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Xela Rising? What about the Centro Historico?

XW 130 Portada JPEGEx-pats come and go to ol’ Xelatown and it’s easy to think that life goes on and things just stay the same. Your favourite veggie lady is still on the same corner in La Demo, Kevin is still patrolling the Yoga House and that pothole that always gets you is still right there waiting for you. There are larger changes at hand, however, and our lovely little Xela and especially its Centro Historico (Old Town) is undergoing some significant changes. As always, the team here at XelaWho is here with the scoop!

Xela is no industrial powerhouse, most of that stuff happens over near the capital. Xela is the second largest administrative center in Guatemala though, and that’s why every man and his dog that needs to go to the Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria (tax department) or the Registro General de la Propiedad (property registration department) comes from miles around to do their paperwork. Among many others, these two edifices to bureaucratic government based right opposite the Dispensa Familia near Parque Central support a horde of lawyers, accountants and mysterious offices full of people there to help you navigate the labyrinths of paperwork needed just to register your car.

Despite their overly bureaucratic nature, these offices are key source of economic lifeblood for Xela’s Centro Historico but are moving out to shiny new buildings in Xela’s rapidly developing Zona 3, Zona 9 and some other unknown areas where they don’t sell bagels or IPAs. Their move, along with many other business they support, is spurred by the long standing historical preservation building codes supported by Xela’s Oficina del Centro Historico which passed and enforces the codes with the admirable goal of making sure any new buildings built in the Old City keep with Xela’s architectural heritage. These rules essentially mean that renovations or expansions of existing building are strictly prohibited with very few exceptions.  The perverse effect of these overly strict rules, however, is that it is practically impossible or ridiculously expensive for any businesses to expand an existing office or to renovate a new location.

As you’ve probably noticed – last year, a tragic fire burnt down the La Parranda block just behind Pasaje Enriquez leaving nothing but a smoldering shell and memories of messy times carving it up on the D-floor and late night stops at Rica Burger. The good news is that someone has finally taken it upon themselves to rebuild a good part of the block. San Martin Bakery to the rescue! The big time bakery is coming to Zona 1 and will rebuild most of the block so you can get your fresh baguettes and lattes. The bad news is that for many of the smaller shops that inhabited the block the cost of rebuilding is too much and they will relocate out of Zona 1.

2 Fast 2 Furious: Guatemalan Guns

Fathouse Productions

XelaWho has previously reported that high-ranking Guatemalan officials indicted for corruption are really undercover corruption agents because their cases are so ridiculous. Breaking news continues to support our position.

A story recently broke involving the guy in charge of Presidential Logistics and Security (SAAS). He, like many high-ranking officials in comedian-turned-President Jimmy Morales’ FCN party, is ex-military. Colonel Jorge Ignacio López Jiménez is qualified for the secret service gig because besides his military experience, he also runs an armed security company called Business Vigilance and Security, Guatemala (Visegua).

In April, police arrested three Visegua security guards for trafficking arms to street gangs. When they were arrested they were supposedly delivering an Uzi, a shotgun, two pistols, and other munitions.

But were the three security guards just embezzling weapons from the company and independently selling them for some extra cash?

Nope, since several of the weapons came with silencers available only to government forces.

Military affiliates have long been thought to profit from inappropriate or illegal arms sales. After all, through the mid-90s the Guatemalan government had a strict and quite effective gun control system in place to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of leftist guerrillas. Since the peace accords with the guerrillas, that system, along with military stockpiles, has mysteriously disappeared, and the country has been ravaged by gang and cartel violence.

We suspect López is an undercover officer, inspired by US Dept. of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ (AFT) operation “Fast and Furious,” which became Obama’s first major scandal. The operation involved “gunwalking,” which means not interfering with suspicious arms sales. The ATF got tips from gun store owners when people wanted to buy weapons especially popular with Mexican cartels, like modified AK-47s, and paid in cash out of paper bags (true story). The ATF said, “Sounds good! Just get us the serial numbers.” The idea was to see how the guns got to Mexico to potentially bust cartel leaders. Without telling Mexico.

