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XelaWho by Issue

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The Joker and the Thief

Xelawho loves to clown around. We live for jokes, gaffes and goofs. Groan-worthy puns are our raison d’être. Guatemala’s cashed-up dunces and idiots in elected office commit enough unforced errors during a normal month for us to laugh all the way to the bank.

     September was not a normal month. As anti-impunity commission CICIG closed in on President Jimmy Morales, he attempted to expel their boss Ivan Velasquez from the country. In the face of mounting evidence that Morales was both Corrupt and a Thief, the diputados in Congress declined to strip him of his immunity, lest doing their right thing come round to bite them in the ass if their own crimes ever came to light.

   Then, having abdicated their civic and moral responsibilities once over, Congress doubled down. They called a special session to gut anti-graft legislation, and tens of thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets with black flags to mark their independence day. Shit’s bad, basically. Moreover, it’s a tired routine —nobody’s really laughing anymore.

But let’s rewind the tape for a second. What exactly did CICIG do to twist the president’s panties into a knot? If your guess was “their jobs,” then you might be a bit smarter than Morales. He got steamed when CICIG announced they were looking into the campaign finances of his party — the National Convergence Front, abbreviated in Spanish as FCN.

     Of particular interest to CICIG were millions of Quetzales possibly donated to the FCN by ex-military drug trafficker Monroy Meoño, alias “El Fantasma.” Before his arrest and extradition to the United States in 2016, Meoño alleged to El Periodico that the FCN collected protection money from drug traffickers all across Guatemala.Other donations to the FCN were similarly questionable or not properly accounted for. And so Morales, in a desperate move, attempted to declare Ivan Velasquez a “persona non grata” and remove him from Guatemala.

     It wasn’t just the FCN that was left spooked. CICIG declared an investigation into two other major parties — the social democrats UNE and right-wing populists LIDER. UNE, LIDER,and the FCN rarely agree, but they banded together under the threat of investigation. An emergency session of Guatemala’s congress was called, and diputados across the political spectrum nearly passed a bill to roll back legal and financial penalties for corruption.

The Guatemalan people, united in righteous anger, didn’t stand for it. They poured into the streets —in Xela, in the capital, and all across the country.

_SAM2815A national strike shut down business across the country, and highways were blocked at multiple points for days in a row.

And, incredibly, the pressure worked. Kind of. The Constitutional Court blocked the expulsion of Ivan Velasquez. Congress, being just bright enough to know which way the wind blows, couldn’t rouse the votes to pass their shameless pro-corruption bill. 104 votes are needed to strip Morales of his immunity. As of press time, we aren’t quite there; 75 voted in support the last time a motion was brought. Still, the probe into the FCN and Morales continues. By the time you’re reading this, Morales may be sitting in Pavoncito mulling his upcoming trial. Other plutocrats are teetering, too

CICIG announced in early October they’re also seeking an indictment for former president and Guatemala City mayor Alvaro Arzu. Whether any non-corrupt, non-thieves will step up to replace them remains to be seen.For our part, Xelawho would love to write that story. Until then …

¡El pueblo unido jamás ser vencido¡

Stuff

thumbs-up-poppping

Popping

Heart Eyes Emoji for Garbagemen

This month, we’d like to give a quick shout out to the people who pick up garbage in Xela. They know how to do their jobs and do them well — a quality that’s perhaps unique among the municipal workers of this fine city. What’s more, they work overtime throughout the month of September, when all of Guatemala comes to leave their trash in Parque Central. Keep up the good work!

Trendy

It was a busy September for the Tuiteros in ol’ Xela Town. Owing to the popular fall of A New Hope in government, the annual destruction during Independence Week, and several other non Brahva-fuelled natural disasters, your average Chapin with a thumb and a off-brand smart phone had a lot to tell all his 9 twitter followers about.

The transformation in public (read: government) acceptance of free speech on social media since 2015 has been nothing short of remarkable. As recently as the 2011 election cycle, ambitious upstarts willing to criticise the Guatemalan government for chronic abuse of power and corruption on social media (What gall!) were being disappeared. Now in 2017, 10,000s of Guatemaltecos and Guatemaltecas regularly take to the interwebs to denounce their government’s corruption. They even brought down Otto “wasn’t he a bad guy in one of the Rambos?” Perez in 2015! Back then, it was #YoNoTengoPresidente, which has had a facelift under the new round of extreme corruption under Jimmy Morales and his #PactodeCorruptos (see Editorial.)

