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July 2007

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Guatemalan Adoptions Could Be Mixed Blessings

There are many complications when you take an adopted child from Guatemala to a foreign land and to a foreign culture. One complication could be that he or she will be marked as strange because of her Mayan traits and the dark color of the skin.

Hispanic and Indigenous children might be walking on uneven streets if they are taken to mostly white neighborhoods where racism and discrimination could part of their daily bread.

Chicken Bus and the Driver’s Assistant

Guate, Guate, Guate… vamos vaciooossss!

That is what you hear the chicken bus driver’s helper yell out as the omnibus makes its way back into Guatemala City. But there are all kinds of yellings: Antigua, Antigua, Chimal, Chimal, Chichi, Chichi, Xela, Xela and so on.

Guate, Guate, Guate… vamos vaciooossss! Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala, we are empty is what the driver’s ayudante (helper) would yell out if they are full, like this.

Chicken Bus Stop in La Antigua Guatemala

Chicken bus is the derogatory term used for Guatemala’s rural public transportation system. The chicken bus is the second life for the old school bus in the third world. The chicken bus ride can make for a great post card or provide enough material for your exotic travel chronicle. But, chicken buses do not make for a safe and quality transit system and as a such they do not have designated and built-for bus stops. The omnibus stops can be anywhere, including in the middle of the main entrance or exit to La Antigua Guatemala.

La Antigua Guatemala’s Main Exit

Too bad this is the main exit street for La Antigua Guatemala if you are going to Guatemala City, also known as 4a calle oriente. If this was the main entrance, you could see the Fire and Acatenago volcanoes right above the Spanish tiles rooftops. This is the last thing you see also as you wave goodbye to La Antigua Guatemala.

I am almost sure, some of you would rather say hasta la vista, baby.

Electric Wire Grid and Volcanoes Wallpaper

Although this image is not as elegant and clean as the one shown in Fire and Acatenango Volcanoes Wallpaer, I thought some of you may enjoy having it as wallpaper for your desktops. If you do, download th image (1600×1200) Electric Wire Grid and Volcanoes Wallpaper.

I don’t know why I have a fascination for this horrible electric wire grids or webs that break up into pieces, the otherwise, gorgeous sky line around La Antigua Guatemala. Well you can at least use this visual noise as wallpapers for your computer.

Architectonic Design Elements in La Antigua Guatemala

La Antigua Guatemala is like a huge living catalog of colonial architectonic design elements. You can walk around the town armed with a camara, notepad and pencil and an eye for detail to capture all the beauty that make up the architecture of The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Sait James of the Knights of Guatemala. All the colonial architectonic design elements make this an enchanting and haunting little town. It is, certainly, more than the sum of its elements.

Saint James Day in La Antigua Guatemala

Santiago was a very popular name for the conquistadors to use as they rechristen the new lands of the American continent. If you check the entry for Santiago in Wikipedia, you will there are over 60 cities and towns throught the world that carry that name and that is a very short list since you could probably find about 60 towns with the Santiago name, just in Guatemala. But why was Santiago such a popular name for the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors?

Tortas Locas Hipocampo in La Antigua Guatemala

Every day that passes by makes La Antigua Guatemala a more cosmopolitan place to live. Mexican tortas is one of the latest additions to the antigüeño menu and what better transnational than Tortas Locas Hipocampo.

I had the tortas from Hipocampo in Mexico and they are made to the highest standards and the quality of their ingredients is superb. So, it was a surprise to learn they had opened a franchise here in La Antigua Guatemala. I had to go and try them out. The verdict is that the Tortas Locas Hipocampo serves pretty good tortas, not as good as the Mexicans since the bread is not exactly torta bread and they serve their tortas with french fries; this must be a Guatemalan twist. But overall the quality of the tortas is pretty good. It is on the expensive side for lunch though.

Joyerí­a del Ángel Corner in La Antigua Guatemala

Obviously what they sell there has not influenced my appreciation for this wonderful light-blue, celeste in Guatemalan Spanish, corner. I simply liked the light hitting the building and the tourist walking by that afternoon. Also, I like the geometry of the white stripes, the Joyerí­a del Ángel sign and the lamp. You will have to excuse the white sky in many of the photos taken during the rainy season; not much I can do.

