Posts Tagged ‘Departamentos’

Road To Chisec

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Ha ha, the first time I drove by this exact same spot I saw two ducks swimming in the puddle and then I noticed the swimming sign next to it. Well, I do not know if the sign is for a swimming location near by or a prank by some local.
Chisec

Alta Verapaz and Playa Grande, Quiche, No Reservations!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I won’t sin of sugarcoating anything! So here it is, a brief commentary of a two day trip to Northern Guatemala. I arrived at noon at Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, a small town on the northern-most area of Alta Verapaz. I have been to this town a few times before, just as a transit point. I get here with a big appetite and started looking for a decent place to eat regional food. I asked a couple of people and I was suggested to try a fried chicken place (chain restaurant headquartered in Guatemala City), very regional right! Another of the suggestions was a Cevicheria, a place where ceviches are their specialty. Ceviche at a town very far from a coastal area,  any ocean, lake or mayor river, I think that’s a sin. I ended up ordering some of that fried chicken. Personally I find nothing interesting here to photograph, after walking the town streets, I put away my camera and in fact, did not take one single photo here. After lunch, I headed to Playa Grande, a town known by many because it was heavily contested by warring sides during our civil war.  The town was and still is the headquarters of the regional Guatemalan Army and the guerrilla forces never got to control the town. Ironically: after the signing of the peace accords, Guatemalan guerrilla forces became a political party, and now they have their regional headquarters based in Playa Grande, not more than 5 blocks from the imposing Guatemalan Army military base. I don’t have much positive to say about these two towns. Their food offering is mediocre, messy streets are the norm, no dominant architectural style, no parks (decent ones) or leisure areas, nothing impressive or appealing at plain view. They are merely disorganized supply and commerce centers for locals.  People are great tough! Very friendly and welcoming and they make the best of what they got. I just hope they never read what I have to say about their towns! Food here  is an aberration (I’m referring to what’s available to the traveler) ! Unless, unless you get invited to a local’s house to eat some of what they eat at home! Under an scorching heat, I get invited to a local’s house. They offered me a pitcher of freshly made lemonade. Delicious! I’m presented with a plate with a serving of cheese and cream, a separate bowl of black beans and another bowl of hot sauce and some tortillas. Wow! I exclaim to my self! I am a cheese lover, on my last trip to Europe, I brought back at least 5 pounds of cheeses from Northern  France and the Netherlands. Since I move back to Guatemala, I’ve failed to find any cheese that would make me sigh. I had a small bite of this cheese and I immediately fell in love! “Lo acabamos de hacer”, we just made it, they tell me and out of the porch they point at the cows the milk came from. Soft, not salted like all regional cheese you find in Guatemala, fresh, with a some character, simply delicious. The cream was exquisite as-well, made fresh everyday at the house. I put some of those black beans on my plate and added some of that spicy sauce to them. Wow! I tell myself once again. It is a spicy sauce made with onions, chiltepes, and loroco and some other herbs, a combination I had never seen. Very impressed once again! Is it a regional style sauce I asked them. No, from here no. It happens that this family migrated from  the Eastern region of the country, and that’s the way they make hot sauce where they come from.  If it wasn’t for that meal I would have not survived! Kite Season. It is kite season here in Guatemala and I found these children flying their kites at a park in Playa Grande. Laguna Lachuá The entrance to Laguna Lachuá is on the road we had to travel back from Playa Grande to Coban. it was around 5pm when we reached the entrance. We stopped and asked if we can go in. No, you can’t, the park closes at 2 and people have to be out by 4, a park ranger tells us. We talked our way in! You have to go fast he tells us, because it is getting dark. Well, I had flashlights, so darkness wasn’t an issue for us, but we decided to go to the lagoon fast. The lagoon is 4 kilometers from the entrance; we ran top speed to the lagoon. The area is beautiful, clean and it is one of the few wild life sanctuaries in the country. In fact, we heard howler monkeys across the lagoon and when we ran back to the entrance we heard a small troop close to the road. While talking to a local attending a small tienda, he tells me they have even seen jaguars in the area. Cobán, Alta Verapaz Cobán is a city you can easily fall in love with. One advice tough: Make sure you book a hotel room early or you might spend two hours driving around finding no vacancy and of course running out of fuel in your vehicle. El Calvario is a Christian church ontop of a hill in the City of Cobán.  Well, the site is sacred to mayan people too. I spend no more than ten minutes on the summit and while I was there, there were four Mayan ceremonies under way. The prayers were spoken in a Mayan language, I could not understand much, except for a few words “cardamomo pantiosh” thanks for the cardamon. I assume they were blessing their crops, “ajau ajpu” Hunter God/Lord. I guess I have to work on my Mayan language skills. To end the trip, we stopped at a restaurant on the side of the road. I always try different foods, so I ordered something from the menu I had not seen before: Salchichon Ahumado, smoked salchichon. Oh man, no better way to leave the region than eating that salchichon with fresh tortillas and black beans. If you ever travel to Cobán, you have to try that, trust me, you’ll love it. Mayan Ceremony, El Calvario, Cobán

