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Yes We Can-tina!

Cantinas… ever been to one? We’re not talking about your Brooklynite hip nightspots where your man Sergio sorts you out with the best $15 cuba libres you can find while listening to authentic South American classics like Justin Timberlake’s “Señoritas.” (Fun fact: a cantina in your faithful editor’s hometown Sydney, Australia has a candlelit shrine with photos of Jesus below a giant iron statue of a pig… because that’sXW 131 Portada Colour JPEG Latin American, right?)

No, we’re talking about the salt of the earth bars/room-with-a-fridge-in-it you find all over Xela. If you’re looking for a real Guatemalan experience, you can’t go wrong chatting up the usually colourful crowds you find in these local institutions. As always, we here at the XelaWho HQ have got you covered with a guide to Cantina-land here in  the fine city of Xela.

You can’t walk a few blocks in Xela without running into a cantina usually blasting Trova (local sad guitar folk music with hits like Tristezas Quetzaltecas) from a classic jukebox surrounded by tables of men enjoying a Quetzalteca Blanca or seven. The crowds are usually (read: always) all male and can get pretty rowdy after a few drinks, but you’ll hear some pretty wild tales of local folklore if you join in the fun. Word of warning: cantinas can be a bit rough so keep your wits about you and if you feel unsafe at any point, it’s probably time to move on.

The are some pretty famous cantinas in Xela. None more than El Carmen just opposite Mercado Central. Established in 1954, the same year that Guatemala’s President Jacobó Arbenz was assassinated in a CIA sponsored coup, Doña Ana Maria and her mum of El Carmen have outlasted the rise and fall of the Berlin wall, Guatemala’s civil war and the Rolling Stones. Surprisingly enough, while most cantina regulars are male, the proprietors are usually pretty tough ladies who don’t take schtick from anyone making a ruckus in their establishment. Doña Aura Violeta of the Super Chiva Cantina up near La Democracia market remembers passing many jovial Christmas Eves with her regular crowd of festive cantina dwellers who affectionately call her Abuelita (granny). So if you don’t have any plans for next Christmas, we’ll see you at the Super Chiva to neck back some quetzaltecas with granny.



P o p p i n g

Women Unite!

For the past couple of months, a group of women has been meeting once a week in an effort to brainstorm and put into action ideas for awareness-raising campaigns to combat street harassment in Xela. The group, which goes by the name of Respeta Ya, aims to work closely with local government and private institutions in an effort to reduce street harassment primarily targeted at women. Part of the group’s mission is to raise awareness through organizing community events, to teach women (both Guatemalans and extranjeras) appropriate language to use when street harassment occurs, and to build relationships with local organizations and individuals in a united effort to bring an end to street harassment for good. For more information on Respeta Ya’s efforts, including information on when and where the group meets each week, send them an email at:


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.


The end of April saw yet another explosive corruption case come to light in Guatemala, implicating disgraced ex-President Otto Perez Molina and ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti once again. In the #CasoTCQ, the pair is accused by the anti-corruption crusaders, CCIG, of leading a criminal organisation that pocketed over $30 million in bribes in return for awarding a contract to build a port terminal on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast to Grupo TCQ, along with a 25-year concession to operate it worth $255 million. Prosecutors allege that Perez Molina and Baldetti received 60 percent of the bribes. Then to add insult to injury, current president Jimmy Morales, who claimed during his electoral campaign last year that “the greatest guarantee of transparency for my government is my mother, because she didn’t raise thieves”, was accused of holding secret meetings with the Maersk company, the majority stakeholders in the TCQ Group. The Guatemalan Twitterverse responded with the #AEscondidasComoJimmy hashtag, with which users tweeted that they #GoIntoHidingLikeJimmy when they “watch Sex and the City”, “come home drunk and my mother is waiting for my with a frying pan in hand” and when they “listen to musica banda.”  @_SuperAlejo summed up the situation, tweeting that Jimmy’s government is “as transparent as the waters of Lake Amatitlan.”

