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Vegetarian Woes

“¿¡No comes carne?!” exclaims the wide-eyed Guatemalan, mouth open in disbelief after you´ve just told them that you don´t eatPortada XW112 small# meat. Then, for a moment, it all seems to click and everything falls into place in their mind: “¿Ah, pero pollo si comes?” they ask.  It all makes sense now: you just don´t like the taste of beef (commonly just called carne in Guatemala), which is perfectly reasonable. But it must mean that you eat lots of chicken instead, right?

When you reply that no, in fact, you don´t eat chicken either there is audible gasp of shock. It is soon replaced by a look of pity, as the next logical explanation for this strange behaviour springs to mind: “¿Es por razones médicas, entonces?”, because the only reason any sane human being would give up delicious, juicy meat would be because their doctor told them to. Perhaps you have high blood pressure and you need to keep your cholesterol down. Poor you.

You are forced to reply that no, your doctor did not tell you that you have to stop eating meat; you gave it up voluntarily. The look of confusion mixed with disbelief returns to their face, as if you just told them your favourite hobbies are cycling, travelling & killing puppies.



P o p p i n g

Don´t miss these

November is shaping up to be a fantastic month for culture in Xela.

On the 8th, one of Guatemala´s biggest bands, Malacates Trebol Shop, will be playing at Salcaja (a town about 15 minutes away from Xela). You can get tickets for this from déjà vu cocktail bar in Xela. For those that would fancy something a bit more alternative, there is also a metal music festival happening the same day.

Later in the month, on the 22nd, we also have the Alianza Francesa´s famous Xela en Musica festival, which you can be sure will have a whole host of great bands to enjoy.

And for the artists & designers out there, Ciudad de la Imaginación is holding a week long Experimental Design Space, with lots of interesting courses & workshops. Check out our events pages for details.

Royal Paris Anniversary

Royal Paris, the French restaurant and home of jazz in Xela, will also be holding their 23rd anniversary celebrations from 13th to the 23rd of November, with an array of concerts and special offers. Of particular note in the show by El Gordon the 15th of November.

What it means to date an Española

By Richard Brown

Slanderous was the article my dear Spanish partner wrote in the last issue of XelaWho about what it is like to date this gringo. Here is my rebuttal, informed by the teaching of our epitomal General Patton that a good offense is the best defense. Patton also said that the will to win could determine the fate of a culture. Indeed, in my partner this will is weak, like her physical constitution. Just as in soccer it is socially acceptable to tie a game, it is socially acceptable in Spain to sleep during the day, every day. It appears that the American will to excel and to innovate is matched in Spain only by the will to nap. The bed calls to the Spaniard like free enterprise calls to the American.

Lazy red Spaniards. During the workweek, my partner spends as much time as possible lying down, like a soccer player. Specifically, like Marcelo of Real Madrid; her, no, our soccer team. I accept that the name of my, no, our football team, the Washington Redskins, comes from the slur settlers would use to refer to their victims as they burned villages and killed people. But at least my team picks what they put on their uniforms, even if it’s the disembodied head of an Indian. We don’t have ‘Fly Emirates’ stamped over our hearts like Christianaldo. How shameless.

The Money Masters: Part 2

By Diana Pastor

In last month’s article, we discussed the faces on Guatemala’s bank notes, and so continuing in this vein this month we’re going to discover a little about who, and what, is to be found on Guatemala’s coins. Whilst it can be a bit tedious to learn about the long list of Guatemalan Presidents that we find on our bank notes, on the coins we can instead find lots of interesting national and cultural symbols which perhaps are even more interesting than the stories of the individuals that appear on our bank notes.

On the 5-cent coin we can find two national symbols. On one side you can see the ceiba tree, a beautiful representative of the biodiversity of the country. On the other side you will find Guatemala’s national emblem, which consists of a quetzal on the declaration of independence, two rifles and laurel branches. Its value is negligible but it still continues to circulate in the country.

Recipe of the Month: Jocón

by Simone Riddle

Last month we learned how to cook arroz a la chapin. Now it’s time to learn el plato principal. Jocon is not as complicated as you might think. It uses the traditional Mayan method of toasting sesame and pumpkin seeds, blending them to make a paste with bread or tortillas and using this as a base for many typical dishes. Once you’ve got the hang of this process, other recipes like el famoso Pepian will be bien faciles.