Guate’s Tuiteros are pissed…

As @CongresoT points out on#AnteJuicioJimmy (Jimmy facing justice),

“More than 50% of the sections in the national congress have representatives facing legal action.” All through September there were protests and strikes across the country protesting the formal or informal impunity granted to many of Guatemala’s elected officials culminating in a#ParoNacional(national strike) that shut down the country.

_SAM2825Even Guate’s expat’s abroad joined in… @guateNY tweeted

“The Guatemalans in New York are ready

to protest outside the UN building to demand #Justicia Ya (#JusticeNow).

We’ll see if it goes the way of 2015 and Jimmy ends up getting kicked out and as@Aleph_Mulier says “Jimmy’s next speech will be infront of a tribunal.” As @wergabrielIndignante put it “The Guatemalan people are in the Constitutional Plaza and say ‘get out  thieves #manifestacion #impunidad’” (#protest #impunity).

But back in The Land of Gallo, a little thing like a #CrisisdeEstadoGT (Crisis of the Guatemalan State) can’t stop the week-long sloshfest for#IndependenciaGT ( G u a t e m a l a n I n d e p e n d e n c e ) . @_EliiasROLa astutedly pointed out after his 23rd Brahva, “was the 2011 Dry Law never passed or is it just not enforced?” Who knows, Eliias, but may it long remain so during #XelaFer! @Willyalburez had the presence of mind to tweet “In the middle of all this madness, I’m going to tweet something beautiful! #XelaFer2017”

So much for living in the momento #millenialsGT #HipstersALaVerga

Xela’s Tuiteros also took to the redes sociales (social media) to give their condolences to several tragedies in the region #TerremotoMX (Mexican earthquake)

#PuertoRico (guess, just guess)

#TemblorGT (Guatemalan tremor).

The golden boy of the 1998 World Cup @ricky_martin put it well— “3.4 million people. Together we will rise #PuertoRico.” Just spare a thought for the victims of a more local disaster in Guatemala City at the end of September #VamosAMaroon5

At least Guate city had some joy which lit up the Twitterverse when #UberIceCream(when Uber drivers deliver you free ice cream) came to town!

Esto vino pero nos quieren cobrar a quetzaaaal los helados

Some things never change @InformalDiario.

Cuidate out there Xela

Dr. Sabelotodo

Q&A

Dear Dr. Sabelotodo,

Lately, I’ve been hearing the other kids at my school talk about some CICIG thing. What exactly is a CICIG?

Sincerely, Steven Glansberg

     Well Steven, a CICIG isn’t just what a pirate smokes to get his nicotine fix (hey-o!) It also happens to be a novel political experiment cooked up by the UN and the Guatemalan government in order to fight corruption and organized crime in Guatemala. And it is currently the country’s most trusted institution, beating out both the Evangelical and Catholic churches (We reached out to God for comment, but haven’t received a response as of press time).

     The genesis of CICIG (The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) can be traced back to the pop-punk days of 2003, when a group of Guatemalan NGOs asked the UN to create an independent, internationally backed legal institution that would support the public prosecutor’s office in its fight against organized crime and corruption. Naturally, the Guatemalan ruling class, with its Trumpian commitment to national sovereignty, was opposed to foreigners encroaching on their perfectly functional kleptocracy. Thus it took four years of negotiations until CICIG was finally established in 2007 — just a small taste of the struggles to come.

     CICIG hit the ground running under Spanish commissioner Carlos Castresana, who presumably arrived on the bow of a wooden ship while reading a royal denouncement of corruption from a giant scroll (just kidding). In its first few years, the organization prosecuted many high profile criminals that would have otherwise walked free, introduced important legal tools such as wiretapping and a witness protection program, helped place honest people in important government positions, and oversaw a 23% drop in the rate of impunity for violent crimes (Before CICIG, it was basically “The Purge” everyday with impunity for violent crimes at 95%). Then, in 2009, CICIG really put themselves on the map when they solved the internationally famous Rosenberg case and averted a would be catastrophic political crisis. The organization was a success.

     But all that wasn’t enough to ensure CICIG’s survival. By 2015, CICIG was in decline as Guatemalan elites continued their attempts to delegitimize the organization. President Otto Perez Molina repeatedly asserted that he would let CICIG’s mandate expire that year, and that it should spend its energies focusing on the transition.

