A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

Los Padres in Guatemala!

The parents were here for Christmas, which made for an exciting ten day sweep across the country. We started out in Antigua where we saw all the usual churches, museums, and what-not and my parents started to see that Guatemala was not as shabby or dangerous as the US State Department warnings may lead you to believe.

Unfortunately, they came in on the same day as a tropical storm, and so the first few days were a big wet as you can see by our garbage bag outfits that we are sporting below.


After that, we headed off on a long and uncomfortable ride with the cheapest van you can get from Antigua to Copan, Honduras to see the ruins there (for the record we invested in a nicer and more expensive van from Copan back to Antigua). In Copan we not only saw the ancient mayan ruins but also went to a Macaw reserve that houses a number of shunned pets that never should have been pets like Toucans, Macaws, and other colorful loud things. Everyone got to hold at least one of these big squawkers before we left the park.

Here is my dad being viciously attacked by overfriendly macaws:

Then we took the folks up to Lake Atitlan for Christmas with our new family. We went to midnight mass, which turned out to be partly in Tz'utujil, but it didn't matter anyway because the whole thing was overpowered by a billion bombas exploding for nearly the whole hour. For Christmas, we ate the required tamales which were delicious and polished off the night with a campfire and smores. Unfortunately, I was having too much fun to remember to spoil it by taking pictures, so you will just have to trust me on that one.

We also subjected my parents to a grueling several hour walk along the lake which followed a path on the side of a cliff. Luckily they were rewarded with pretty pictures. After that we took an amazing coffee tour to see the coffee collaborative processing coffee to sell.

Here is the grueling lake path:

Us with coffee:

Talkin coffee...in Spanish!:

All in all it was a very eventful trip, you will have to ask my mom and dad for the details and the rest of the pics!

Posted by KimJay 12:54 Comments (2)

Mucho más divertido ser Católico en Guatemala

sunny 80 °F

We´ve already discussed the bombas before, during, and after masses every Sunday here, but this week we found out a new reason why being Catholic in Guatemala is way more fun than in the US. This week we celebrated ¨El día de la Concepción de la Virgen,¨ Guatemalan-style. Though I guess you can only celebrate it Guatemalan-style since I have never heard of any other country that celebrates it. Then again, maybe I just haven´t been in Latin America long enough.

For all of you non-believers and non-catholic school byproducts out there, this day celebrates the day when the angel Gabriel came to tell the teenage Mary that she was pregnant despite her immaculate life without sin. This day-December Eighth- is when Catholics venerate Mary for accepting this news graciously instead of freaking out. It is also the day they transport a statue of the Virgin Mary in between the many different shrines in town--she occupies a different one every year.

The night includes several stages with bands and each one has a carpet designed of colored flowers or colored corn meal in front of it. About three to four hundred Catholics parade the statue of The Virgin around the streets to be serenaded before taking her to reside in her new home. While being toted around, The Virgin Mary sits on a float with the Angel Gabriel, and both of them are covered in Christmas lights and accompanied by their own traveling musicians on either side. Of course this day is supposed to be only celebrated by Catholics and Evangelicals aren´t supposed to participate in all this Virgin Mary veneration, but it is quite the spectacle and so basically the whole town is there to watch the precession and of course the fireworks.

During the four hour pluys parade, there were at least two solid hours of fireworks. We aren´t talking somewhere in the distance behind a protective barrier type of fireworks, but bombas exploding right over your head and showering you with burning gunpowder, ash, and at times pegging people with still flaming remnants of paper. Only twice did failed bombas decend toward the crowd and explode five feet above people´s heads. So, it was moderately safe.

You can see the pictures below of the parade as well as some of us putting up the Christmas tree with the kids from the family. Also, there is one of Ben and Fray playing Jenga, because we play a lot of Jenga these days as all our friends seem to be between the ages of eight and fourteen.








Posted by KimJay 15:11 Archived in Guatemala Tagged events Comments (2)

¡Dios mio!

Drama in Sololá over the weekend

semi-overcast 75 °F

Given that our internet access is sporadic and getting international news is difficult because those pages don´t tend to open, I´m not sure if this made the news back home. In Sololá, across the lake from where we are, there was some drama over the weekend that ended horrifically. First some context. In Guatemala City, the gangs have been extorting bus drivers for a while now, charging them money to drive through their territory. If they don´t pay, the bus drivers get killed. So, the bus drivers and their families went on strike recently, pleading for more police protection. I don´t think anything has been resolved on that front yet.

Fast forward to Sololá and keep in mind that I´m paraphrasing the stories that I´ve patched together from locals since I have yet to see a newspaper this week (surprisingly difficult to get). About a month ago, three young people from Guatemala City, who are suspected to be tied to gangs there, arrived in Sololá and began extorting the bus and cab drivers. At the end of last week, they killed a bus driver and the person who grabbed the steering wheel to keep the bus from going over a cliff. The police quickly arrested the three people, two young men and a young woman, and put them in jail. Soon, a group of 2000-3000 citizens arrived at the police station and began demanding that the three criminals be released to the public. Obviously the police didn´t want to do that because it was a lynching waiting to happen. So, they held off. The towns people kept the pressure on outside beginning to throw Molotov cocktails and overturning police cars, eventually setting fire to the jail and the overturned cars. The station virtually burned to the ground and the policemen inside narrowly escaped the blaze. When the flames died down the townspeople went through what remained of the station to the jail, which is behind the station. They grabbed the three criminals, took them out in front of everyone, and the mob set them on fire and burned them alive.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor I found out this is the second time in the last year or so that the people of Sololá have taken justice into their own hands, burning people alive after attacking the police station. According to locals, the people have so little faith in the justice system and the police that they feel they have nothing else they can do if they don´t want to see the criminals set free in a week or a month. In other words, the people think the police are so corrupt in Guatemala they won´t even wait to see if the justice system works before lynching the suspected felons. The most telling thing about the whole situation is how matter-of-factly everyone described it. None of them seemed to have a huge problem with the actions of the mob and chalked it up to justice being served. Even considering the people were probably guilty, it still leaves me shocked and horrified.

Posted by BenjaminE 16:07 Archived in Guatemala Comments (1)

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