Archive for September, 2013

Shuco

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

I know, you all have seen these on the streets of Guatemala.
These are Shucos: a lightly toasted hotdog bun, with chopped (your choice of) beef, marinated meats, Spanish sausage, chorizo, sausage or a mix of them all, topped with steam cabbage, ketchup, mustard or mayo.
You won’t have trouble finding them here in Guatemala city.
By the way, I made this one my self.
Shuco

Quetzalteca

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Quetzalteca Rosa de Jamaica.
This is a very delicious Hibiscus infused liquor. There is an interesting story behind this.
When I left Guatemala, there was just one Quetzalteca -the unflavored one-. I come back and find Rosa de Jamaica, and later a Horchata infused Quetzalteca.
Quetzalteca unflavored was a very inexpensive alcoholic drink, not so great tasting and known to be the drink of choice of the poor, uneducated and your last resort; sort of the Cossack or Popov vodka equivalent in Guatemala.
Not long ago they change their strategy and created these new flavors, gave the brad a more refined appeal and targeted the young crowds.
It did work and to be honest, it is quite delicious. Have a glass next time you are in Guatemala.
Quetzalteca

Riding the Streets

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

My bicycle was in the shop for more than two weeks and finally I got it out today.

To test its performance I went on a quick ride from Villa Nueva to Down Town Guatemala City, a healthy 10.5 miles and back.
A red sedan honks at me, passes me and makes a right turn two feet in front of me.
There is an obstacle on my way, I quickly look over my shoulder, there is a car behind me but it is far back enough for me to swirl a little bit to avoid the obstacle, but he honks at me!
I got to Sexta Avenida (Sixth Avenue) and several times people cross the street without looking and I almost bump into them.
But it was a lovely ride. Downtown looks nice, clean, Sexta Avenida is full of life and weather was perfect.
I’ll have to do it again soon.

Riding the Streets

 

Zaya

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Another jewel from my private stash.
This is Zaya, a very delicious Guatemalan rum.
Bad news: It is no longer made in Guatemala!
While I was working in the liquoer industry I had it a few times and I was able to save a bottle and then I get news it was no longer made here. I’m glad I still have a Guatemalan made Zaya.
Zaya

Zacapa Centenario

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

World’s best rum!
I’m not kidding.
I worked in the liquor industry for eight years and I got samples of hundreds (yes hundreds) of rums and no one came close to Zacapa 23 year old. Until! a Zacapa XO, a 25 year old was introduce.
Full of character, don’t spoil it with anything, not even ice! And the best pairing available to us here in Guatemala and NOT YOU in the States is Cuban Cigars. Have a few glasses of Zacapa 23 or XO and a Cuban Cigar and you’ll be in heaven while they last.
Zacapa Centenario

Chicken Bus Entertainment System

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Loved it!
I hopped on a bus today and it had some old Mexican movies being played on this 30″ TV. The sound system was of great quality too.
chicken bus entertainment system

This is how we roll

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

This is how we roll here in Guatemala.
Forget about safety or regulations.
riding

Livingston, Izabal

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Livingston, Izabal
Livingston, called La Buga by the Garifuna inhabitants.
(more…)

Snorkeling

Monday, September 16th, 2013

I was just able to rescue my waterproof camera’s photos and these are worth sharing. This is so far my favorite snorkeling trip here in Guatemala. I spent a few days in El Remate, a small town en route to Tikal National Park. This town is lovely, there are some good restaurants in the area, souvenir shops, and my favorite: the town is on the shores of Lago Peten Itza. The Water is clear blue, in fact; the water is so clean, so pure, you might crave drinking it. I grabbed my snorkeling gear and went for a dive. I was trying to find Mayan Artifacts on the bottom and indeed I did! I found couple of pieces of ceramics. There are some interesting rock formation there too, I’ll go back to them soon. While I was snorkeling, a group of local children arrived at the pier and starting jumping off. Chances favor the prepared mind! I had not planned for this, I point my camera at the right moment when a child dove in front of me and I captured the moment perfectly.
While snorkeling, these schools of tiny and curious fish would follow me every where. Lucky them I was not craving sushi.
snorkeling

Beer and Memories of War.

