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Episode MMXVII: Attack of the Clowns

xelawho-138It’s a classic story: a duo of TV entertainers — with the help of plutocratic power brokers and racist reactionaries — run outsider presidential campaigns against the corrupt establishment. After their victory, the twist: instead of cleaning up politics, they do the complete opposite. It’s easier and makes for better television.

President-Elect Donald Trump ran against the dishonest media, the big banks, and the venal DC politicos. Then, he did an about-face and surrounded himself with their handmaidens. Trump’s senior advisor, Steve Bannon, isn’t just a white nationalist; he’s a former Goldman banker and publisher of Klan-friendly dog whistling at Breitbart. He’s not the only Goldman alum — so is Gary Cohn, Trump’s pick for the National Economic Council, and Steve Mnuchin, the proposed Secretary of the Treasury. Throw in three billionaires and millionaire Linda McMahon, who is married to Vince McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (a bonus billionaire for good luck!) That, my friend, is how you get money of politics.

The Guatemalan political establishment is also a tiny cabal of uber-rich kleptocrats, of course, but their power isn’t built on money: it’s built on blood. President Jimmy Morales ran in 2015 as a candidate for the FCN — a center-right party in Guatemala founded and funded by a group of retired military officers called AVEMILGUA.

They’re members of the same military-intelligence community whose sins and scandals brought down the administration of Otto Perez Molina. Luis Felipe Miranda Trejo, who founded the FCN, has his fingerprints on the mass graves of hundreds discovered at a military base in Coban. Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, diputado and Jimmy’s political fixer, was an officer on the ground during the ethnic cleansing of Ixil Maya in the early eighties.

Morales appears untroubled by these grisly political realities, in part, because he has a more important historical atrocity that he claims as his number one priority — the theft of Belize from Guatemala. He’ll right this wrong alongside his Minister of Defense and Chief of Security, the Padilla brothers. Three Salvadoran politicians and their pilot were kidnapped, killed, and incinerated at a PNC blacksite on Padilla land back in 2007.

At Trump Tower, Belize is at best the number two priority. The main goal is fully postmodernizing the federal government. Incoming Labor Secretary and Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder has written op-eds about replacing his workers with robots. Rick Perry once tried to say that he’d eliminate the Department of Energy in a presidential primary debate, only to lose his train of thought mid-sentence on national TV. He will now be in charge of the Department of Energy. Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA — an agency who, as the AG of Oklahoma, he attempted to sue into oblivion.

Laguna Lachua: The Sky’s Mirror

By Diana Pastor

Are you tired of climbing volcanoes and dodging microbuses? Ready for a new adventure? To kick off 2016, we’re recommending a place that’s well off the beaten path. It’s far enough afield from Xela that it doesn’t catch as many tourists. The name, Lago Lachuá, which means “Mirror of the Sky.” You can find it in a national park in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. It’s a full day’s travel from Xela, so we recommended  bundling a visit to Semuc Champey or the caves of Lanquin to get the most out of your fare.

We recommend Monja Blanca buses for this trip — you can find them in Guatemala City via details that can be found in our handy bus section. Tickets are Q60 and will deliver you to  Cobán after five or six hours of driving through forest, jungle, and desert. If you’re fancy or something, you can charter a shuttle in Antigua. Micros leave from Cobán’s northern terminal about once every half hour. Take the one headed towards Playa Grande Ixcán and let the driver know you’re going to the Lago Lachuá. The trip takes about three hours and costs 50q each way.

Pudin de Banano sin Azucar

By La Salsa Inglesa

This banana bread pudding, estilo chapín, makes for a delicious dessert. It is the kind of dessert that you will find it in Xela’s many traditional cafes served with whipped cream or ice cream, hot or cold.

The pudín has a light, spongy texture, contains zero added sugar, and can be made into a vegan dessert by changing the mantequilla for margarina.  

Ingredients:

5 large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed.
1 ½ cups coconut milk (one can)
½ cup unsalted butter/margarine, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or  cinnamon
¼ cup raisins

Stuck In Xela

By Jalapeño Jacobo

Each month we send our field correspondent, Jalapeño Jacobo, to interview and harass one of Xela’s most infamous extranjeros to find out why the hell they’ve lived in Xela for so long (just kidding Xela, we love you.) This month we spoke to Chris Alford, who is originally from Salisbury, England, spent almost five years in Xela, and sadly left us solitos us for Peru in December.


