Those who have been hanging around Guatemala for a while now will have undoubtedly noticed the plummeting prices of that all-too-
precious commodity: cerveza. Even just over a year ago, you would be hard-pressed to find bars where you could buy a litre of beer for under Q30 (not including the infamous cantinas, of course). Walk around the centre of Xela now and you’d be hard-pressed not to notice all of the gigantic signs hung up outside bars attempting to lure you into their drinking holes with promises of beer for prices reaching under Q10 a litre. Last year, big events such as the Independence Day celebrations saw prices reach a record low of Q1 for a beer. Carry on at this rate, and soon the beer companies in Guatemala will be paying us to drink their beer (not altogether a bad prospect).
But no, these plummeting prices are not a concerted attempt of Guatemalan beer companies to turn the entire population into alcoholics, although we’re sure they wouldn’t complain if this was an unintended side effect. Behind the scenes, a fierce power play is at work involving one of Guatemala’s most powerful families and an ever-expanding behemoth of a global drinks company, with a grand prize none other than the hearts, minds and wallets of Guatemala’s beer drinkers – a group of people that, by our underestimate, makes up a rather large portion of the population. And this month’s edition of XelaWho is here to bring you all the gory details.
The Cervecería Centro Americana S.A, most associated with the iconic rooster head to be found on beer bottles, tables, chairs, t-shirts, beer mats, concert stages and even atop giant Christmas trees, represents one of Guatemala’s most enduring and easily recognisable brands. Gallo is Guatemala’s oldest produced beer – going into production over 100 years ago way back in 1896. It is also owned by one of Guatemalan’s wealthiest and most powerful families, the Castillos, a name which you are guaranteed to see on those lists of “the Oligarch families that run Central America.”
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P o p p i n g
Those of us you who have had the good fortune of having your pocket picked whilst riding aboard the minibuses that comprise Xela’s world class urban transport system, will be delighted to know that the PNC (Policia Nacional Civil) have devised a new initiative for combatting robbery on board urban transport. The strategy involves placing “operatives” at designated bus stops in order to deter thieves from taking advantage of the over-loaded buses by lifting valuables out of people’s bags and pockets whilst they’re too squeezed on all sides to notice. A winning strategy, no doubt, for a transport system in which the drivers stop whenever and wherever they want, instead of using “designated bus stops.”
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By Diana Pastor
I recently enrolled in the Academy of Music of Quetzaltenango in order to learn to play the piano. From the first day that I arrived to the place, I thought to myself that it couldn’t have been baptized with a better name than the one it has been given: it was named after one of the most remarkable and outstanding Guatemalan composers, an artistic revolutionary who forged the foundation for folk classicism in Guatemala. His name: Jesús Castillo.
Castillo was born in Quetzaltenango in 1877. His studies in folk music, despite their limitations at the time, led to introduce new marimba styles. A direct product of his hard work in the genre was the appearance of “concert marimba.” His love for his country and his creativity joined together to lead to the composition of indigenous suites, symphonic poems and many other pieces of music of notable importance for the history of Guatemalan music, such as a the wonderful “fiesta de pájaros” (party of birds), a marimba composition that was totally different from the usual compositions of that time. Although Castillo passed away more than half a century ago now, his legacy has left a strong mark on the history of the national music of marimba, breaking through as he did with the traditions of the time.
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By Simone Riddle
For a hangover, people in Guatemala will typically suggest two remedies: hair of the dog or the famous ‘caldo de huevo’; the best chapin remedy para quitarte la goma, (o rather to get rid of that hangover)!
So if you drank one too many IPA cervezas last night in Pool and Beer, or took advantage of the dos por uno offers in Paisaje Enriquez, then this morning-after remedy is just for you. Saturdays are the typical day here in Guatemala to eat sopa de huevo, ya sea con o sin goma (whether with or without a hangover).
I was taught to make this soup with a packet of Maggi’s “sopa criolla con caracolitos” but that is a little too much trampa (cheating) for me. For those of you that wouldn’t dream of eating packet soups or you’re trying to impress your yoga house friends, here are the instructions to make it from scratch.
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By Juan Jardinero
“Grow your own drugs.”
