers Group.

Mark D. Walker


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