So when did you first arrive in Xela and why?

I arrived in Xela in January 2012, I had been living in England and looking for a development job anywhere I could find one. EntreMundos sent me an offer and so I set off blindly for a new life in Quetzaltenango.

 

And did you expect you’d still be here almost five years later?

I had no plan, at first I honestly found the city pretty underwhelming but after a few months I got to know the soul of the city. The really big, beautiful soul, full of wonderful people. And I was stuck.

 

And so what have you been up to all this time?

After two years with EntreMundos

I started working with Serjus which is a great organization serving to enable and assist political movements here in Guatemala. Mostly having to do with human rights, land rights, and causes of that nature.

 

And of course you’re also one of the fine editors whom I have the pleasure of working with, here at XelaWho

Yup, Including the arduous task of making sure Mr. Jalapeño turns his shit in on time.

 

Misadventures In Latin America

By Miss Adventures

Stray

Verb: move away aimlessly from a group or from the right course or place

Noun: a stray person or thing, especially a domestic animal.

I should have known better. I do know better. Sometimes I just enjoy the social experiment and finding out what will happen. Sometimes I just need to learn things the hard way. I met him at the park, an artesano from Honduras, on the road selling jewelry, juggling and spinning fire poi to make a buck. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was a bit mysterious, and incredibly charming. It only took two weeks before I let him in. We spent a lot of time hanging out at parque central and on my patio. We played music. We talked. We enjoyed a little hierba buena.

We often ate dinner together. He was too skinny, and I hate to eat alone. I never really felt like I let my guard down, but I had started to feel like we were friends. He always vaguely smelled of varsol or gasoline, but I just chalked that up to his fire crafts.

When he asked me to borrow Q250 my first response was to laugh and say no way Josue (*real name). After pleading his case and giving me some sob story about a sick mother in Spain I said, sure why not. He assured me this was only a loan and gave me an exact date of repayment. I lent him the money fully expecting to never get it back. I´m gullible, but I’m not stupid.

A couple of days later I was trying to get my life together after a weekend of chelas and chicharrones. I finally decided to get my Guate phone out so I could buy a new SIM card and start using it. That’s when I discovered my phone was gone. I ripped my whole place apart, searched in the daylight, with a flashlight, I didn’t want to believe it was true. We were friends, I thought. Mother fucker.

I was pretty mad. Furious, really. I made a plan. It just so happens there was a pirate-themed pub crawl that night, and as we swooped through parque central in head to toe pirate regalia, full of piss and vinegar and Quetzalteca, I took off my pirate hat, strolled up to his table of wares and casually pillaged his loot. Yarrr me booty!

Bromeando! That is definitely the revenge I planned, but unsurprisingly, this chico had already changed lugares and was long gone from Xela. A couple of his friends had told me they knew about the loan, and when I told them he stole my phone too they seemed genuinely surprised. They told me he was in Guate city and I briefly considered trying to track him down, but ultimately realized I was better off cutting my losses and taking it on the chin.

Moral of the story: Suck it up sucka. Every pirate just wants a little booty.

Trendy

With the highest number of Facebook users in Central America and a Twitter population growing by the thousands every month, social media can be a great place to find out what’s buzzing in Guatemala. Of course, there’s also a whole lot of nonsense posted online too, but at XelaWho we like nonsense so here are some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.

Aside from the usual torrent of Tuiteros (Guatemalan Twitter users) jumping up and down about every third rate game of fútbol Europeo that ESPN 13 cares to air, Guatemalan social media was buzzing with actual news and events all December long. First up was the huge revelation by the Guatemalan national congress that it is considering a change to the national Civil Code to legalize gay marriage here in Guatemala. Guatemalan’s with a social media account flooded to #matrimoniogay to express pretty solid support for the idea (even Darth’s on board: see page opposite). Unfortunately, there were also widespread protests led mainly by evangelical groups. It’s far from decided but the legislative move is getting multiparty support so we’ll see what happens in 2017.