On the plus side, things do seem to be looking up on the corruption front: Prensa Libre reported a whopping 398% increase in official corruption accusations since 2014. Throughout May a National Dialogue on reforming the Guatemalan justice system was also held across the country. You can follow the updates with the #ReformaJusticiaGT hashtag.

Stuck in Xela

Each month our very our investigative reporter Jalapeño Jacobo interviews a foreigner who’s gotten themselves stuck in Xela. This month we spoke to Richard Brown, who was raised in Virginia in the United States but now lives here in Xela and works with EntreMundos, a local NGO.


Sooo Rich, what brings you to Xela?

Well two and a half years ago I was living and working in the US until one day at work I ate half a bag of potato chips and became so ill I had to leave the office.  It was the last straw. I knew then that it was time to make a big change.


I knew I wanted to move to a small city where I’d be surrounded by Spanish speakers, and it just so happened that the flights to Guatemala were cheaper than any other flights I could find. So I ended up in Xela.

Guatemala in the Panama Papers

By Fathouse Productions

You’d trust a company called Brodway (not a typo) Commerce Inc., right? Well, so did Mossack Fonseca, the money-laundering, shell company-creating, law-skirting Panamanian law firm whose leaked documents are the now-famous “Panama Papers”. The firm saw no problem creating Brodway Commerce as a shell company for Guatemalan entrepreneur Marllory (also not a typo) Chacón, the Queen of the South and one of the most successful female drug kingpins of all time.

It appears that Mossack Fonseca did not even do the least bit of research on the Queen before accepting her as its client and allowed her to launder millions of drug dollars. Guatemala’s corporate sector appreciates that kind of… trust, putting Guatemala 6th on the list of countries home to the businesses that hired the now-infamous Mossack Fonseca (after the other trust-loving corporate havens of Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland, the US, and Panama).

But Mossack Fonseca’s trustiness and Marllory Chacón’s use of the firm wasn’t the star of the leaks here in Guatemala. It was the lawyer who had hooked up the Queen with Mossack Fonseca: Francisco Palomo.

Top 5 Churches to See in Guatemala

By Diana Pastor

I love Catholic churches… both for their architectural value and because they reflect a part of culture. I have always thought that churches near Xela have styles and special features that make them ideal touristic sites for those looking to appreciate local architecture. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most special churches in and around Xela so you can visit them and learn a little about thesevaluable religious jewels from the west.

At the top of the list is the La Iglesia de la Ermita, located in the municipality of Salcajá. This church was built in 1524 and still stands today… without having had any major modifications! It was the first church built in Central America and the first to be named a Christian church in Guatemala. Getting there is easy: you can take a bus to Salcajá from La Rotunda in Xela and it should only take you around 30 minutes.

Close to Salcajá, not in the Department of Quetzaltenango but in Department of Totonicapán, is la Iglesia deSan Andrés Xecul. It is a psychedelic-like monument that attracts many tourists for its bright colors.

To get there, take a bus to go to San Francisco el Alto and ask the driver or attendant to drop you at the stop “La Morería”. Once you’re there, you’ll cross the road and take a pick up or tuk-tuk to take you to the center of San Andres.

TEDx Comes to Xela!

Can an idea change the world? Are dreams worth having?

By itself, ideas are only figments of one’s imagination, concepts of fantasy. Implemented, however, ideas can bring about profound impacts and become the seeds of change. Think about how microfinance has spread worldwide and transformed the lives of millions. Or how a personal idea of yours has changed the trajectory of your life.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is coming to Xela for the first time in history! Organized by a team of committed volunteers, TEDxPuenteDeLos Chocoyos will bring together the best minds of Xela from a variety of fields for a one-day conference focused on the concept of taking actions for your dreams. The theme of the event is “Ser Nefelibatas, caminar soñando”, which literally means to be a dreamer, but walk while dreaming. The event will showcase speeches divided into 4 main themes: Pequeño a Grande, Jamás pensé, Jamás sonè, Sín Limites and Sueños Unidos. Yes, all the speeches will be in Spanish.