When you’re traveling, it´s common to get sick, sometimes because we’ve had too much to drink and the midnight street food seems irresistible or at other times a simple cold will strike and take you down. Obviously if you are feeling terribly ill it’s good to visit a doctor, but sometimes the best thing to do is page Dr. Greenthumb.
Dr. Greenthumb would recommend you check your garden. There you could find essential plants to not only strengthen your immune system but also to reboot your body when you’re feeling ill. While plants are rarely part of multi-billion dollar human clinical trials to prove them efficacious, they have been used since time immemorial to both nourish our bodies, and to prevent and treat disease. And they also come highly recommended by my grandmother.
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by Seudonimo Anonimo
Walking down the street in Xela is no easy “feet.” As any Quetzalteco knows, Xela is a hopping, major metropolis comparable to any Los Angeles, New York City or London. However, Xela has its own unique set of pedestrian “road rules” that, once clarified, will hopefully help you stay safe(r). By following these rules, you will hopefully have fewer accidents than the chicken bus drivers (you don’t have to try too hard to achieve those numbers!).
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January 2014 was the month of the now infamous polar vortex. Those of us who didn’t have the (mis)fortune of experiencing first-hand the “southward movement of tropospheric Artic air” (layman’s translation: a rather nippy breeze) that led to parts of Canada and the Midwestern United States reaching colder temperatures than those at the North and South Poles, certainly didn’t manage to get through the month without hearing or reading about it on every single news channel and newspaper. Reporters and journalists bombarded viewers and readers with stats on record breaking temperatures; photos of Niagra falls freezing over; stories of chaos at the airports and on the streets; lots of testimonials from local residents freezing their tits/balls off; and (if you watch Fox News*) the obligatory spots given to some rather confused but very impassioned nutjobs who try to reason that the phenomenon is (further)evidence that global warming is a global farce (if it’s global warming, then the world should be heating up, right?!).
We here at XelaWho think that all this attention given to the poor sufferers of the polar vortex is very biased. What about us all here in Xela? Sure, temperatures in the States and Canada may have fallen to -20 °c or lower (compared to a seemingly measly -2 °c here in Xela). But at least over there, local residents could look forward to returning to their nice warm homes with central heating. Maybe even with a toasty roaring fire. Here in Xela, the closest thing you get to central heating is wearing three jumpers, five t-shirts, two pairs of socks and a woolly hat. And then getting into bed and curling up under the covers.
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P o p p i n g
To the Rescue!
It can often be difficult to bring our readers a positive “Popping” story from the local news each month, what with the daily stories of robberies, murders, corruption, incompetent politicians and bureaucrats, car crashes, chaos on the roads, collapsing infrastructure and the ever disappointing Super Chivos (sorry guys).
However, this month fortunately Xela’s local police forces came to the rescue when were able to rescue a 6 day-old baby in Cantel after its mother had been scammed into handing it over to another couple, presumed to be part of a larger network involved in the kidnapping and illegal adoption of children. The child is said to be in healthy condition.
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By Simone Riddle
Milanesa de Res Meat eaters! February’s YOUR month, and right in time for Valentine’s Day. Maybe you want to impress your Guatemalan girlfriend or boyfriend by cooking them a traditional dish demonstrating how well you fit into Chapín life here in Xela. Perhaps it’s meet-the-parents time and you want to show off your cooking skills while making something everyone is familiar with ensuring it will be eaten.
Remember the time when you tried that delicious vegan fusion dish? Although containing a week’s supply of superfoods and sprouted greens, you couldn’t get any of the family to even try it due to the lack of meat, and the raw vegetables, unsmothered in mayonnaise.
This meal serves four people – so you may want to double if you are cooking for the extended family.
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by Juan Jardinero
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
- Claude Monet.
Your garden can also be an amazing place, but it will require some work, time and patience as you engage in a friendly battle with nature. Grant yourself the permission to learn through trial and error yet be sure that with time your plants will respond positively to your care. Space will always limit how big and diverse your garden can be, but regardless of whether you have a few pots on a balcony or a big back yard, you too can become inspired to grow your own food. And in order to keep you motivated here are a few reasons why Juanito “The Gardener” thinks gardens are a must.
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