I am not conTigo

There are three cell phone companies in Guatemala (4 according to Wikipedia). Tigo is the mobile phone brand of Millicom International Cellular. Claro mobile telephone operator is owned by the Mexican group América Móvil, which in turn is the umbrella name for the mobile telephone division of Telmex, owned by Carlos Slim (estimated fortune of US$67.8 billion). Carlos Slim’s empire also owns the Guatemalan National Telephone Company, Telgua, and Telgua’s division of cellphone Claro brand. Movistar is the mobile division of the Spanish transnational Telefónica telephone company. Believe it or not the Telmex/América Móvil and Movistar/Telefónica are probably bigger than AT&T.

Life Can Be Good in La Antigua Guatemala

Not everything is rotten in the paradisiac lands of Guatemala. Sometimes you can take a pause from your hectic life or trip to enjoy the afternoon sunshine while having some of the best “home-made” cookies and coffee in Guatemala as you read a book or the Revue Magazine in our little green corner; our tiny and cozy corner of the world.

Rigoberta Menchú for President

What is Rigoberta Menchú’s Mission, anyway? She has embarked in an impossible mission. She is running for the Guatemalan Presidency. So what, why is this an impossible mission? Isn’t she Guatemalan and thus possess the legal rights to run for the presidency? Well, yes, that is correct. But, and this is a big but, she is a woman; worst yet, she is an indigenous woman; even worst, she is an indigenous woman from the left.

Guatemalan Flag at Municipalidad de La Antigua Guatemala

There is a missing flag on the other staff; all you have to do is name the missing flag and describe the colors of it and why. Both answers are in the archives of La Antigua Guatemala Daily Photo. The first complete answer gets five post cards made from photographs from this site sent via Guatemalan regular post mail. Let the game begin.

La Antigua Guatemala’s Webcams

Believe it or not, in over 451 entries or 442 days, which ever way you prefer, not once I have mentioned that there are some public webcams in La Antigua Guatemala that you can use. I found the webcams around La Antigua and Guatemala City over three years ago, but the web site that publish their output was awkward and difficult to use, to say the least. So I pick the output of four webcams that I liked, two for La Antigua Guatemala and two for Guatemala City and put them in a webpage in the Revue Magazine website. There is still the problem that the cameras go offline often, but I have no control over that. Here is the link to the web page that collects the output of the four webcams.

Guatemalan Fair: The Pine-needle Processional Carpets

The making of these processional carpets is such a community-forming and bonding activity since in the process participate many, if not all, of the neighbors and family members. These traditions, festive calendar dates and special celebrations mark very strongly what makes a normal human being into a hard-core Guatemalan. You break the link or access to these experiences and you only have a person that was born in Guatemala; a fact as worthless as the fact of having had a pair of boots once.

Guatemalan Fair: The Charcoal-broiled Meat Booth

The charcoal-grilled meat stall has gotten so hip that you now find it not only in fairs, but around La Antigua Guatemala in parks, markets and sidewalks. Back in February 20th, 2007, I showed you an extremely popular stall of grilled meats in Tanque de la Unión park from a bird’s eye point of view. In the picture above, chicken and beef steak were being offered along broiled potatoes. Q10 ($1.25) for a portion of the meat of your choice, chirmol (read the side note), guacamol and potatoes; definitely, not too bad of a deal.

Guatemalan Fair: The Seeds Stall

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but seeds are very popular in Guatemala. If you recall the entries Name the seeds! or Guatemalan sweets; so it is obvious that seeds had to present in a fair booth. Okay, what do we have here? Peanuts in their shell, Guatemalan pumpkin in melcocha syrup, sesame seeds with melcocha, salty fried or roasted habas (broad beans); that’s as far as I can distinguish. Read the entry on Guatemalan sweets if you want to know what is melcocha.

Guatemalan Fair: The Games

The Latin American lottery is played with cardboards of nine images, each cardboard is different, bean or maize counts, and a person calling out aloud the name of the images: La Chalupa, El Borracho, El Catrí­n, La Campana, El Cantaro, et-cetera. Whoever gets all nine images called out and accounted for with beans or maize seeds wins the lottery, if, and only if they scream with all their lungs LO-TE-RIIIIAAAAA.

Guatemalan Fair: Fresh Fruit Stall

After all the pounds we have gained this week at the San Pedro Las Huertas Fair, it is nice to come across some healthy food. For Q5 ($0.65) we can take any fresh fruit bags and we will need the savings since we already lost quite a few Quetzales at the others fair stands. Now, even though I have shown all these Guatemalan fair food and even describe it as tasteful and delicious, I don’t want to pass it as healthy. Fair food is junk food. I am so glad these fair food vendors have not come across the Super Size Me concept!

