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XelaWho by Issue

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Happy 150th Anniversary XelaWho!

Honey, I redesigned the magazine

It’s been a long strange trip but XelaWho has defied the odds and is still here after 150 glorious editions, 143,874 puns and 243 strongly worded letters to the editor. From black and white, to colour, to black and white, and back again – XelaWho has undergone more facelifts than Mitch Mc­Connell. Through all the makeovers, Xe­laWho has stayed committed to original content made by folks right here in Xela (and occasionally travelling in Peru, Aus­tralia, England, the Lake etc). So in honour of this mildly impressive milestone, here’s XelaWho’s guide to XelaWho!

XelaWho started more than a decade ago as the brainchild of Lucas Vigden, an Aussie from Melbourne and long-time Xelebri­ty. Lucas started the mag to pay the rent, make a little tortilla pisto and test the crazy idea that spurring locally written content might just contribute to life and culture in ol’ XelaTown. While still the owner of the mag, Lucas has now moved on to that great whimsical revista in the sky (read: Mel­bourne, with a steady job, kids, and a car). Such is but a dream for us lowly editors left slaving away in the salt mines each month so that you might stay abreast of the latest and greatest about Tortrix’s newest flavour.

Over the years, XelaWho has covered mo­mentous changes in Guatemalan political and cultural life. The rise and fall of our favourite Rambo III villain Otto Perez Mo­lina. The fall and fall of Jimmy “had a TV show with way too much blackface” Mo­rales. XelaWho has been there each year when Zona 2 is flooded due to tons of our uppercrust Zone 1 Tortrix bags clogging their sewers. Through countless San Mar­cos jokes, regular updates on the pretty predictable climate when we can’t think of anything else to write, and a pulped red­wood forest of questionable political com­mentary, we’ve brought you the best and worst of Xela life.

Despite our best efforts, the XelaWho team occasionally steps into actual journalism, or better said, we stumble into something actually substantive and interesting which then becomes a story – the journalistic equivalent of the fish jumping into the boat. There was that time we got the scoop on Xela’s Marching Power-esque jail in Cantel, countless hard-hitting issues on corruption in Guatemala, and when this editor had the honour of interviewing some local LGBTI movement leaders in July 2016 to bring some extra attention to some wonderful local activism and change in our community. Never forget XelaWho ‘s most cited and like article of all time, “My Guatemalan Boyfriend” – definitely worth a Google.

Between the quips and the puns, we hope that there is the occasional nugget of cul­tural insight in this vida xelita that brings us all together in this great city? town? vil­lage? glorified-truck-stop? So hopefully we can explain the occasional odd happening while splitting the occasional side.

So thanks for reading! Thanks for writing in! Thanks for being part of the strange lit­tle town we love!

To 150 more!

XelaWho HQ

Popping and Flopping


Lenin did nothing wrong

Popping this month is the late, great Lenín Fernández. He died relatively young, at 59, after an illustrious career drumming for Alux Nahaul — one of Guatemala’s longest-lived, best-known, and hardest-rocking bands.

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Dr Sabletodo – March

What’s up with Guatemala’s new travel advisory?

Dear Dr. Sabelotodo,

In January, the U.S. State Department came out with a new travel advisory system in which they gave every country a number from 1 to 4 based on how dangerous it is. They gave Guatemala a 3 for “reconsider travel.” So is it safe here or what?

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Xelebrity of the Month – March

Jalapeño Jacobo interviews PacoMax owner Walter

How long have you been in the paca business?

My whole life. My parents owned a paca and taught me the basics. Then when I was ready to spread my wings I used my experience and contacts to start this business – PacaMax.

So where does all this stuff come from?

Everything I buy comes from the US. There are companies up there that sell used goods for cheap. I buy giant crates of mis­cellaneous stuff from them and import ev­erything by boat.

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Trendy – March

We read Guatemalan Twitter so you don’t have to

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.


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Merry Xmas Xela!