     Then, just before the buzzer, CICIG smacked President Molina with a mano tan dura that it saved the organization and ended the Molina Presidency. A corruption scandal involving the Molina administration had exploded into the open, and after weeks of street protests and yet another thorough CICIG investigation, Molina was forced to step down and face trial.

     Later that year, a rejuvenated and inspired Guatemalan population elected anti-corruption candidate Jimmy Morales to the presidency, and he promised that CICIG would be laying the smack down on crooks until at least 2020. CICIG had won. A new era of Guatemalan democracy and accountability had dawned and it would be led by Jimmy Morales with CICIG by his side. A better, more just Guatemala was finally emerging after centuries of oligarchic rule.

Don’t forget to turn to this month’s editorial page to find out just how revolutionary this new era has been.

Viva la CICIG!

Pan de Banano Ahogado en Quetzalteca

By La Salsa Inglesa

Pan de banano is a classic Guatemalan recipe, probably because there seems to be an infinite supply of bananas here. This recipe jazzes up the classic pan de banano up by adding our favorite liquor to the mix, giving you the perfect party piece for Birthdays, fiestas and who knows maybe even a people’s revolution celebration? As we’re in Xela, I recommend using Quezalteca. However, any kind of rum will do. It just depends on which rum you are willing to use in a cake!

Ingredients:

1/3 cups of butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 medium sized bananas, mashed

2 cups all purpose flour

¼ tsp bicarbonate soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbs Quezalteca

The Rum Syrup

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 tbs Quezalteca (which leaves you with the best part of a Pulmon left over 😉

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Grease and line a small rectangular loaf tin with baking paper

  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs.
  • Mix in the mashed bananas.
  • Then, sift in the flour, bicarb soda and baking powder and fold together.
  • Add the Quezalteca
  • Pour into the loaf tin before baking in the preheated oven on a low shelf for 35-45 minutes until cooked through.

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup by bringing all the ingredients to a boil before simmering over a low flame for 5 minutes.

  • Pierce the cake all over with a fork and gradually pour the syrup so it soaks into the cake. You may need to do this several times.

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Bon appétite, Xela

Xelebrity of the Month – October

XelaWho’s ear-the-ground correspondent, Jalapeño Jacobo, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to Angel Rodriguez who drives one of Xela’s many fine micro buses

How long have you been driving micro buses?

I started driving micros twenty years ago.

Why did you start working in the micro business?

I needed a job.

Ahh that makes all the sense in the world. Do you own this micro?

No, Jorge owns it.

Who’s Jorge?

He’s a member of a company that operates some of the micros in town. There are five main companies that own all the micros in Xela.

And how does your relationship with Jorge work?

Basically, I pay him Q200 every day no matter how much money I make. I also have to pay for the gas, I have to pay for any mechanical issues, and I pay my ayudante’s salary. (The ayudante is the guy who hangs off the micro and yells at you.)

Is it easy to pay those Q200 every day?

Definitely not these days. 10 years ago I was actually making a lot of money, but now there are way more micros and fewer passengers. We’re all just barely getting by.

Who decides that the micro costs 1.25 Quetzales per ride?

It’s a city law  that all micros have to charge that price.

So why is it always more at night?

We, the drivers, decided that we would charge Q2 at night. We obviously want to make extra money.

Is there a limit to how many people can be on a micro at once?

Yeah, any more than 18 is against the law.

What’s the most people you’ve ever had on your micro at once?

25.

What other laws are micro drivers constantly breaking?

Everyone on the micro must be seated at all times. The door must be closed whenever the micro is moving, and we can only stop at predefined stops. All of those carry a Q500 fine if you get caught.

Wow, Talk about impunity. Have you ever actually been caught?

Yeah, but only once. At the end of the day, it’s definitely worth it to break the rules.

Are there any women micro drivers?

Yeah, but only a few.

Why not?

They don’t like the job much; it can be complicated.

I see…What’s the worst part about the job?

The traffic is always really stressful.

Sounds tough. Do you care about pedestrians and dogs when you’re driving?

Of course! You have to give respect to get respect.

Great, we appreciate it. What would happen if I didn’t have enough money to pay for this trip?

Umm, I guess you wouldn’t have to pay..

Good to know.

Thanks for the ride!

(Pay your micro drivers, everyone!)