No problem, until the weapons were used to kill a Border Patrol officer and a Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agent. And, even though I’m not finding this in my research, probably quite a lot of Mexicans, too, I guess.

Dem Dirtay Gon Tek Me Lan

By Rotten Tacos

I want you to call a Guatemalan — right now — and ask them one question: “Es Belice una parte de Guatemala? (Is Belize a part of Guatemala?)”. The answer will be “Si”. Dragging on since before Jesus Christ rode dinosaurs, Guatemala and Belize have reignited their lovers dispute: Who owns Belize? In Guatemala, Belize is mapped as part of Guatemala. To a Belizean, this is a load of bull and them crazy Guatemalans jus try steal belease cus don go be ma beauty de que de hav o yonder.

A bit of history: Let’s blame Spain. And Britain. And maybe some angry Scotsmen and some guy in 1859 that forgot to build a road.  1494 – Spain makes a bad treaty. The Mayan Belizeans kill the Spaniards, leaving room for Scottish Baymen to move in and become lumberjacks.

1670 — Spain makes a bad treaty. They “forget” who owns what (…the Mayans) and do a shit job of drawing lines, using this to stake a claim on land England had already staked. Baymen give Spain and the Queen the middle finger saying “Sod off. We got this. We run Belize.”

Chivo in Love

Dear Auntie Dolores,

I’m a 26-year-old dude from Xela, a real chivo. Living in this city I’ve learned how to speak with people from all over the world with different languages and cultures. Until now I’ve been doing great (especially with girls) but everything changed a month ago. I met a Spanish girl and she’s driving me crazy. I thought it was going to be easier to get with her, since we speak the same language and our cultures aren’t that different. Well, I know now that I was wrong. I really, really like her but it seems like everything I do upsets her. I hope you can help me understand her better. I’ve been reading your advice and I’m a big fan… I’m in love and I need your help!

Thanks!

Chivo in love

Rellenitos de Plátano

By La Salsa Inglesa

‘Rellenitos de plátano’ are a popular snack made with mashed plantain and stuffed with black beans. Topped with a sprinkle of sugar, these tasty rellenitos are a mixture of sweet and sRellenitos de platanoavoury rolled into one!

Plantains feature regularly in our recipes because they’re a readily available staple here in Guatemala. Although often mistaken for moldy bananas they are actually at their best when their skins have browned. Plantains are a nutritious fruit. They have a higher caloric value than dessert bananas, which means they give you an even greater energy boost for that mid-afternoon lull. They also contain more Vitamin A and C than dessert bananas. Don’t be perturbed next time you see a seemingly forgotten banana in the tiendita, give it a home and turn it into something delicious!

Makes about 20-24 rellenitos. They’re easy to make but allow about 1-hour for preparation and cooking time

Stuck in Xela

When did you first visit Xela and why?Kaleb_Pic

I first visited Xela in 2014 to study Spanish and dance salsa. I had been traveling for six years, and while I loved the nomad lifestyle I decided I wanted to really get to know a place and find a community.

Did you have any idea you were going to start Xela Collective when you arrived?

No, I knew I was ready to start something substantial but I wasn’t sure what. I really wanted to not only give back to the community but really help enrich people’s lives. From this basic idea Xela Collective was born.

So what exactly is Xela Collective?

It’s an organization whose purpose is to empower local artists by exhibiting and selling their artwork and then giving the profits back to the local art community. Our ultimate goal is to start a community run art center for young people here in Xela.

That’s quite a vision. And what’s happening at Xela Collective right now?

The main item we’re selling right now is our coloring book which features designs by over thirty artists, all Guatemalan, and is being sold here in Xela, in Guatemala City, and even in San Francisco. We’ve also recently started hosting events including concerts, which we’re very excited about

Well that all sounds amazing and I’m really happy for you, but we need to move on to less important things.

So what’s your biggest regret about getting stuck in Xela?

I would definitely say having to run into Juan Pablo Jardinero on a regular basis.