The team has put together 10-12 speakers who are weaved into the fabric of Guatemala. They include Carlos Guzman, the entrepreneur who grew Xelapan from a single store to the chain it is today, JuanCarlos Barrios, the guitarist of the famed Bohemia Urbana, the Xela-famous Bonifaz, who has used theatre to talk about issues ranging from migration to the importance of water, and Luis Grijalva, Xela’s current mayor. It is our hope that their stories will inspire the audience to start taking actions for their dreams.

Xelebrity of the Month

XelaWho correspondent, Richard Brown, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to Ana Bustamante López, a Vegetable seller in the Parque Central market. Enter from 9th avenue by the fruit sellers, hang your first right, and at the end of the hall are Ana and her daughter Maria at their popular veggie stand known for its veggies, avocados, and low prices.


Where are you from?

I’m from Almolonga, from the Garden of the Americas, write it like that. Almolonga, the Garden of the Americas, where the vegetables come from.

Why are Almolonga’s veggies so good?

Because the people work hard, they use their hands. They work the ground with hoes and they weed by hand, and they plant well. And we have springsthat we use to water the fields, it’s warm volcanic water,not regular fresh water.

IMG_8565Strong women: Ana and her daughter Maria.

Shits McGee and the Levadura Hongos

By Rotten Tacos

When I visited home last summer the family was planning on participating in a 5k fun run at our local small town festival that celebrates the 80th year of getting drunk in a beer tent in name of an obscure root vegetable.

Heading to bed the night before my mother asked me “So what time are you getting up tomorrow before the run?”  And I responded casually, coolly, comfortably, “Meh, like 6…enough time to eat breakfast and take a shit.”  My entire family stopped what they were doing, turned, and looked at me with “WHAT did you just say?!” faces.

Apparently nonchalantly mentioning your bowels in any context has not become the vogue trend in the rural U.S. of A. I put the blame on living in Xela.  “Why weren’t you in class?” “Why weren’t you out Friday?” “Why did you leave in the middle of a sentence when we were talking at lunch?”  And the answer is nearly always “I’m not feeling well”, an accepted statement that immediately symbolizes understanding by all of the ailment and side effect of this locale.

A true way to really participate in the local culture, the stomach bug is worn somewhat as a badge of accidental pride among those visiting and residing in Xela. And with so many options, you could spend years testing the resilience of your colon and immune system.

Sunshine Mango Salsa Recipe

By La Salsa Inglesa

It’s our favorite season in Xela: mango season so here’s a mango recipe to take full advantage of the current gluttony. This salsa uses raw ingredients and should be ready in about 10 minutes. It goes well as a side for grilled chicken, fish or even tacos, and with intense, fresh flavors it makes a memorable dish for Xela’s Mangospotluck scene; double the quantity if there’s a large group.

There are two important things to know about mangos that I’ll share with you having learnt through my own mistakes. 1) There are different varieties of mango depending on how you’re going to use them 2) Cutting a mango is an art.

Having recently returned to Xela and somewhat out of practice in mango shopping I was lured by the cheaper ‘3 por Q5’ deal at Mercado Central. When I cut the mangos the flesh was so stringy my salsa looked more like spaghetti. I then realized I’d bought mangos para chupar (the smaller, yellow variety) rather than Tomi mangos. Tomi mangos are the largest kind; firm to touch I never bought them thinking they were unripe. Tomi mangos are more expensive at ‘3 por Q10’ but perfect for this recipe. I’m not that confident in choosing the best mangos so I tend to ask the market seller to choose mangos  ‘para hoy’ or ‘para mañana’, depending on when I’ll use them.

Secondly, how you cut a mango can mean the difference between a mushy mess and salsa success. The advice I got was to begin by peeling the mango, then cut vertically down both sides of the seed to leave you with two halves of flesh that you can then easily cube. Don’t forget to cut the remaining flesh off the seed.