Bells are ringing, it‘s freezing out, and everyone finished working for the year about 5 weeks ago, so it must be Christmastime in Xela! And as always, the good folks here at XelaWho HQ have been working hard on our guide to surviving Christmas Xela-style so you can 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 Xela goes kinda nuts from mid-September on. 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 to see your Trumploving family for some stimulating uncle rants about how The Poor waste all their money, grab an octavo of Quetzalteca‘s finest blanco 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 paches (spiced potato cakes that are steamed in banana leaves — basically the tastiest treat you’ll find in Xela) and piles of singing Christmas tree lights blaring out of time – a.k.a. the most irritating thing on the planet – 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 convivio as 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 6 years later, the painful memories remain of a flaming Santa being shot with roman candles in the street by an angry mob of tipsy 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 (Fun Fact: invented in Guatemala), Santa, commercialised Christmas, what more could you want?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Xela!


About a year ago, Xelawho ran a story about the upcoming Utz Ulew mall — a gilded tower we called a “behemoth” and predicted would compete with Walmart for the title of “sparkliest, most vacuous place in Xela.” Since then, we’ve compared it to the tower of Babel and speculated more than once on whether it’d ever be finished.

The moment might finally be here. After a year of furious palm-greasing, corruption-charge dodging, and extended lunch-breaking, Utz Ulew is nearing completion. The new guys are putting in the final windowpanes while their coworkers stand around trying to look busy as we write this.

Mallrats of the Xela, celebrate: no longer do you have to take a crowded micro all the way out to Walmart to stare at your phone in the food court and gossip about boys. Now, you only have to get out to La Democracia. Gallo, we’re sorry: your ugly Christmas tree is no longer the brightest, tallest, or gaudiest abomination to tower over 4a Calle. We hope everyone remembers to drink your pisswater anyways.

Is Xelawho happy about this? Good question. Having an English-language cinema within walking distance of Zone 1 will literally change our lives, as well as our movie section – we may have to review films that are “good,” instead of the worst things dubbed into Spanish that we can find, which could change the whole editorial direction of the magazine.

On the other hand, the fawning coverage in Voz de Xela, Prensa Libre, and other publications makes us roll our eyes – if the future of this town is a bunch of sleek, soulless towers packed with retail that 95% of the population can’t afford, we might as well all move to the capital.

Popping & Flopping



We´re So Sorry

Popping this month is you, our readers— you‘ve survived another year of our bad puns, endless typos, terrible jokes, and crass commentary on life in this strange and wonderful city. We love you, and we‘re sorry. Feliz navidad! Here‘s to you.

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Trendy – December

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.

:: Trendy :::
Guatemala’s national police force, the PNC, take a lot of stock in appearances — they spend an inordinate amount of time shining their boots, practicing their scowls in the mirror, and standing around with their hands on the butts of their pistols (or the stocks of their oversized assault rifles) while scowling in their shiny boots. #Operacionrelampago, or “Operation lightning,” was in keeping with that focus on appearances — a cascade of photos and tweets meant to cast a light (get it?) on their efforts to fight crime. Unfortunately, it’s hard to hold a gun and frown in an intimidating way while tweeting, so people got a bit sassier than usual. One tweet asking for citizen help and announcing when and where they were patrolling brought a mess of responses. “Don’t publish this!” one tweeter advised. “Publish after you’re done. By publishing this you’re sending all the thieves into hiding.” Another used stronger language to express the same idea: “By publishing this you’re not gonna get a single son of a whore thief, don’t be dumbasses, be sneaky or surprise them … haven’t you seen a single cop show on TV before? When you’re ready to not be so stupid I’ll help you out.” Clearly, Twitter’s new 280 character limit wasn’t wasted on that guy.

It wasn’t all dunking on cops on Twitter this month, of course. Atmosphera Radio’s Los Tres Ratones — a sort of annoying, sound-effect heavy “comedy” show in the vein of grating Guatemalan classics like Moralejas – asked people what they’re hoping to never do without with #ATMQuenuncamefalte. Many of the responses were sappy lovey-dovey nonsense in the worst kind of romantic way – “Your kisses and text messages,” read one. “Your voice,” read another. Several said, “your love.” Spare us — it’s not even Valentines day yet. Others were a bit cheekier – “beer,” “weed,” etc. Some were pandering — “Los Tres Ratones,” “Headphones to listen to Los Tres Ratones.” Twitter really is a vast wasteland; we’re guessing there was some kind of giveaway associated with this trending hashtag. Nothing like the way that brands dominate the #conversation in this lovely country.