Stuff

thumbs-up-poppping

P o p p i n g

Bottoms Up

To celebrate International Beer Day (how did we not know this was a thing?!), last month the website Flamas – dedicated to celebrating all things Latin American – posted a list of the top 18 beers in Latin America. And Guatemala’s very own drunken rooster, Cerveza Gallo, managed to land itself in the number one spot! Founded in 1896 Cerveza Gallo is Guatemala’s oldest beer brand and is a source of national pride for many citizens, who scorn Gallo’s biggest competitor, Brahva, as tasting like acido de batería or orina de gato (just a few of the comparisons we’ve heard). As if we needed another excuse to neck a cold one, but this most definitely warrants some celebration. So cheers to that!

Trendy

Many rural-living Guatemalans have very little access to water- which in some cases means that families will have to walk kilometers to fill a small bucket with untreated water to last them a week or sometimes more. This limited access, and lack of land rights to protect the little water that may exist for some communities, has brought many campesinos to the streets to protest as part of the #MarchaPorElAgua. Thousands marched across the country to Guatemala City’s central square, demanding to Congress the protection of existing, but slowly disappearing water sources due to hydroelectric dams and corporate farming. Communities are demanding that they have more input when their water sources are being affected by big business, which is a contrast to the current reality of fearing being criminalized for speaking out against it. As @vitillescas says “Mangroves and Water are LIFE, not a Commodity”, because access to water is one of the #derechoshumanos basicos.

How to Address People in Guatemala

By Diana Pastor

In each Latin American country, there are different ways to address a person. From Mexico to Argentina, words in Spanish have different meanings… and the miscommunications that can ensue can be quite amusing. For example, in Mexico, the use of “tú” is widespread and there is nothing wrong with someone using tú when talking to another person. But, in countries like ours, if you are talking to someone of the same sex who is the social equivalent of you, using tú may be misinterpreted as a sign of homosexuality, especially if you don’t know the person you’re talking to. In Costa Rica, the use of tú is almost nonexistent, and the dominant uses are “usted” and “vos”.

In Guatemala, there are three ways in which you can address someone you are talking to. One way is using the word usted, which is mostly used when talking to strangers, people who you may not know very well or when addressing to someone who you wish to speak to more formally, and it is always used in the drafting of formal documents. Usted is also used to talk to people who are older than you, although this is not always done among Guatemalans, because everything depends on the customs that exists between families.

Return to the Lake

If you’ve been an avid reader of XelaWho over the past 12 months (don’t laugh, we’re told such people actually exist) then you will remember that one year ago we wrote about the fiasco surrounding Lake Amatitlan’s “magic formula.” So ludicrous was the scandal, it had Guatemalans across the country simultaneously screaming with rage, hanging their heads in embarrassment and laughing at the sheer incompetence of their government which can’t even get corruption right. Well, last month the Caso Amatitlan, made the headlines once again so it’s time for an update.

XW 129 Portada JPEG

But first-off a quick recap for those that are new to the scene. Around February last year disgraced ex-Vicepresident Roxana Baldetti began claiming that she had approved an ingenious plan to clean up Lake Amatitlan, a grotesquely polluted lake outside Guatemala City. The plan involved dumping 93,000 litres of a “magic formula” (her actual words) into the lake. Now, when your leaders start using terms such as “magic formula” you can be sure that either something very dodgy is going on or you’ve somehow been mystically transported to Hogwarts. Unsurprisingly, therefore, alarm bells started to ring. Investigations by environmental groups and the Guatemalan press quickly revealed that the Q137 million project had undergone no due diligence and was being contracted to a dubious Israeli company.

The investigations caused the project to be put on hold before it could get underway. Meanwhile tests were carried out on the supposed “magic formula.” They revealed that it was 98% salt water. This meant the government was essentially paying Q1,500 per litre for something that they could have gotten for free from the huge deposits of salty water that lie off their coastline. Fortunately, the revelations enabled the government to terminate the contract and claw back Q115 million.