The Power of Guatemalan Catholicism: Antigua at Easter

Easter 2017 is fast approaching, and this took me back to the amazing memories I have from Easter last year, which I wanted to write about. First thing’s first: if you’re thinking about heading to Antigua for Semana Santa (“holy week”, i.e. Easter), go! Secondly, this blog is a teeny bit historical, because I wanted to give a little context to the significance of visiting ‘Antigua Guatemala’ at Easter-time.

Antigua is one of Guatemala’s key tourist attractions. Unsurprising, given it’s quaint cobbled streets, picturesque location next to three imposing volcanoes, all of which can be trekked, and architecturally impressive colonial remains. I was lucky enough to visit the city with a group of friends, over the main Semana Santa weekend.

Personally, I find Antigua’s atmosphere a tad bizarre on a normal day. More than anywhere else in the country, local and traveller culture have collided here, and with street after street of hostels, tour agencies, coffee shops and restaurants, the big winner has been the tourism industry. However, the city really comes alive at Easter, and personally I felt like the Antigua locals reclaimed it as their own. If you don’t mind pushing your way through throngs of people, Semana Santa presents an incredible chance to witness the strength of Guatemalan Catholicism.

IMG_6284

Some of my Semana Santa crew, walking along the cobbled streets of Antigua. Photo credit: Anna Watts

A brief snapshot of history

Antigua Guatemala (the city’s full name) literally translates as “Ancient Guatemala”. The city was constructed by the Spanish and for a time functioned as the Spanish HQ, or “Captaincy General” in Central America until much of it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1773. At this time, Guatemala didn’t exist with the geographical boundaries that it does today, but from the beginning of the Spanish invasion in the early 1500s, until 1609, the ‘Kingdom of Guatemala‘ was used to refer to a wide expanse of land including many of the countries which today make up Central America.

Spanish_Caribbean_Islands_in_the_American_Viceroyalties_1600

The original “Kingdom of Guatemala” in 1600. Source: Wikipedia

Today, Antigua is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. You can read more on the UNESCO webpage.

The colonisation of Central America is a horrific story involving a great deal of bloody violence. On a religious level, for somebody more familiar with European history than Central American,  it could be viewed as an overseas extension of the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish priest, Friar Diego de Landa, was sent to Central America with the job of converting the local Maya peoples, or tribes, to Catholicism. In doing so, de Landa destroyed almost all evidence of Mayan writing, including hundreds of Mayan scripts. Ironically, he also authored a historically fascinating book which provides one of the few, and most detailed accounts, of Maya civilization and its submission to Spanish rule.

124669859_4c4dbe290c_n

Painting at Mani. A depiction of Diego de Landa destroying Mayan books in 1562. Source: Keith Walbolt on Flickr

On burning Mayan scripts, de Landa said:

“We found a great number of books and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devil we burned them, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain.”

De Landa’s book also describes some of the gruesome and merciless tactics used by the Spanish colonisers to force the indigenous people to sumbit to them.

“I, Diego de Landa, say that I saw a great tree near the village upon the branches of which a captain had hung many women, with their infant children hung from their feet.”

“Unheard of cruelties were inflicted, cutting off their noses, hands, arms and legs, and the breasts of their women; throwing them into deep water with gourds tied to their feet, thrusting the children with spears…”

Eventually, through brutal violence and also the use of non-violent tactics, such as constructing churches at sacred Mayan sites, Mayan spiritual beliefs gave way, in large part, to Catholicism.

It is important to note that many Maya people today do still practise traditional forms of spirituality. In this short video, Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, who is a member of the indigneous Quiche Maya community, speaks about her spiritual beliefs.

In addition, in recent decades other branches of Christianity, including evangelical churches, have become popular in Guatemala.

Semana Santa in Antigua today

IMG_6257

Photo credit: Anna Watts

 

Today in Antigua, the displays of religious dedication during Semana Santa are intense to witness, and clearly a deeply significant, powerful experience for those taking part. Street processions take place throughout the day and into the night, involving wooden floats often ornately decorated with flowers, on top of which stand life-sized sculptures of Catholic figures. These effigies of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ disciples and saints are carried on the shoulders of people who, (I think!) volunteer to take part. From the impressive solomnety that surrounds this tradition, I imagine that being a bearer may also be a great honour. The floats are of varying sizes, from smaller ones which elevate just one religious figure high above the crowds, to incredibly long floats which take maybe fifty men or women to carry.  I couldn’t help wondering where all of these magnificent items are stored all year round, ready to take pride of place at Easter.