Speaking of branded promotions — it wouldn’t be Christmas without a heavy corporate presence, right? Pollo Campero, not to be outdone by Gallo’s massive Christmas tree, hosted a fireworks show right here in X e l a — the #Lucesdecampero. Most of the tweets, unfortunately, were an unironic celebration of the inaguration of Christmas by Guatemala’s leading brands. Others were wishes — one Jimmy Morales parody account wrote “I hear the wish of all the people in Xela is that I step down.” Speaking of – what’s going on with #pactodecorruptos? A massive Santa piñata protest outside of Congress, denunciations of Guatemala City Mayor and cast-off skin of a lizard person Alvaro Arzu’s son (creatively named Alvaro Arzu Jr.) ascending to the head of said Congress, and widespread denunciations of the new Junta Directiva in that selfsame Congress – what one Twitter user called an “impunity dreamteam.” Shit’s still bad. We’ll keep you updated. Until then … Orale Xela

Dr. Sabelotodo – December

Dear Dr. Sabelotodo, I’m spending Christmas with my host family but I don’t know how to behave or what to expect. Any advice? — John Jacob Jingle Heimer Shmidt

Hey John, you sure picked a great place for your Christmas blog post. Christmas in Guatemala might not be perfect, but it‘s definitely not boring. All the action is at midnight on Christmas Eve, but the buildup starts a couple hours earlier. At ?around 10,? your host family‘s relatives will start to arrive at the house and it will be a downright jolly affair, but you and I both know that you‘re bad at Spanish and that you‘re dreadfully awkward in social situations. Just accept that the lead up to midnight is going to be painful and get the most you can out of it by bringing up interesting conversation topics such as el matrimonio gay, el comunismo, or whether or not Harambe deserved to die. You should also be saying yes every time someone offers you a drink so that you‘re good and drunk by the time the festivities really start. A couple of uncomfortable hours later, you‘ll go outside and watch the celebrations begin. The nano-second Christmas arrives, the people of Xela express their extreme love for Jesus Christ by enveloping the city in a terrifying display of pyrotechnic decadence. Every man, woman, and child shoots off fireworks with reckless abandon; shrapnel falls from the sky; the air smells of gunpowder; street dogs huddle together, saying their ?I love yous? and wishing they had time to say more. It‘s awe-inspiring chaos and it‘s the best ten minutes of the year. After that tremendous display of firepower and a few deep breaths, you‘ll go back inside for Christmas dinner. You should still be tipsy and you shouldn‘t have eaten beforehand so this part is going to be awesome. Guatemalan Christmas dinner is always tamales. There will be savory tamales and sweet tamales, and they‘ll probably all contain prunes presumably due to Guatemala‘s appreciation for both the elderly and explosive diarrhea. Friends and family share tamales so even if your host mom isn‘t a good cook you‘ll still be able to find something delicious Once everyone is done stuffing their faces with cornmeal, there will be a gift exchange, so be sure to have something ready for your host family. It might be hard to know what to get them, but you can‘t go wrong with a simple classic: something like flowers, an ornament, or a fruit cake. When you open your gift, be sure to thank them and sob uncontrollably so they know you love it. Then everyone leaves, and Christmas starts to winds down. The ending is what really makes Guatemalan Christmas great. You‘re probably used to opening gifts, eating a family meal, and then the whole thing just kind of ends with no clear conclusion. You probably spend some time playing with your new fidget spinner or trying to connect with your family, but ultimately nothing fills that deep void and nothing ever will. But, in Guatemala, just as the festivities end and that feeling of existential dread begins to set in, you crawl into bed and pass out into a peaceful drunken abyss. You‘re done. When you wake up on Christmas day, just nurse your hangover and watch reruns of Acapulco Shore as if it were any other day.

Merry Christmas, Xela!