Red Lantern District

Come, buy our tamales

Not a farol left over from last year’s posadas. Nor indeed a house of ill repute, except perhaps with regards to the quality of Guatemalan grub to be purchased there.

For whatever a doorway in a narrow, dark alley illuminated by little red lantern might mean back where you come from, here it means ‘come buy our tamales‘. Or as the locals might say: un lugar de chuchosno para chuchos. It’s a sight you are most likely to see on a Saturday evening; a traditional time for tamal consumption.

Similarly, whenever you see a house in La Antigua with a red flag flying above the doorway, think not that its occupants are bravely holding out for an increasingly unlikely sort of radical social shake-up, for this is in fact the kind of place where carnivores will encounter choice cuts of red meat (carne de res). So, not particularly right on! at all.

text and photo by Guy Howard.

Guy Howard PortraitAbout Guest Contributor: Guy Howard is a writer/blogger, digital media consultant, native Londoner, media analyst and private investor who this month celebrates the twentieth anniversary of his first visit to La Antigua Guatemala. Married to the local girl he met back then, he and his wife have maintained a house in the city since the end of the last millennium.

© 2009 – 2013, Guy Howard. All rights reserved.

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  • Eric

    Oh, THAT’s what the red light means. Thank you for adding to my knowledge of local customs/signs/signals. Now I can no longer make excuses to Rudy for not having time to find chuchos. Red light – Saturday – got it ! Interesting photo – before reading the text, it did make me wonder … what could be behind that door …?

  • @Guy, thanks for your first witty commentary in Guatemala’s red lanterns, which are just one more aspect of the Guatemalan idiosyncrasy which throws visitors off.

    If I did not any better, I would say The Police’s Roxanne song would be a fitting soundtrack.

  • emromesco

    Maybe Roxanne was a lady that made tamales… I can feel a connection here… like the “Guatemalan shirt” of the Edge in Rattle and hum…
    Excellent post!

  • Erick

    I knew about the red lantern but I have never heard of (or seen) the red flag reference – learned something new today!

    • @Erick, if no one else takes this photo op, I will do the red flag carniceria thing, okay.

  • Erick

    Rudy, look forward to seeing the carniceria flag, thanks!

  • Hi Guy!

    I actually had no idea that that’s what it meant. Although, I have to say, I would feel weird knocking at that door. Across the street from me they sell hot tortillas, but there are no signs around at all. I never feel comfortable knocking there either. I guess it’s something that I have to get used, becasue my husband has no qualms about it at all!

  • Guy

    The carniceria stalls in the market all fly little red flags too.

  • Guy

    Doña Tere opposite us sells tortillas too and has just put up a helpful little waterproof plastic sign saying ‘Tortilleria’. There’s quite a lot of building going on in the area right now so it was a good time to get into this business!

  • I didn’t know that about the red light signal for the tamales… thanks for sharing!!

  • And this one is a proper farol…have you ever seen the ones done out of the cheap red plastic balls you buy at the tienda; those are my favorite ones.

  • I love the red light tamal district.