Ixcan

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Quick trip to Quiche, lets hope for some good photos. And of course there is a lot of traffic to get ouut of the city. .

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A simple leisure day in Guatemala

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

A very interesting leisure day here in Guatemala.
Rode my bicycle to the province of Escuintla to checkout the crops on my farm.
Of course I forgot my personal pass (without it you have to pay) for the water park but I explained to the crew I had one and they were nice enough to let me in without asking much and I spent some time at the pool after working on my land.
It was rainy on my way back, I had to stop riding my bike and boarded a chicken bus.
It was raining so hard, at some point I could not see 4 feet infront of us, I’ve no idea how the bus driver managed to keep going.
Streets downtown Escuintla City were flooded!

Just another day here in Guatemala…..
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Chicken bus? How should we call them?
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Food

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

I know, the images are not of the best quality -I’m saving images from my old camera- but I wanted to show you some of the food available in Petén, one of my favorite destinations here in Guatemala. That’s a churrasco, Peten style and the other photo: something unique to Petén, please forgive me; I’ve forgotten the name of the fish, but it is a unique fish to Lake Peten Itza and the Island of Flores is the best place to get it prepared perfectly. Bon Appétit.
Peten Meal
Peten Meal

Toll Roads

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

There is only one Toll Road here in Guatemala. I’ve travel this route by bicycle several times and last Sunday I had to travel by car. The price was around $1.94. Not a big deal right? Well, this stretch of road is not more than 18.5 miles, the average price per mile: ¢.10 U.S. Dollars. Almost as expensive as those toll roads in the U.S.A. (¢20 U.S. Dollars per mile). Not a big deal right, except for: the average income in the U.S. is around $2,300 monthly and the Guatemalan average monthly income is around $350.
Don’t you love our Corporatocracy!?
Toll Roads

Guatemalan Ingenuity

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

This is something I stumble upon yesterday.
Very inventive way to put to use old bicycles and transformed them into to something useful.
They have the shop in the province of Chimaltenango, the town of San Andres Itzapa. Check’m out sometime.
Guatemalan Ingenuity

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

Livingston, Izabal

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Livingston, Izabal
Livingston, called La Buga by the Garifuna inhabitants.
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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

Of Cattle and Discrimination

Monday, September 9th, 2013

This is a horrible discrimination story I heard while driving with a friend through Izabal, heading to Peten.
We were on Puente Rio Dulce and we saw this cattle transport and we started talking about the cattle business there in Peten. My friend tells me a story of a friend of his who invested in cattle in Peten. He raised the cattle and when it was ready, he hired a transport to take them cattle to the slaughterhouse, where they pay cash for the heads of cattle. He went to the first slaughterhouse and sold almost half of the load. He goes to a second slaughterhouse and sells a few more, goes to a third slaughterhouse and sells the remaining cattle: Except for one!
No body wanted to buy that last one because it was ugly. He went to another slaughterhouse, he lower the price but no one would buy that last head of cattle because it was ugly!
He tried and tried for the rest of the day without success. He had to sell it because he had no place to take the cattle back to and he did not live in Peten permanently.
He failed on finding a buyer, goes to a hardware store and buys a machete and butchers the zebu himself. Starts a fire on the side of the road and has a huge barbecue for everyone around.
Cattle Transport Izabal