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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.

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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.



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!

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 Lindsey Horwitz, who was raised in Olympia, Washington in the United States but is now part owner of El Cuartito Café here in Xela.

When did you first visit Xela and how long were you planning to stay?12899745_10153360795457455_90403476_n

I first visited Xela for a week in college on my way to study abroad in Rio Dulce. To be honest, I thought the city was dirty and boring and couldn’t wait to move on.

…So why did you come back?

During my study abroad I fell in love with Guatemala and continued visiting the country after I graduated. I eventually decided to come back to Xela in 2007 because of the NGO scene here, and I was originally planning on staying for three months…

Which turned into nine years…


While Guatemalans might live and breathe football (soccer, i.e. not the one with pads, helmets and tight spandex for you Americanos), the national football team has consistently disappointed on the world stage having never qualified for a World Cup. Things are looking up, however, with Guatemala taking down the Yankees at the end of March 2-0 in the first leg of the 2 match qualifying series. Guatemalans took to Twitter to unsubtly rub it in, with people competing on #VamosGuate for who could write the most “Os” in Goooooool! @AnFrO’sTh won the comp with an impressive 27 Os. This is not good news for Manuel Baldizon, 2015 Guatemalan presidential candidate and renowned Buddy Holly look-alike, who amazingly promised that if he won the presidency, Guatemala would qualify for the Football World Cup. ?He lost the presidential race but Guatemala may still yet qualify if they keep this up. Admittedly some aren’t so optimistic, like @superchapinGT who compared Guatemala’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup to believing in Santa Claus or the 3 wise men (see bottom right pic on the opposite page). Others, meanwhile were more than happy just to bask in the glory of the latest win, as @JocaSturban put it: “In your face YANKIS!!! #GuatemalaPower”.

Life Lessons in Gender-Specific Vocabulary

By Rotten Tacos

For those relatively impartial about Jesus, Semana Santa is a giveaway day screaming for vacation. These tacos needed to be baked and headed to the southern playas. Reaching El Salvador, two things cross your mind: 1) nothing, because it’s so ducking hot your brain is numb from drowning in its own sweat. 2) …wasn’t the Peace Corps just pulled from here due to the increasing popularity of murder as the favored method of conflict resolution? As with every other critical thought you have on vacation, this quickly leaves you.

Now, when you don’t know how to surf and you are female, you generally go to a beach known for surfing for very precise reasons: to let your hair get salt-water ratty so you look like you surf and to gaggle at surfer bods that have muscles in places you didn’t even know you could get muscles.

Dear Auntie Dolores

Dear Auntie Dolores,

I’ve been living in Xela for a month and a half now. I’ve been dating a Guatemalan man for a couple of weeks. He is incredible, so sweet and fun at the same time, though what really won me over was his dancing… OMG his dancing! His hips move like I’ve never seen before, if you know what I mean. I thought we could become more serious but an unexpected problem come up during our Easter holidays: his six other girlfriends. What should I do? I’m still in shock.


Dizzy in Xela

Help the Street Dogs and Cats of Xela

Xelawho has published many articles about Guatemalan street dogs. People often say that being a poor, indigenous, young woman is the worst status one can have as a Guatemalan, and that is certainly true in many respects. It is also the case for stray dogs and cats, who endure a hard life on the streets and have no opportunity to defend themselves against animal abuse. It isn’t necessary to recount details about the many atrocities that some Guatemalans commit against dogs or stray cats, but recently there was a very sad case of a wild dog that was killed with firecrackers. It’s for this reason that  I dedicate this month’s article to promote some of the groups dedicated to the protection of animals. If you are interested in working with stray dogs and cats in Xela (although there are by far many more abandoned and stray dogs than cats), I encourage you to get involved with one of the organizations listed below. I know that many of our readers are travelers in Xela, there are others who choose to live in Xela temporarily for work or Spanish study who are interested in knowing how to get involved (see our new “Stuck in Xela” article for a monthly spotlight on some of the long-term celebs of town). So, whether you’re in Xela for a short or long stay, there are opportunities to get in involved.

Xela Etiquette Crash Course

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London, New York, Paris, Xela – just a few of the world’s cultural melting pots where travellers and ex-pats come from all corners of the globe to munch down on pupusas, pizzas, crepes or whatever the hell they eat in London. While that all sounds well and good, the nitty-gritty of cross-cultural interactions can be somewhat of a minefield. Figuring out what to do, where to do it and who not to tell about what you did or didn’t do can be a pretty steep learning curve for the unwitting traveler in Xelatown. To get you over the chump hump and on your way to being Xela-savvy, the good folks at XelaWho have put together a crash course in Xela etiquette. Enjoy!

One of the first things perceptive travellers might notice about Xela is that the sidewalks are not exactly built for strolling leisurely at dusk with a loved one. Rather, while enjoying a calming stroll to the irresistible sound of reggaeton blasting out of a fridge-shop, many a tourist has found themselves thrust into oncoming traffic after expecting the two señoras coming the other way to part like Red Sea and politely usher them through. So who’s to blame then? The local ladies out walking like they have for years, or Mr. Darcy projecting his own version of etiquette on to said ladies? Judging by the whinging often heard by your faithful editor, it’s the señoras goddammit! The señoras!

After a relaxing afternoon of getting pushed off sidewalks, it’s off to the tienda (store) to buy the daily Xela ration of 10 bags of spicy Tortrix and a gallon of Tampico get the blood pumping. So here is poor Mr. Darcy waiting patiently for his salty treats while every man and his chucho (street dog) who walks in pushes past him and gets served immediately. Even without the Tampico, Darcy’s blood is pumping but he’d be better off using all that pent-up European passive frustration to just shout “Disculpa. Quiero. Diez. Bolsas. De. Tortrix.”



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Jazz It Up!

The 8th annual Jazz Festival is under way already and it’s looking to be better than ever. This year’s festival will include performances by musicians from all over the world, including Switzerland, Mexico, Italy, USA, France, Spain, as well as local artists from Xela. La Alianza Francesa, our go-to place for all things French, is proud to introduce the French jazz trio Journal Intime. The trio is comprised of trumpet, saxophone, and trombone, and focuses on interpreting famous music projects with a jazzy spin. This year the group’s focus is on the one-and-only Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix. Plan to be taken on a psychedelic musical journey like nothing you’ve heard before. The festival runs from the 26th of February to the 16th of March, and all shows will be at the Municipal Theatre. Check the events section for more specific information on concert times.