IMG_20170928_115505.jpg

Making it Rain in Xela

Stick around in Xela long enough, and you ?ll have to work. It’s the law of financial gravity; barring a trust fund, a fortuitous lottery win, an unexpected inheritance, or a suitcase full of money that you find like that guy in No Country for Old Men, your bank account will slowly sink earthward. At some point, you’ll be lifting up your mattress to find enough 25 centavo pieces for beans and tortillas.

What next? You’ll likely end up teaching Spanish. You’ll get some part time work at a fraction of a first-world wage, giving you the valuable perspective on the Global South that you’ve always wanted. You can do some intercambio with your students; they’ll teach you about Guatemalan culture, and you can expound on thorny topics like your racist grandma and whether it’s okay for white people to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Should your students spot you on the dancefloor on a Friday night, do your best to pretend you aren’t drunk; go get your jacket from the coat check, buy a flight home on your phone, and never come back.

Past teaching Spanish, you have a few options. You can try and turn your volunteer gig into a real job —a lucrative and rewarding proposition, if you can swing it, but one that requires out-competing swarms of other applicants who have scads more degrees and experience than you do. A better option might be seeking remote work. You’ll spend your afternoons in cafes typing furiously to make up the cost of the lunch that you bought when you got there, sit around anxiously refreshing your bank account waiting for invoices to transfer, and waste long days lying in bed wondering why you aren’t doing work. The flexibility of working without an office that comes with a desk and free coffee, co-workers with whom you can socialize, or face-to-face contact with the person who pays you is truly liberating.

Even better than remote work is the tantalizing possibility of starting your own small business in Xela. You can enjoy the intimacy of knowing and interacting with most of your customers, decorate your space with a colorful selection of local art, and support Guatemala’s market ladies by buying and reselling their fruits and vegetables as smoothies, wraps, and mixed drinks. Expats and Guatemalans both with treat your with warmth and respect in hopes of scoring a free shot of espresso or tequila, you can let your dogs run wild in your place of business, and you get to pick all the songs on your playlist.

There are downsides, of course. Outside of beer, you can’t really buy any of your business supplies wholesale —you’ll be paying the same price for milk as your customers would at Xelac and applying a markup after the fact. Furthermore, you’ll have to pay for everything with cash; Guatemala, with a postal service that teeters between unreliable and nonexistent, is unkind to credit card holders and those fond of online shopping. Attempts to get around these supply problems via trips across the border to fill suitcases with cheap soymilk at the Walmart in Tapachula are very illegal and could well bring you into conflict with Guatemala’s dreaded bureaucrats.

And oh, those bureaucrats. They’re the worst. Hounding you for licenses you already have, or for licenses that nobody has or needs; dropping in on a regular basis to check and re-check you papers. Should you be so lucky as to own a bar of your own, then the police will demand protection payments from you. They might even or show up in long convoys of ten trucks or more. They’ll drop in for a chat with some fifty officers armed to the teeth to let you know that the music is a little loud for that hour.

Buena onda, Xela!

Xelebrity of the Month

XelaWho’s ear-the-ground correspondent, Jalapeño Jacobo, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to the proprietor of Xela’s favourite cantina Marinitas 2, just up the road from Chocoyos Bridge.

Starting with the basics, am I correct in assuming your name is Marinita?

Nope, my name is Aura Marina Soch. Marinita is my aunt.

Interesting. I’m guessing she has something to do with the elusive and mysterious Marinitas 1?

My aunt used to have a cantina called Marinita over by the cruz de piedra but it doesn’t exist anymore. I started working there when I was 10 years old, then when I got married I moved here and started Marinita 2. That was 35 years ago.

Can you explain to us ignorant extranjeros what the difference is between a cantina and a bar?

This place is a cantina. All types of people come here and the drinks are cheap. But there aren’t many girls in cantinas. The girls are at the bars.What is your favorite thing about working here?The opportunity to form lasting relationships with people who have been coming for years.How about your least favorite?

The loud obnoxious drunks I guess I could’ve guessed that, have there been a lot of fights?

No, gracias a Dios, but we’ve definitely had to throw some people out.

I also wouldn’t think it’s fun to be forced to listen to the same songs from the jukebox over and over again..?

I love it! I love all of the songs on the jukebox and they’re always adding new ones.

Well then lucky you! I’ve noticed a lot of extranjeros hang out here, is this something new?

Extranjeros have always come here but more now than ever. I think partly because I’m in a tourism video that they show in the airports. There’s a scene in the video where I’m dancing with a gringo right here in the cantina. So yeah, it’s become a famous place over the years.

You’re already famous then? So Xelawho is small potatoes?

