The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

Sometimes the ride from Guate city (la capital) to LAG takes a bit longer than expected and then there is not enough time to visit some of the interesting places. Or at least you end up finishing your pie de ayote or pie de higo by closing time, and then between getting some clay lantern and marimba CDs and paying for the plants you are taking back to la capital you end up having to ask the gatekeeper to let you out.

We can imagine names such as don neto or don chepe, always diminutives, showing a familiarity that may or may not be there, and at the same time a respect towards someone at our service. In Guatemala (and LAG is Guatemala) there is a marked difference, if not in ethnic group, at least in social class, between “us” and gatekeepers. Maybe it is the same worldwide, maybe it only exists inside my head.

Gatekeepers exert their power, limited as it might be, by being there to help us. Catholics might have something right by portraying one of their founding fathers, St. Peter, as the gatekeeper of the heavens. More earthly gatekeepers usually are there to open the door so we can continue our journey and leave the dreamland we are visiting. Gatekeepers have the keys to the outside world and the keys to inner worlds beyond our right to roam free. They let us in, they let us out.

I’ve been reading an online novel by Ronald Flores called Una cabaña en Atitlán (in Spanish) and it reminded me of this picture and this post I’ve been wanting to write. The central character in the novel (a middle-class ladino from la capital) has a couple of encounters with Mayan people, one of them that opens and closes a door for him. A door to another life, to the possibility of escape, to the possibility of change. Beautiful doors (and windows) are abundant in LAG and probably represent more than architectural elements…

Can you guess where was this picture taken?

How are usually the gatekeepers where you live or where you come from?


© 2009 – 2013, Manolo Romero Escobar. All rights reserved.

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  • Ronald

    Great article! Thanks for the reference and I have no idea where this beautiful picture was taken! Congrats Manolo and Rudy!

    • @Ronald, qué honor que nos visitas. Si no es por Manolo, no nos visitas. 🙁 Ahora tendré que leer la nueva novela. Saludos.

  • Lovely picture 🙂 It kinda reminds me of this “vivero” (plant nursery, I think is the term in english) and cafe, called Escalonia? 😉

    • @María, I kind of cheated by giving the answer disguised as a link. If you’ve clicked “this picture” on the second line of the last paragraph, you would have seen the Google Maps pin.

      p.s. don’t tell anyone else, including Manolo about the hidden link. 😉

  • Extraordinary picture! At first the gate doesn’t look that imposing until you compare it to the gatekeeper sitting besides it.

    • @Jennifer, ahora sí tendrás que venir a La Escalonia. 😉

  • Erick

    That gate is huge! It makes the guy sitting next to it look so small, like a hobbit….Frodo, is that you???

  • Luis Samayoa

    Thank you for giving us the link to the google map. Surprise, surprise, my house is in the same block, upper left on 9a. Calle Poniente (the group of brick houses in the middle of all the trees). Next trip to LAG I will have to look a that that gate. In our residential complex we have two large gates, one to enter and one to exit.

  • I wish Google Maps Street View were available for LAG. Maybe you can pull some strings Rudy? Or “volunteer” for it? Actually they might hire you to do it.

    • @Manolo, what are you talking about Willis? I have been filling with daily photographs at street level, filling the gap of Google’s street view. 😉

  • Sonia

    Ugh, speaking of Google maps, doesn’t it just drive you crazy to see all the wrong place names? I mean, it says Siquichum instead of Jocotenango, Los Achiotes instead of Pastores, etc. Somebody should tell Google that they’ve got it all wrong!

    Hey, wait a minute. My cousin’s husband works at google….I’ll e-mail him! 🙂

    • @Sonia, my geek friends and I believe that Google has detected black hole portals that take you those remote villages instantly directly from LAG, like the Borges’ Aleph. That’s why you find a tag for Panajachel somewhere on Calle del Arco, very near the centre of the universe, on Google Maps. Now, we only need to find where that specific Gate or the Gatekeeper is so we can tele-transport to Pana instantly. 😉

      • Sonia

        Rudy, If only that were true!

        Like Neavilag, I searched for a long time to figure out a way to report a problem with Google maps, too. I checked out the link. This is where people involved in the initiative to improve google maps in Latin American have made their corrections. If you look at the map of sacatepequez/chimaltenango in mapmaker, it is wonderfully accurate. Someone (or some people) spent a lot of time georeferencing all the roads, highways, and urban areas so they all reflect what you see in satellite view. I can’t speak for the other areas of Guatemala so you should check it out for yourself.

        Unfortunately, it appears that Google still hasn’t updated their underlying data in Google maps to reflect the accurate version in Mapmaker. I suggest we all write to google via their Report a problem page. (This technically is for Google Earth, not Google maps, but it’s the same underlying data.)

  • @rudy Really make me sick Google does not have the right references for the GT maps, I spent 1 hour today looking for a place to report or email someone or its provider, that they have all bad data.

    Panajachel and Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa pops everywhere, and a lot of aldeas appear instead of the main sites, it is unstrustable outside GTC, btw GTC has no Zona hierachy so you search for 13 calle zona 9 will give you the first 13 calle maybe in zona 6 or whatever. #fail

    Now that your are a G-SME will see what I am talking about.

  • Interesting enough, I learned today about this initiative to improve Google Maps in Latin America. If you can read Spanish follow the white rabbit.

  • Claudia

    this pic kinda reminds me of that M. Night movie – the Village. . .