20160325_141859

Women carry a float through the streets

You may spot people carrying small paddles with numbers on. I was told these indicated the ‘changeover’ points, from one team of float bearers to another. If you find yourself at a changeover station, it is fascinating to watch the bearers seamlessly switch over from one group to the next, without disturbing the rhythmic, side-to-side sway of the entire float.

Carpets made using brightly-dyed sawdust line the streets, with beautifully intrictate flower designs. These are prepared by the locals for the processions to walk over.

20160325_152538

Residents construct a ‘flower carpet’ in the street, using coloured sawdust. Hours later, it will be trampled by a procession, and their work will begin again.

Antigua 1

Photo credit: Anna Watts

1P9A1239.jpg

Photo credit: Anna Watts

20160325_160326

The floats and their bearers are captivating, as they sway rhythmically along the streets to the beat of the drums

20160325_143616

A crowd moves slowly along the route from the main plaza towards the Cathedral, (the Cathedral dome can just been seen under the archway).

At night time, we witnessed the most intense, almost eerie processions. The bearers (mostly male) were clad in long robes with hoods, in purple and black, carrying truly enormous floats laiden with religious figures. As they swayed along the street, almost trance-like in their rythmic, side-to-side swagger, the beat of drums filling the air and ringing in my ears, the physical strain of the heavy load was evident on their faces. Some  of the float bearers were crying. I imagined that this may have deep religious significance for these individuals, perhaps reminiscent of Christ’s pain as he carried the cross. Even for an onlooker, this makes for a mesmerising experience.

Antigua 2

Purple robes are a common sight. Photo credit: Anna Watts

20160325_152550

Early evening, and the flower carpets from today will be swept away to make space for new ones tomorrow. Along the major routes, a team of sweepers often tailed the processions, cleaning up immediately.

A convivial atmosphere takes hold of Antigua during Semana Santa, with so many people on the streets, and fantastic amount of delicious street food, (even for vegans!) Whilst few tourists visit Guatemala without spending time in Antigua, Semana Santa makes for a spectacularly memorable experience.

For some incredible images of other Easter celebrations across Guatemala, including Maya indigenous celebrations, check out Anna Watts on instagram!

Advertisements
Posted in Guatemala, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indigenous demonstrations bring Guatemala to a halt

This blog post goes with an article that I wrote with my friend Anna Watts for Comvite.

Please read our article as well: Indigenous Jurisdiction In Guatemala.

My heart lies in activism, and I’ve been to many marches, protests and demos. Usually, I’m in the throng of it all, mingling in with a bunch of people who’ve come to unite for a cause we all feel passionately about. This time, I was purely an observer, and it felt very different. Especially because I was in rural Guatemala with my friend Anna, a photographer, and we were planning to observe a demonstration organised by the indigenous authorities, whom we knew were likely to be wary of our presence.

It began when Anna and I visited the stunning town of Nebaj, in north-western Guatemala. To get there we had to cut across part of the Cuchumatanes, a mountain range that covers over 6,000 square miles; a long and incredibly bumpy journey, especially when you’re squeezed into an overcrowded Guatemalan “chicken bus”. Nebaj’s residents are mainly indigenous Mayans, and the weekend we were there marked the New Year in the Maya calendar. We met a local leader and spiritual guide, Doña Ana, who invited us to attend the celebrations. Ana’s charisma, charm and fiercely independent spirit were captivating, and we accepted the invite.

Map: our home town of Panajachel (to the south),  and the highland town of Nebaj (to the north)

P1000952

The peaks of the Sierra de las Cuchumatanes

P1000959

A little ‘un peeks through traditional clothing in Nebaj’s bustling market. Nebajense women wear beautiful red cortes, (traditional skirts). The intricate, colourful strips of fabric hanging above are fajas, (women’s belts).