Guatemalan Fair: The French Fries Stall

Papas fritas is the Guatemalan Spanish name for French fries. Here is the abbreviated history that gave us the Guatemalan french fries stall: first the Quechuas or Incas domesticated the potato (Solanum tuberosum) into a crop in southern Peru and northern Bolivia; the Spanish conquistadors took it to Europe where it was an instant hit and along with maize turned a famine-prone population into a healthy society; somewhere in one of the northern European states, quite possibly Germany, the potato lost its skin and got deep-fried; This Eurpean recipe crossed the Atlantic with the new immigrants that came to U.S. and since it was a foreign-looking recipe, they called it French fries (remember Coneheads); so the French fries came to Guatemala along one of the many incursions from the United Stateians (Americans they seem to call themselves 😉 ) as a side dish for the hamburger or the hot dog. Guatemalans thought that French fries were too good to be side dish and turned it into a meal by itself. That is how the papas fritas cart came to be.

Guatemalan Fair: The Pizza Kiosk

A recent addition to the Guatemalan Fair zoo is the pizza kiosk. Just like many other aspect of modern Guatemala idiosyncrasy, pizza has come to stay, but it must evolve, just like chinese food. So the typical Guatemalan town fair pizza is made from a less tasteful dough, only mozzarella cheese and ham; nothing more. You get your slice and normally ad ketchup to it. The Guatemalan town fair pizza stand is, almost invariable, managed by one or tow young indigenous teenagers or young adults with a taste for extremely heavy rock metal music which they blast from a portable boom box. The pizza booth may have posters describing their pepperoni or salami pizza even though they only sell ham pizza. Go figures!

Guatemalan Fair: The Churreria Stand

A town fair is not a fair without the churros. A churreria is the place where they make churros; [CHOOR-roh] Similiar to a cruller, this Spanish, Mexican and Guatemalan specialty consists of a sweet-dough spiral that is deep-fried and eaten like a doughnut. Churros are usually coated with a mixture of cinnamon and confectioners’ (or granulated) sugar (source Just about now after looking the Guatemalan churrerí­a, I got the cravings for a cinnamon-covered bag of churros, would you like an order too? If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can always have plataninas, poporopos, chicharrines, and anillos frescos y calientes; your choice.

Guatemalan Fair: The Typical Booth

We continue the photographic tour of a Guatemalan town fair with a typical booth. Since the inflated toys and balloons are very obvious, we will play the game of naming everything else that you see on the table. I will get you started with the bags of peanuts on the left. Now it is your turn, name as many things as you can recognize. Let the game begin!

Guatemalan Fair: The Ferris Wheel

Ferris wheels are another element of the Guatemalan fair. There is at least one Ferris wheel, but more often two or three of different sizes. The Ferris wheel is known here by these names rueda de Chicago(Chicago Wheel), rueda de la fortuna (wheel of fortune) and vuelta al mundo (around the world). Fairs are made up by all kinds of ambulant stands. Fairs are like accordions, they grow or shrink depending of the size of the community or town. All these photos belong to the San Pedro Las Huertas, a small village just outside and belonging to La Antigua Guatemala. At the end of July, La Antigua Guatemala will have its massive fair in honor of Saint James or Santiago.

Guatemalan Fair: The Church and its Saint

Almost all town fairs and festivities are around the town’s patron, in this case is San Pedro Las Huertas, which by the way, means Saint Peter of the vegetable gardens. Since Guatemala was a catholic country for the last 500 years or so and the Mesoamerican indigenous people absorbed and mixed the catholic rituals and traditions with their own religious beliefs and traditions, most Guatemalan towns have a Spanish catholic first name and often an indigenous last name (otherwise known as the original name). For example, Santo Domingo Xenacoj, which means the original name of the town was Xenacoj, and the town was re-christen with Santo Domingo. Now with the above information, we now know that a town’s fair happens once-a-year on the town’s catholic patron. For San Pedro Las Huertas the date is June 29th and for La Antigua Guatemala is July 25th because the city used to be called The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Saint James of the Lords of Guatemala, as mentioned by Manolo a few days ago. And some of you thought La Antigua Guatemala was already a very long name; try explaining to your friends and relatives that you are planning a vacation to The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Saint James of the Lords of Guatemala.