Yeah. I think it’s a very special cantina. All types of people come here; doctors, lawyers, extranjeros, students.

And what is it that makes the difference?

We pay attention to our business and to our customers, we always maintain a clean and friendly environment. It’s not a dirty place.

Do the extranjeros that come here behave themselves?

Ahh yes, they’re always very polite to me and always pay for their drinks.

(Keep up the good work people) But do they get drunker and louder than the Guatemalans?

It’s hard to say. Each person has their own personality. Some can hold their liquor and others can’t. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re all just people trying to have a good time.

Do you have any advice for the extranjeros that might find themselves at Marinitas 2?

Not really. I’d just like to say that I love meeting new people and I hope they all stop by!

Beer and Beef Chili

by La Salsa Inglesa

This chili may not be a Xela culinary classic but it does feature some key Guatemalan ingredients: black beans, cocoa, chile coban and not forgetting my favourite, una cervecita local. Guin’s stout from the Black Cat works best, although you can never go wrong with una moza.

Ingredients:

1 tbs. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 red jalapeño chili, deseeded (if you don’t want a hot chili) and finely chopped

500g minced organic beef

300ml moza or Guin’s stout

3 tbs. tomato paste

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cumin (comino en polvo)

1 tsp. chile coban

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 can black beans, washed and drained

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp.salsa inglesa

1 tbs. cocoa powder

Directions:

1.Heat the oil in a deep pan and begin to fry the beef. Fry gently until all the meat has browned, then add the onion, garlic and chili. Fry for a couple of minutes

2. Add the cumin, cinnamon and chile coban and stir for a minute before adding the tomato paste. Stir for two minutes more

3. Slowly pour in the beer and simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a gentle heat, covered, stirring occasionally for one hour until the flavours infuse to give you a dark, rich chili

4. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add more chili powder if needed. Serve alongside arroz guatemalteco, tortillas and a generous dollop of soured cream. Be sure to have a bottle of salsa picanteto hand when serving.

Bon appétit, Xela!

My Latin American food blog can be found at www.lasalsainglesa.com. AMA’s Alternatives Boutique sells homemade salsas, peanut butter and jams as well as beautiful textiles: 5a avenida 6-17 Zona 1.

¡Hasta Pronto!

by Diana Pastor

I’ve always enjoyed writing for Xelawho. The name of this magazine is a combination of the K’iché name for Quetzaltenango, Xelajú, and the interrogative who -a name that suggests a search for persons, for the movers and shakers behind the scenes in Xela and Guatemala. It’s a guide and an important reference for our foreign friends and Guatemalans both.

Eight years ago, I read Xelawho for the first time. I asked James Gray, the editor at the time, whether I could be part of the team at the magazine. James was friendly to a fault -one of those rare souls painted with a perpetual smile -and he was kind enough to extend the opportunity for me to write a series of articles, “Spotlight On,” that touched on different art and culture topics in Quetzaltenango.

In time, I expanded the focus of my column from arts and culture. Thank you to the owner, Lucas Vigden; past editors Steve, Jed, and Chris; and current editors Alex and Sean. They’ve given me space to write about politics during Guatemala’s presidential election and to provide Valentine’s day tips for Guatemalan-expat romance.

The variety here is Xelawho’s real strength. It’s writing about everything and by everyone, written in a clear and lighthearted style that’s accesible and useful. I took a moment to flip through last month’s edition and found pretty much everything a first-time arrival to Xela would want; guides to groceries and buses, places to eat and drink, hostels and apartments, trips and activities, language schools and secrets to staying healthy, news summaries and bad puns, the best and worst of Xela in the past month, photos and quotes from groups in cafes and bars, classifieds, quizzes, sudoku, memes, dispatches from Guatemalan social media -what more could you cram into 32 pages?

My words are shaped by satisfaction and nostalgia here. As you may have guessed from the title, this will be my last article for XelaWho. If you’re reading this magazine for the first time and plan on staying in Xela for more than couple months, here’s my advice to you -keep reading. Don’t miss a month.

To those readers who’ve been so kind as to give me their time and attention in more than one edition of the magazine, I’d like to say that it’s made me so happy to be able to share my words with you; sometimes serious words, and sometimes words that were a little more lighthearted. It’s been an educational experience for me, and I hope you’ve learned something as well. I leave you with a hug, and as Guatemalans sometimes say: ¡ahí nos vemos! ¡Hasta Pronto!