1P9A3421

Women in the Nebaj market wear their beautiful traditional dress. Photo credit: Anna Watts

The main ceremonial procedures to mark the new year took place inside a church. It is common today for Mayan spirituality and beliefs to mix in various ways with those of Christianity, so whilst churches are often home to such ceremonies, there are differences in symbolism and meaning. The altar was surrounded by candles and incense, as well as bottles of Quetzalteca, Guatemalan’s infamous rum, as it’s fair to say that it wasn’t an entirely sober event (much like our own 31 December celebrations!). Despite everybody being generally welcoming, we didn’t want to intrude on a sacred event, so after a couple of hours we left, although not before participating in a cleansing ceremony which involved being beaten with tree branches. As midnight approached, the celebrations spilled out onto the church plaza, with people drinking and dancing to the uplifting tones of the marimba, a traditional Guatemalan percussion instrument.

During our first meeting, Doña Ana had told us of how the indigenous authorities from all over Guatemala had for months been trying to get an amendment to the constitution passed. The amendment would officially recognise the indigenous justice system in parallel with the official state system. It had been an extremely difficult process, with some members of the Congress using evasion tactics and refusing to debate the issue. Recently, Congress had been scheduled to debate the issue once again, but it was postponed yet again. The indigenous authorities were fed up of the constant delays.

When we told Doña Ana that we planned to travel back home to Panajachel the following Tuesday, she raised an eyebrow and smirked. She couldn’t tell us anything, of course, because she didn’t know anything at all, but, perhaps transport across Guatemala might be impeded next week. We had a sneaking suspicion that this was a tip-off not to try and travel on Tuesday. Some other foreigners we’d met that weekend, who had worked closely with Nebaj’s indigenous communities for some years, confirmed this in our minds. “When the indigenous authorities do this kind of thing, they do it properly,” said one, with a wry smile. So, we changed our plans and made the six hour bus journey home on Monday.

1P9A3983

A little girl in Chajul, an indigenous town close to Nebaj, stands next to her mother’s washing line on the front porch, wearing her traditional corte (skirt), faja (belt) and huipil (top). Photo credit: Anna Watts

Tuesday 22nd February came, and if there were demonstrations taking place, we wanted to be there! Anna and I decided to make the 40-minute bus journey up to the main road junction of Los Encuentros, where we’d heard people were going to gather. We soon realised that we would have to walk, since transport outside of our town had already ground to a halt. Just 20 minutes into our hike, we came across the first roadblock, at the small town of San Jorge la Laguna. “Why are you protesting?” we asked. “The electricity prices are too high, they’ve risen incredibly,” came the first reply. “Electricity prices… and some other things,” came another.

1P9A4120

The first blockade at San Jorge la Laguna. Photo credit: Anna Watts

We continued climbing the road out of Panajachel, a series of steep bends winding up away from the lakeshore, incredibly picturesque, but tiring and sweaty in the burning heat. We passed many people on their way down to Panajachel on foot, and when we asked what the protests were about, electricity prices, or simply “la luz” (the lights) were cited as the reason.

20160603_072055.jpg

The view down the hill, to our lakeside home town of Panajachel, or “Pana”

Half-way up the hill, a car pulled up beside us. The two guys inside it worked for a local government ministry and had been unable to pass the San Jorge blockade to get down to a meeting in Panajachel. “We couldn’t pass by two pretty young things like you without picking them up!” It was typical Guatemalan machismo of the kind that Anna and I usually rail against, but today, in the stifling heat and knowing that Los Encuentros was at least another 9 miles, we weren’t going to argue. They took us as far as the next town, Sololá, and wished us luck.

IMAG0927.jpg

Cars queueing at a road block

Sololá town is the capital of the department also called Sololá, with a majority indigenous population of 92%. This large town has both a municipal mayor and an indigenous mayor. Today, Sololá was a ghost town. The market, usually a hive of activity, was closed, and all stores had their shutters down. A couple of locals told us that if you opened your store, you’d be fined. By who it wasn’t clear, but we reckoned the indigenous authorities. I remembered the words of our friend from Nebaj: when they do this… they do it properly.

IMAG0928.jpg

The deserted streets of Sololá

IMAG0933.jpg

The market, usually a bustling local hub every day of the week, was locked up

Vehicles were scarce in Sololá, but we managed to hitch a lift as far as the next road blockade with a couple from the U.S. who said they ran an orphanage nearby. As we said goodbye and wished them luck with their journey, the man gave us a cheery wave and said,“don’t you worry, our Lord will take care of us!”.

