August 25, 2009

Creative Ways of Finding People to Interview

At every turn, people in Guatemala City have been telling me how hard it is to find deportees. Most deportees live in the countryside. Most turn right around and go back. They won’t want to talk to me. A whole host of reasons why it will be difficult to find deportees. But, I am not one to give up. And, today, it looks as though I have had a turn of luck.

Last week, I took my three daughters to a gymnastics center for a try-out class. When we finished the class, it was 7pm and already dark outside. We waited about 15 minutes for a bus, but they were all going the wrong way. I decided to flag down a taxi. After a few minutes, we finally got one.

I chatted a bit with the taxi driver on the way home, and he seemed friendly enough. So, I decided to ask him if he knew any people who had been deported from the US. It turns out part of his run includes waiting outside the airport for people who have been deported to see if any need a taxi. So, he knows a few deportees. I gave the taxi driver, whose name is Misael, my number, and he told me he would find a deportee for me to talk to.

This afternoon, Misael called me and told me he had found a deportee willing to talk to me. He asked what time I’d like to do the interview. I told him 5pm would work, and he agreed to come at that time. I called Oliver, my assistant, and asked him to come along. I was a bit nervous about meeting up with the taxi driver, and thought it better if Oliver accompanied me.

Misael showed up at 5pm, and we came downstairs. We called his friend, who is also a taxi driver, to see if he was willing to do the interview. Unfortunately, he told me he was quite busy and that he’d prefer to do the interview in the afternoon, as evenings are his busiest times. He agreed that we could meet tomorrow at 2pm at a restaurant near my apartment. I finally have an interview set up. I won’t believe until I actually see it. Nevertheless, it looks promising.

When that didn’t work out as planned, Misael called another guy he knows who has been deported. He was a bit suspicious of our motives, and said he would have to think about it. I assured Misael that the interviews would be confidential, and gave him a piece of paper that explains the project and the procedures I use to protect interviewees’ identity.

I also gave Misael several of my cards, and encouraged him to contact other people he might be able to think of.

He said that he would think about it, and see if he had any other people he could point us to. I asked Misael to which areas of Guatemala City he took most deportees. He mentioned Zona 6 and Zona 18, two areas others have mentioned as well. When Misael talked about how touching it was to take deportees home so they can see their families, I became convinced that he is an honest person, and that I have nothing to worry about working with him.

When we were finished talking, I asked Misael if I could give him something for gas money. He said that I should give what I though right. I gave him Q50 – about seven dollars. He was clearly embarrassed about this quantity of money. I assured him that it was fair, as he had driven all the way to my house and had spent time talking to us. I had no idea he would find that to be too much. The other day I took a taxi downtown and it cost me Q50. In any case, he said the money would be a blessing, so I am glad I gave it to him.

This looks like a good lead, and hopefully I will be able to get this interviewing project off the ground soon!


  1. Excellent! It's nice to kind of break the mold and find ways around the obstacles.

  2. I agree! I feel very lucky to have found Misael, the taxi driver. And, to think I hesitated to ask him as he was driving me home! You never will know the answer if you don't ask.