We are bearers of a very sad recent past.
During our armed conflict and the Genocide that came with it; more than 200 thousand people were killled, mostly (up to 83%) by state forces and most of those killed were indigenous Mayan (more than 80%) and of course, most of the casualties of the war were unarmed civilians. Many of these were disposed off on clandestine cemeteries and and unmarked mass graves.
Many of these places have been uncovered and now thanks to technology, DNA testing, many people have been able to identify their love ones lost during the war.
Posts Tagged ‘history’
We are bearers of a very sad recent past.
I found a small note on a gastronomic festival in Petén, Guatemala’s largest province and with the largest remaining forests.
I’ll sum it up for you
In the spring of 1525, Hernan Cortes (one of the Conquistadors) army en route to Honduras crossed the Petén region, where they were fed by the surrounding jungle; they ate Zapotes. In Tayazal, capitol city of the Itza they were invited by King Canek to a banquet where they ate palmito soup, coshan asado, empanadas de siquinche, tamales, bollitos de chaya, caldo de chayuco, tortillas de ramon mixed with majunches, deer meat, tepezquintle, armadillo, iguana, pizote, mapache, wild boar and different birds meat and local fish and of course frijoles (beans) to finish the meal with a local tobacco cigar.
In 1847, as a result of a war in the Yucatan Peninsula, there was a migration to the Petén lands from the Yucatan, and this came to influence Petén’s gastronomy: Stomach (cow’s) bouillon, gallina en col, gandinga, estofado, salpicon, escabeche de costilla de cerdo (pig’s rib), tepezcuintle en pibil (barbecue), atole de macal, biscotela, longaniza, etc.
This 7 December, in the towns of Flores, and San Francisco, Petén, there is a gastronomic festival called Las Mesitas, where you can find all kinds of these regional dishes and drinks.
From Guatemala’s news paper Prensa Libre.
The only thing I have to regret is not having known about this gastronomic festival last December I was in Petén.
For sure I will not miss this one. Who’s coming!?
First Act depicts the daily life and dancing of the Chorti People, an ethnic group of Mayan origin.
Second act depicts life and dancing of the Garifuna People, brought to the country as slaves during colonial times.
Third act is about Day of the Death and kite flying. For Mayan people, the flight of kites symbolizes the journey of relatives soul to the after life. If the kite flies high; it means the soul is ascending to heaven. If the kite is having trouble gaining altitude and stability; it means the soul is going to the purgatory. And if the kite fails to lift or dives down, it means the soul is going to hell. Think about it next time you see them kites.
While living in the States, a couple of years ago I was following the news of a former Guatemalan President being detained and sent to prison for several charges. One of the images on Guatemalan TV news was one that really called my attention. It was this congress man going to visit former El Presidente to jail, congressman brings a couple of bags of something I could not distinguish. I asked my now fiance if she new what that was, she tells me “That’s Pollo Brujo!”. Since then, I’ve been craving to try that.
And here it is! It is very tasty and healty, not over seasoned and it is chard broiled. Very simple but tasty, got to top it with some lime juice and it is perfect. Good enough for an imprisoned Presidente, good enough for Eli.
Here is a gallery of a October 20th march, commemorating The revolution of 1944. The revolution of 1944 overthrew and bloody dictator and embarked us on a brief democratic period and deep political reforms, until a CIA backed coup d’état overthrew the elected president of Guatemala, which put in place another dictator. For a brief history, checkout AntiguaDailyPhoto.com and an interesting post on the 1944 revolution.
A great deal of Guatemalans usually mistake Progress and or Development with Urbanization.
Progress –implying Urbanizing- is good, houses, shopping malls, hydroelectric plants, etc. are better than useless patches of dirt. That’s the common mindset.
As I child I lived in front of this small patch of forest, one of the few close to Guatemala City. I used to frequent this forest with friends in search for local fruits: Jocotes, Sandia de Raton (mouse melon, Melothria Scabra), Matasanos (white sapote) and others. As children we used to disturb squirrels (one of the very few places around Guatemala City where they USED TO live wild) and hunted for small tortoise and birds. I know, we were bad!
I left Guatemala and came back seven years later and found a shopping mall had been built (now a Walmart)
I left Guatemala shortly after to comeback eight years later and encountered a series of new gated communities built where some of the remaining patches of trees were.
I’m a business person: Not long ago I saw a for rent sign on one of the windows of this large strip mall. I call the number and had a long conversation with the Realtor. “This is a great opportunity, see the mountains on the back, all this belongs to the same family and they are planning on building five thousand houses on that mountain. He tells me.
Goodbye remaining trees.
Yes, housing is necessary, as business centers are. Aren’t forest (patches of dirt) needed too?
I often finish these kinds of conversations with friends and acquaintances with the following:
I don’t call progress to stopping or diverting a sacred river to generate electricity so you have enough juice to watch TV tonight.
I don’t call progress to destroying a life and splendor giving forest and its inhabitants to temporarily fix our human housing problems.
Oh, on a funny related note: Many of these housing projects advertise themselves as “green” or “Nature surrounded”, but they fail to say that most of these gated communities refer to their green or Nature to small patches of grass in front of these houses, again: small strips of grass on their boulevards, and many times not even local species of grass or plants.
More: Another “Green Community” I was interested in a while ago, promoted itself as green and surrounded by Nature and on their advertising video they show animations of birds flying around the area instead of real ones: None available?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
My fiancée and and I went to Miraflores Mall, a very well known shopping center here in Guatemala City.
She went to see a movie and while I waited for her; I took some time to visit the museum next to the mall.
Of course I have to tell you the good and the bad.
The museum is beautiful and it has a great collection of Mayan artifacts.
The bad: The Museum is connected to the shopping mall, where thousands of people walk in everyday, the entrance fee is a meager Q15/$1.90, cheap enough even for Guatemalan standars. I spent almost two hours walking the museum corridors, reading about the pieces, taking notes and photographs. All this time no other person walked to the museum. I had the entire place for my self. Cm’on! We have inherited an amazing gift. These artifacts are the legacy of a great saga our ancestors experienced and it disappoints me that only a few Guatemalans show interest in learning about it.