As we made our way on foot through the next blockade, the atmosphere was much tenser than before, and I felt the presence of two gringas, one with a camera, might be unwelcome. I smiled, and tried to make a joke with some of the demonstrators, all men, standing firm on the picket line they’d constructed with rocks and a large strip of metal. My joke attempt received minimal nervous laughter, so we carried on.

Eventually, we arrived, not at Los Encuentros, but at another road junction known locally as “La Cuchilla”, which had also been transformed into a blockade site. Tired and hungry, we decided that this would be our final stop for today. We managed to get some ice pops, despite commerce of any kind apparently being prohibited, which to us seemed bizarre as so many indigenous people work in the informal sector as street vendors, and snacks are usually available in abundance. We joined the crowds of locals sitting on the road, listening to the indigenous leaders speaking across a PA system set up in the back of a pickup truck.

Points on the map (distance A –> E is about 11 miles):

A: Our lakeside home town of Panajachel
B: San Jorge La Laguna, where we came across the first road blockade
C: The major town of Sololá, above which we walked through a second blockade
D: The road junction called “La Cuchilla”
E: The major road junction and largest protest site we attended, called “Los Encuentros

On 22 February, we got as far as point “D”, La Cuchilla.
On 23 February, we took a bus to point “E”, Los Encuentros, and walked home.

Listening to the speeches from our spot on the kerbside was frustrating. Whenever we felt as though were beginning to get the gist of a sentence, the speaker would hop from Spanish back into the local indigenous language of Kaq’chikel. This was not surprising, as many Spanish words have made it into the Kaq’chikel vocabulary. We could, however, understand the communal chant, “un pueblo unido, nunca sera vencido!” A united town will never be defeated!

From the words we could pick up, it was clear to us that the leaders were talking about the indigenous justice system. We approached an indigenous leader to explain that we had come in solidarity, and to ask whether they would allow Anna to take some photographs. He politely declined. So we went back to our spot on the kerb, and, having heard that the protests were due to continue the following day, made plans to ensure we’d get all the way to Los Encuentros. At about 3:30pm, a leader announced that the demonstration had ended for the day, so we hopped on one of the many chicken buses parked up by the side of the road and got a free ride back down to Sololá.

20160208_105925

A Guatemalan ‘chicken bus’ is an old U.S. school bus. Most are given fantastically bright and elaborate paint jobs on arrival in Guatemala, but Sololá buses tend to keep their original yellow.

On day two of the demonstrations, we took an early busy all the way up to our intended destination the previous day: Los Encuentros. This major road junction connects to all of western Guatemala. We arrived at about 7:30am, and to all appearances it was business as usual with buses coming through, unloading, loading up, and moving on. At 8:30am, however, a large flatbed trailer pulled up lengthways across the junction, and let off a cargo of people. Several other trucks followed, all full to the brim of people who climbed off and joined the throngs of demonstrators. By 9am, the junction was crowded and the indigenous leaders had set up a sound system in the middle of the crowd. They began taking it in turns to speak to the attentive crowd. No traffic was going to pass this major highway stop until at least 4pm.

IMAG0935 (2)

People began to arrive in trucks…

IMAG0938.jpg

… and carried on until the road was fully blocked, allowing no traffic to pass.

Today, it was clear that people were out in force demanding the reforms which would legally recognise the indigenous justice system in Guatemala. Their many banners and handmade signs bore the message clearly.

IMAG0947

“Yes to the approval of the reforms to the justice sector” / “Yes to the constitutional recognition of the indigenous justice system” / “Authorities of Chaquijya Present”

IMG_-2yt74o (2)

“We want the approval of the constitutional reforms to the justice sector and the constitutional recognition of the indigenous justice system.”

The demonstrations at Los Encuentros were much less intimate than the gathering we’d attended the day before at La Cuchilla, with at least a couple of thousand people in attendance. We told curious onlookers where we were from, and explained that we were there to support and document the demonstrations. They seemed satisfied with this explanation.

We soon caught the eye of some of the indigenous community leaders, identifiable by their beautifully intricate traje (traditional clothing) and deliberately conspicuous wooden staffs, which convey authority. We waited anxiously whilst one figure of authority took our message of solidarity to some apparently more senior leaders, and I have to admit it felt a little magical when the leader gave us a wave of approval, agreeing that we could stay and carry on taking pictures.