What you’ll notice is that the more traditional Mayan dishes like Jocon are in fact résaludables. High levels of malnutrition in the western highlands can be linked to the marginalization of the Mayan people over time to the least fertile lands. This made room for rich landowners to use the best land to grow produce for export. Add to this the influx of cheap processed foods like packet soups and you can see how malnutrition and diabetes are now major health issues affecting rural indigenous communities today.

Grow Your Own: Worms!

by Juan Jardinero

“…it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.”
Charles Darwin

Earthworms are special creatures; their job is to plow the soil by tunneling through it. Their tunnels provide the soil with passageways through which air and water can circulate, and that’s important because soil microorganisms and plant roots need air and water just like we do. Without some kind of plowing, soil becomes compacted, air and water can’t circulate in it, and plant roots can’t penetrate it.

Even the ancient Greeks understood the importance of Earthworms, Aristotle referred to them as “the intestines of the earth”. This is something we should appreciate because earthworm droppings — called castings when deposited atop the ground — are rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and these are all important nutrients for healthy, prospering ecosystems. In your own backyard you might be able to confirm that grass around earthworm burrows grows taller and greener than grass just inches away. Even in ancient Egypt, farmers were not allowed to touch earthworms for fear of offending the god of fertility.

Trendy: What’s been buzzing on Guatemala’s social networks

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 in this section you will find some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.

It´s been a crisis and scandal-ridden month for Guatemalan politics. Early in the month, a high court judge named Claudia Escobar Mejia resigned from her position in protest of the corrupt process by which justice officials are selected, in one of the most outspoken critiques yet from a Guatemalan judge. She claims that the process is rife with corruption, which plays a key role in protecting officials from legal action and leads to only 25% of the candidates who are nominated actually having the required experience.

The Constitutional Court has  suspended the swearing in of supreme court judges, stating that the allegations are serious enough to warrant a temporary stay while they are examined. Civil society organisations have been calling for an annulment of the process, check out #CCAnuleProceso and #ProtestaMagistrados to keep up to date with their campaign for judicial independence. “¡La justicia no se vende!”

People Power

Portada XW111 smallThe protests and downright political fiasco that surrounded the proposed Ley para la Protección de Obtenciones Vegetales (more widely known as the Ley Monsanto) was one of those all too common moments in Guatemalan politics where you weren’t sure  whether to celebrate, laugh, cry or do a double facepalm. Or perhaps do them all together at the same time.

So what was all the fuss about? Well, let’s start with the law itself. Its most controversial elements related to the proposal to make possessing, exchanging or even saving seeds patented by international agribusinesses a criminal offence punishable by fines of up to $1,300 (yes, that’s dollars) and prison sentences of up to 4 years (yes, that’s years). These penalties would also apply to hybrid seeds that had been crossed with a protected variety, even unintentionally, so campesinos would find themselves at risk of being prosecuted if their unprotected seeds cross-pollinated with the patented seeds of nearby farms.

Given that a whopping 27% of the entire global seed market is controlled by one company, it’s not too difficult to see why the law was quickly named after Monsanto, a company whose malicious corporate practices around the globe make The Umbrella Corporation look about as harmless as Ben & Jerry’s in comparison.



P o p p i n g


Any event that requires us both to drink beer and listen to some good live music goes down as a clear winner in XelaWho´s books.

So we are most excited that there will be some Oktoberfest celebrations in Xela this year, courtesy of El Cuartito. From  Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th of October there will live music all day from a variety of different bands and a range of international beers from all around the world for you to try. There will even be traditional German sausages, bratwurst, on sale to soak up all the booze.

As per usual Oktoberfest celebrations, you will be expected to stumble your way home using a friend´s shoulder for support.

What It Means to Date a Gringo

by Patricia Macias

I’ve dated a gringo for almost a year now, and I have some things I want to say.

I speak Spanish, he speaks something else. A recent example in an ice cream shop: `Un coño pequeño de chocolate, por favor.´ (A small chocolate c··t please.) I admit that sometimes it´s not his fault, like when his friend told him the Spanish verb `to poop´ is always reflexive.

Second, I asked him to explain American football.  He learned soccer in about eight seconds. So far, we´ve spent four hours in football `class.´ Too bad his clearly racist team the Washington Redskins lost 45-14 last night. He said if I pass an exam he´ll award me a diploma.  For this sport, I definitely deserve it. Even more so for putting up with him taking his football out with us at night and playing catch with his friends, terrifying Xela´s pedestrians.