Monday, September 16th, 2013

This dialog was held in Spanish. A lot of the feeling, the pain and sorrow is lost in my translation.
The first time I saw my distant cousin was more than 16 years ago. They lived on a remote, poor farmers community in the province of Huehuetenango, their settlement was very near the Mexican border.
When I met them, we were looking for my aunt. She, at the moment, was not living with them. She was living in Sayaxche Peten. After a couple of days at this humble community, one of my distant cousins volunteers to take us to my aunt’s place in Sayaxche. Getting there on the Guatemala side was very difficult. My cousin tells us is better to cross to the Mexican side (illegally of course) and move faster by bus there. And then, cross back to the Guatemalan side.
16 years later I get to see my cousin once again. Now he lives in Sayaxche, Peten.
After a couple of days of staying at his house, I took him for some beers at a local Tienda (small convenience store).
He did not drink much. I remember him having a glass or two.
Eli of course will have this classic Guatemalan pairing: Cerveza, Limon, Chicharrones (beer, lime and fried porkskins).
We spend the entire evening talking and talking. He tells me about his time living in Huehuetenango. Some of that misery I did witness when we visited them there.
The War:
My cousins were children when the war reached their community. We used to crawl under the tables when we were bombed by the army, he tells me. His eyes are watering.
We were not guerrillas, we had nothing to do with the war, but they were just bombing all the time.
One day we could see smoke coming from a neighboring village. The next day another village was up in flames. Some had survived the slaughter and came to our village seeking refuge. He told us the army was burning everything. “Hicieron matazones” They killed many he tells them.
People at my cousin’s village were not afraid. We had nothing to do with the war, so nothing should happen to us they believed.
A couple of days later another village close by was massacred and burnt to the ground, erase from this Earth.
We are next we were thinking. Horrible accounts were coming from these scorched villages.
A military vanguard arrives and the elders of the village are quick to go meet them and talk to them.
My cousin goes with the group and listens to the conversation. My cousin almost chokes when he telling me this: “They told us: we should not worry because we are not Indians.” People at this poor community were mestizos, a mix of European and Natives descent. The neighboring communities were mostly Mayan and being Mayan sealed their fate.
The Rebels
After the destruction around, patrols of guerrillas would come to our village and ask if we needed anything. They constantly asked us to join them.
I remember a beautiful guerrilla girl. She always came to me, she really wanted me to join them. She told me: come with us and I’ll be your wife. I was considering doing it but my mother would not let me.
The Pacs
The Pacs were a paramilitary force created by the army to “protect” villages against guerrilla incursions.
My cousins relatives were forced into joining them Pacs.
One day my cousin’s brother –just a child- was playing with another child. He takes (steals) a toy from that child and the child goes complaining to his older brother; a member of the PACS. He takes his riffle and shoots my cousin’s brother.
The entire family could not do anything because saying something about the PACS would render you a guerrilla, a communist. For many years this painful memories were kept locked down. Only told after the war, after things were safe and they had moved out of Huehuetenango.
Sayaxché, Petén

Sayaxché, Petén

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

As I promised: I got to save photographs I had on my ruined camera and I’ll share some stories captured by these photographs.

Most tourist take the Izabal route to get to Petén. I choose to take the route from Coban, Alta Verapaz. It takes a little bit longer but more tranquil than riding on the traditional route.
From Coban, Alta Verapaz you hop on a bus heading to Raxruhá, around 4 hours drive. A few miles before the town of Raxruhá you get off at the crossroad to Petén. At this crossroad you start to try to get a ride, standing on the side of the road. If you are luck you’ll catch one of these minibuses. When I arrived here, there was one minibus about to leave. It was packed with people, local farmers and peasants, in fact, people couldn’t fit inside anymore, they were climbing to the roof of the vehicle. Not a big deal for locals. Well, Eli is not patient and will not stay here waiting indefinitely for another transport. Eli is rough too, so does not mind traveling like the locals do. Somehow you have to hold to your stuff and grab onto something on the roof. And do this while trying to take photos going at 50mph.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I felt the ride from Raxruhá to Sayaxché took forever. But the distance is not so great. On your personal vehicle it should not take more than two and a half hours.
The minibus leaves you close to the river crossing. They charge you Q2 for a person to cross, Q10 for a vehicle. On the other side of the river there is a fine road that leads to Flores Petén and the rest of the Petén everyone knows.
At this crossing station you can find launches taking tourists to ancient Mayan site of Aguateca. There are some other Mayan sites in the area and you’ll always find a person willing to take you there for a moderate price.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A 2-3 hours up Rio La Pasion will put you at Laguna Petexbatun, home to the Mayan Aguateca Site. The jungle surrounding the lagoon is home to hundreds of species of birds and mammals. Often you’ll see spider monkeys and howler monkeys close to the shore.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Amphibian on my way, road from Aguateca to Sayaxche. If you pay attention, the mud you see in the photo is what I talk about on a previous post about a jungle trek from Aguateca to Sayaxche.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Parque Naciones Unidas

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Here is another of my spontaneous trips here in Guatemala City. Weather was good so I drove to Parque Naciones Unidas, an easy 10 minutes drive from my house, or 35 minutes from Guatemala City.
The park has replicas of the Mayan ruins of Tikal and Zaculeu. There is a life size replica of Central Park of Antigua Guatemala too.
Parque Naciones Unidas, Guatemala

This slideshow requires JavaScript.