About four hours later, having spoken with many demonstrators, including community leaders, villagers, students, and group of foreign businessmen and their Guatemalan guide who’d been inadvertently caught out by the demos, we headed for home. With no transport to be found, this was a walk of about 11 miles, some of it along the uncharacteristically empty Pan American highway, which runs from Argentina to Mexico and beyond. It was pretty crazy walking along the middle of this road that we usually rumble down in a chicken bus, with heavy goods vehicles thundering past.  

IMAG0953 (2)

Anna, in the middle of the Pan American Highway

I was left with many questions about the demonstrations.

I had a hunch that perhaps the indigenous authorities had used the issue of electricity to bring people to the streets on Tuesday, where they explained the issue of the indigenous justice system reform, and encouraged them to return the following day to demonstrate in favour of its approval. Of course, I may be wrong. However, in a country where lack of infrastructure and widespread poverty makes travelling for any purpose other than maintaining livelihoods almost impossible, holding a mass demonstration is possibly the most practical way for the indigenous authorities to gather together those they represent and speak about an issue which greatly concerns them.

On the other hand, it didn’t appear that all of the demonstrators were there by free choice. Run your business as usual, or fail to turn up, and you risk being fined, we heard.

Either way, by the second day, the message about justice reform certainly seemed to have spread much farther and wider, and there were even demonstrators advocating for recognition of the indigenous justice system in our home town, the tourist hub of Panajachel.

We noted that coverage of the two days of protest in both the national and international press was scarce, and commentary in the Guatemalan press focused almost entirely on the inconvenience caused by the demonstrators.

Also fascinating was the apparent secrecy which surrounded the demonstrations up until the last minute, and we wondered at the organisational feat it must have taken to arrange them. There was no use of social media, as Anna and I are so used to, being activists from the UK and the US. Neither were any details released until late the night before. Despite this, entire indigenous communities, even down to the small lakeside town of San Juan la Laguna, were primed and ready to demonstrate at 8am on 22 February.

I was glad to have had the chance to attend the demonstrations and witness such a powerful show of resistance from Guatemala’s indigenous peoples. These communities have suffered violence and oppression over many centuries, including during the hauntingly recent Guatemalan Civil War which ran from 1960-1996. More than anybody, they deserve to have strong voice with which to advocate for social and political change which will benefit them. I hope that it was heard loud and clear by the Guatemalan government on February 22nd and 23rd 2017.

Please don’t forget to read our article as well: Indigenous Jurisdiction In Guatemala.


Oh, AND I made some new friends, on the way home… 🙂

Hat boys by Anna

Photo credit: Anna Watts

Posted in Guatemala | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Guatemala!

Welcome to Guatemala!  It’s February 2017, and I just passed my year anniversary of living here.  Despite my good intentions to keep in touch by writing a blog, it’s somehow taken a year to materialize.  (Better late than never?)  I have been lucky to meet many fantastic, inspiring people and see some incredible places, from volcano peaks to the lush Rio Dulce canyon, to the intense religious fervour that grips the town of Antigua during Easter.  Finally, I’m sharing some pictures and stories which I hope all of you wonderful friends and family back home, and in other exotic locations across the world, will enjoy.  I miss you all!

Moving to Guatemala: expectations vs. reality

Honestly, I expected relocating to Guatemala to be a much harder transition that it actually was.  I was off to work for an NGO which supports some of the poorest rural, indigenous communities in the country.  I expected poor infrastructure, unreliable internet, temperamental electricity and water, as I’d experienced elsewhere.  As soon as I arrived, though, I could tell it I was going to have it pretty cushty as a foreigner living in Panajachel.  

(Zoom in with the ‘+’ to see more)

Whilst there are parts of Guatemala which are still fairly off-limits to travellers, “Pana” and the other towns on the shores of the stunningly picturesque Lake Atitlan have been hippy havens for decades.  These days, Lake Atitlan is listed in Guatemala guidebooks as a ‘must see’ spot.  Lonely Planet says:

Today even seasoned travelers marvel at this incredible environment. Fishermen in rustic crafts ply the lake’s aquamarine surface, while indigenous women in multicolored outfits do their washing by the banks where trees burst into bloom. Fertile hills dot the landscape, and over everything loom the volcanoes, permeating the entire area with a mysterious beauty. It never looks the same twice. No wonder many outsiders have fallen in love with the place and made their homes here.”