December 15th is a super happy day for many contracted Guatemalan employees who get a Christmas “bono” from their workplace which is usually equivalent to one or two months wages so it’s nothing to be sniffed at. This long-held tradition helps many Guatemalan families make it through the expensive holiday period (read: buy lots of ridiculously expensive frozen yogurts for each other at Pradera). Many are not happy though because only some workplaces and some classes of employees get the bonus (see meme opposite). So angry workers who missed out took to #nomasbonos to whinge about getting stiffed. Fair enough eh.

Stuff

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P o p p i n g

New Year’s Resolutions

Made your new year’s resolution…. oh good, glad to hear it. Unfortunately, some new-ish research confirms that the second Thursday in February, or “Fat Thursday”, is the day that most people fall off the wagon (or get back on it?) and give up on their well meaning commitment. For Britons the most common pledges are lose weight (35%), get fit (33%) and eat healthily (31%).

This results in big changes (for a while). In the U.S. some studies show gym visits rocket up 36% in January and fast food visits go down 13% (you just can’t beat a burger, fries and a McFlurry after 10 minutes hard work deciding which gym machine to use for 2 minutes, eh…). But it’s the second Thursday in Feb that the trend of people eating more junk food and dropping out of the gym intersect. So beware of Fat Thursday and make sure you’re part of the 8% of people that actually achieve their NYE resolution. XelaWho’s 2017 resolution is at least 50% more cringeworthy puns per issue…. realistic but we’ll probably still see you at Taco Bell on Thursday Feb 9th!

The Nightout Before Christmas!

Last month’s issue was just too jam-packed with hard hitting XelaWho brand journalism so we thought unspecifiedwe’d keep it light’n’easy this month with XelaWho HQ’s guide to surviving Christmas Xela-style to make sure the only turkey this Christmas is the one on your plate. If you’ve been in town for a little while, you may have realized that from mid-September on, Xela goes kinda nuts. Kicking off with months of marching band practice in every school in town, through Independence Week and then finishing up with Christmas and the New Year —this is certainly Xela’s craziest time of year. So if you don’t dutifully fly home see your family, keep your wits about you and enjoy the holiday season here in Xela!

This time of year, there is an endless series of unfathomable celebrations every weekend to celebrate this, that or the other. If you can work out when stuff is going on with any precision, please let us know and send us a job application. From fireworks by ye ol’ Gallo tree, to Christmas tasty pachas (spiced potato cakes that are steamed in banana leaves —basically the tastiest treat you’ll find in Xela) and the obligatory town trip to the lake for New Years Eve, it’s a magical time of the year.

Every year, most workplaces will also put on a convivio, the Guatemalan equivalent of an office Christmas party. Usually lavish affairs, many workplaces splash out of their convivio to appease the board of directors who take the convivios their chance to be thanked for having not resigned since the last convivio. So if you’re lucky enough to get invited to one, make sure you starve yourself for a few days beforehand so you can take advantage of the smorgasbord that your nonprofit probably spent 30% of their annual budget on and hit the open bar so you can impress your boss with all your incoherent rants about the moral complexities inherent to the development sector.

And as we do every year… the traditional recounting of that time Alex ruined Christmas… A couple of years ago, yours truly decided that a Santa-shaped piñata was the perfect addition to Christmas in Xela. After 20+ friends at various stages of inebriation and coordination tried to stab Santa open with a big spoon (tip: piñatas last longer if you use a spoon not a baseball bat) and not a single piece of candy had come out, one bright-spark realized that your faithful editor had forgotten to fill Santa with candy (in Guatemala, piñatas don?t come with candy, you need to put it in yourself). Even 5 years later the painful memories remain of a flaming Santa being shot with roman candles in the street by an angry mob of big-kids who missed out on their xmas candy.

And if you’d like to go sit on Santa’s lap and tell him how bad you’ve been, head down to McDonald’s by Parque Central and check out Santa’s December tour dates. A happy meal, Santa, commercialised Christmas, what more could you want?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Xela! We’ll see you in 2017 —can you believe it’ll be 18 years since Blink 182 released Enema of the State..

Misadventures in Guatemala: Tattoo Edition

By Katie Campbell

I had been considering getting a new tattoo for more than a year. I had some design ideas in mind, but nothing definite. Last winter was my second spent living in Xela, so something to commemorate my time in Guatemala seemed fitting. In January of 2016, I was lucky enough to go camping at the top of volcano Chicabal, next to the sacred Laguna. I was there with a friend who is also a local guide, and while we were there, I had the rare opportunity to see Guatemala’s endangered national bird, the quetzal.

Decision made. Time for a quetzal tattoo! I obviously had to get it done by a local artist, because only a Guatemalteco would be able to capture the essence of this mystical bird. I spent a couple of days shopping around local tattoo studios and chose an artist whose work I admired. He designed my tattoo, and with a few tweaks, my appointment was made.

Two good friends came with me for the big day, for moral support. It had been years since my last tattoo and all I really remembered was that it hurt. A lot. I forgot about the instinctive fight response, which it turns out, converts to liters of sweat if you neither fight nor flee. After about twenty minutes of tattooing, my skin had turned a disconcerting shade of pale, even for an extranjera, so the artist asked my friend to go buy me a soda. She came back with coca cola and cocodamol, and asked if I wanted one tablet or two. I said one, she snuck in two, (thanks, Jane!).

Four heavy-handed hours later, I had a beautiful, colourful tattoo. I paid the man and went merrily on my way. Aftercare instructions are not standard practice in Guatemala, I learned the hard way, and it was some days before I searched some out online. The only thing I really remembered from my previous ink was to keep fresh tattoos out of the sun. Meanwhile, my daily routine included two back to back hours of intense fitness classes in a not so well ventilated room, invoking copious amounts of sweat. Turns out, one is supposed to avoid strenuous exercise and keep new tattoos dry for at least a couple of weeks —save for sparingly applying lotion a couple of times a day. Well, better late than never, right?!?

Off I went to a local farmacia to get myself some top quality lotion for my precious and now heavily scabbed investment. I began my little excursion by entering through the wrong door and promptly turned around, trying to make a graceful exit without anyone noticing my mistake. Instead, I scraped my freshly tattooed, covered in scabs, extremely tender arm against the iron gate and missed the step on the way out the door as I was temporarily blinded by the pain, and landed with my body partially slung over a moto parked outside. Fortunately, all that exercise I had been doing had given me abs of steels, so I used those abs to steel myself and stop the momentum of this terrifying moment and barely avoided toppling over with the motorbike into the incoming traffic in the street.

Not wanting to make a scene, I casually scraped my body and my dignity from the saddle of the bike and strolled back into the pharmacy, this time through the correct door. After a short time in the queue, a lady asked how she could help me, And I explained that I was looking for an alcohol-free unscented lotion. I was promptly escorted directly to the vagina cream section, where I stood bewildered for a moment until I realized what had been lost in translation. Eventually I left the pharmacy Q100 poorer, suitable lotion in hand, ready to begin proper care for my beloved quetzal.

Once I arrived home, I carefully cleaned my tattoo and gingerly apply a sparse coat of cream to my arm. Naturally, being the highest quality lotion made especially for sensitive skin could find, I developed a severe allergic reaction, which is heralded by the arrival of a fleet of angry hives. Most would assume that the story ends here, but oh no! Because my skin was still open, the allergic reaction entered my bloodstream and my whole body became a host family for itching angry spots.

Ten months later, and my tattoo has healed incredibly well, all things considered. It has lost a bit of colour and I do have a bit of scar tissue, but really those are just small tokens of the whole ordeal. Moral of the story? Take care of yourself!

The Meaning Of Thanksgiving

By Fathouse Productions

The U.S. holiday Thanksgiving comes from the hospitality of the Wampanoag nation of Massachusetts, which helped European colonists avoid starvation through several brutal winters in the early 1600s. One day they came together and had a huge meal to celebrate the colonists’ successful 1621 harvest. Just 55 years later, most Wampanoag (and Narragansett, Pocumtuc and Nipmuk) had been murdered or sold into Caribbean slavery during King Philip’s War in 1675-6.