20160403_095253img_0206

A view of Lake Atitlan, and hiking with friends above the town of San Antonio Palopó

Daily life in Panajachel

Is it any wonder that so many foreigners of the ‘savior’ variety (ahem, me) have also chosen the beautiful lake, with its hospitable warm climate, for their charitable endeavours?  There are hundreds of NGOs based on the shores of lake Atitlan, many foreign-owned.  It’s not just the poverty here that is staggering, although the bitterly unjust poverty levels suffered by the indigenous communities are evident wherever you go.  It’s poverty’s evil twin, inequality, which really bites.  Just like poverty, excessive wealth is also very visible; within the boundaries of the capital, there’s an entire town for the rich, where: the cheapest apartments cost about 70 times the average Guatemalan’s yearly wage.”   On a list of 145 countries, Guatemala ranks 13th in terms of income inequality. I’d witnessed this in other parts of Latin America, but it never fails to halt me in my tracks and preoccupy my mind.  I have spent hours considering the ethics of my being here at all.  A description of one of my oft-cycled routes may help paint a picture…

I drop my laundry off to be washed early, then hop on my mountain bike for a cycle along the beautiful lake coastline.  As I pump the pedals, trucks full of building materials roar up the hill past me, spluttering out fumes, and pickups full to the brim with people travelling to Pana for work or school, young men hanging off the back, career around blind bends.  Further on, indigenous women wash their family’s clothes in the lake, as their houses high in the hills above have no running water, and they don’t have the luxury of paying somebody else to do it, like I do. I pass barefoot young boys aged eight or nine carrying inexplicably heavy loads of firewood on their backs.  (I once tried to pick one up; the young boy it belonged to laughed as I struggled to lift it a few inches off the ground.)  Above the town, levelled agricultural fields create a beautiful patchwork for the eye, where day labourers earn $1-2 USD a day harvesting and washing vegetables ready for the market.  Once the boys deliver the firewood to their mothers, to fuel the stove which fills their home with harmful smoke, they’ll probably head to the fields themselves.  High gated, fenced-off luxury mansions owned by rich Guatemalans and foreigners line the roads between these villages, where one-room houses with laminate roofs cling desperately to hillsides, at risk of devastation anytime a storm looms or an earth tremor rocks their foundations.  

20160423_090722imag0392

A Saturday morning cycle in the ‘milpas’, (cornfields) high in the hills above the lake, and the same exact route a few months later, with the corn fully-grown.

imag0399

A peek down at the lake, from the endless cornfields above

Even within the towns which are home to indigenous families struggling to make ends meet, there are large, well-finished houses.  Such residences are usually an indicator of family members working abroad, generally in the United States.  In 2016, remittances sent into Guatemala from individuals living abroad exceeded $7 billion, 10% of Guatemala’s GDP.  In rural indigenous communities such as those around Lake Atitlan, these inflows from abroad can account for as much as 50% of the monthly household income.  In cases where it pays expensive medical bills (there is no public health system in Guatemala, and medical care doesn’t come cheap) it is quite literally, lifesaving.  Many people leave as economic migrants, hoping for a better future.  Others flee because their lives are at risk.  During Guatemala’s relatively recent 36 year civil war (1960-1996), indigenous communities rightly feared the Guatemalan military, who carried out massacres of indigenous populations equating to genocide.  Today, the threat of violence is still strong in some areas, where gangs and narco-traffickers, unseen by the cheerful tourist, maintain a terrifying grip on society.  President Trump’s promise to deport an ever-increasing number of foreign migrants is a great worry for many Guatemalans.

imag0777

The town of San Antonio Palopó, where houses rise up the steep hillside.  Click here to read a blog I wrote for work, about a teacher and her pupils growing up in San Antonio.

After working for an NGO here for the best part of a year, I am certain that it doesn’t matter how many shoes are given out, food parcels delivered, or houses built by foreign donors eager to help, there will still be children with bare feet, chronically empty stomachs and precarious housing.  But this is a vast and complex subject for another time.

The tourist and local communities here in Pana interact to varying degrees.  I’ve made some wonderful Guatemalan friends, and become a member of a very transient extranjero (foreigner) community.  Some ‘travellers’ have based themselves here for decades, others a couple of years, and many stay just a few months before moving on.

I know it’s a little late, but welcome to Guatemala, everybody! 

Please check out some of my blogs about places I’ve visited.  Thank you for reading 🙂

imag0856

Posted in Guatemala, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment