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Food in Xela: The Runs Down

xelawho-134-jpeg-colourWe’ve all been there. That feeling as though a ball has just dropped inside your stomach. Time slows down. Conversations around you fade out to a background lull. Buttcheeks clench. Your mind becomes focused on a single objective: Must. Get. To. A. Toilet… Now. You stand up, garble some sort of excuse and make a run for it (but not too fast, you don’t want people to know this is a life or death situation). Upon arriving to the toilet… Actually, we better stop here – we’re sure you get the picture and we notice a lot of people reading XelaWho whilst eating so we don’t want to put you off that pile of frijoles revueltos on your plate.

Much like listening to awful music on a chicken bus or getting soaked-through by a deluge of rain in the afternoon because you forgot to pack your umbrella (again), getting the shits is a fact of life for those living in Guatemala. Often the blame is laid on street food; however we here at XelaWho believe it gets an undeservedly bad rap. Nonetheless, that isn’t to say there aren’t lesser and worse offenders. So in the interest of helping our readers navigate the minefield, we present to you the XelaWho Shit List.

The Runs Down: Alert Levels

Code Green: You’re all good to go.

Code Yellow: Risk of some minor grumblings. Small chance of an eruption.

Code Orange: Medium risk of an eruption. Precautions should be taken but equally no need to freak out.

Code Red: High chance of a major eruption, most likely requiring an evacuation of the immediate area.

Billionaire Haemorrhoid Stops and Frisks Our Minds

By Anon

The first presidential debate between orange billionaire haemorrhoid Donald Trump and librarian from outer space Hillary Clinton was full of color. Perhaps most relevant for readers in Guatemala, “illegal immigrants” came up, when swollen cheesepuff Trump was discussing gun control. He said, “We have gangs roving the street. In many cases they’re illegally here, illegal immigrants, they have guns and they shoot people. We have to be very strong. We have to be very vigilant.”

In Hair Fuhrer Trump’s world, undocumented migrants are somehow both extremely hard-working (stealing American jobs and accepting low pay, etc.) and extremely dangerous criminals. Naturally, facts show that undocumented migrants are actually less likely than “white” Americans to commit crimes other than entering the US without permission.

The Tangerine Tantrum also announced that part of being “vigilant” means introducing “stop and frisk” to cities across the US. “Stop and frisk” is a police practice adopted by the New York Police Department mainly to get unregistered guns off the streets. The tactic allows police to stop and lightly search anyone they think might have a gun.

The Celebrations of la Virgen del Rosario

By Diana Pastor

If you’re sad because the Independencia parties are over in party-capitol, Quetzaltenango, or if you couldn’t make it out, we have some good news for you. There are a bunch of festivals and holidays in Guatemala scattered through the last few months of each year, and here in Xela,  we’re lucky enough to celebrate our patron saint’s day as well! The festivities in honor of the Virgen del Rosario, patron saint of the city of Quetzaltenango, kicked off on September 22 and continue through October.

This festival has its origins in the sixteenth century. There are written documents from 1547 that record the existence of a brotherhood who venerated the Virgin of the Rosary. In that time, parades were held in which church-goers carried a depiction of the Virgin of the Rosary through the streets of the colonial cemetery located around the convent of San Francisco (now an old mall where vendors sell artisan goods).

Tradition is very important for Catholic Quetzaltecos, and therefore there are several congregations which celebrate the Virgin. Last year, for example, through the trumpeting of school bands marching through the street, you could still hear firecrackers being set off by the Taxi Drivers Association of Xela’s Central Park. Siren sounds came from the Volunteer Firefighters and the Red Cross who joined the parade. The most important of the parade, though, is always the journey of the Virgin of the Rosary through the downtown streets. After the journey in the parade, she is taken to the cathedral in Xela’s Central Park to be placed on a high altar and worshipped and admired until the end of October.

Stuffed Plantain Boats

By La Salsa Inglesa

One thing I noticed cooking in Guatemala is that people tend to freak out if you stray from the accepted way of preparing ingredients or dishes. For example, a friend shouted at me for trying to boil rice (rather than frying it first) and I was told when attempting to add slices of avocado to a salad that avocado is for guacamole, punto.  Therefore this month’s recipe featuring plantain, a staple food in Guatemala, feels slightly risqué because of its divergence from lo tradicional. It does however use ingredients that are easily sourced in the markets of Xela and offers a break from the usual comida típica.

Omit the cheese to make it a vegan recipe (it’s gluten-free) and if you’re not won over by the versatility and sweetness of plantains make the filling and serve with baked potatoes or pasta.

Serves 6. Approximately 1-hour cooking and preparation time.


  • Oil (olive oil if you have it)
  • 6 ripe plantains

For the filling

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 large eggplants, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Chili flakes (optional)
  • 1Q parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ libra cheese for the topping (preferably cheddar but whatever you can find)

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 Colin Shadel, who is originally from Manassas, Virginia but is now owner of VRISA books here in Xela.



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.

Last month on the 22nd of September, Guatemala’s federal cabinet announced that they were suspending the right to protest due to heavy rains. Yep, that’s right, freedom of expression in Guatemala is now conditional on the weather. The state of emergency declaration suspended Sections 5 and 26 of the constitution provoking Guatemaltecos across the country to take to social media to vent their outrage with the hashtag #LaMordazaDeJimmyMe (Jimmy’s gall makes me…). @Juancarloslobo6 tweeted “Jimmy [Morales] suspending civil rights won’t stop peaceful protests!” @Ladoc02 said “This is a return to the era of oppression of the 80s, the Old Politics. Liars!” Tuiteros (Twitter users) have even revived the #RenunciaYa (resign now!) hashtag that was instrumental in ousting former president Otto Perez Molina. Good work Jimmy. Nicely done…

Every Guatemalteco with a iPhone 7 and/or fijolito with a foil antenna attached was live tweeting their ridiculous shenanigans for #IndependenciaGT (Guatemlan Independence Day). From patriotic foods (see meme on the page opposite) to patriotic hangovers, even the most Guatemalan of things, potholes, got even more Guatemalan (see page opposite). Amongst the social media e-party @adrian_jam soberly tweeter that “I fear that the people who celebrate the @IndependenciaGT the most, have the least independence.”



P o p p i n g

Up, Up, and to Guate!

Tired of those grueling 4-hour bus trips to Guatemala City just to take a 6-hour flight back to North Dakota? Or perhaps you’re sick of missing your flight back to North Dakota because that 4-hour bus trip actually took you 8-hours due to road construction? Fret no more, travelers, Xela’s airport is finally open for commercial flights to Guatemala!

The commercial flights began on September 12th and will operate according to the following schedule: Monday and Saturday there will be one flight from Guatemala City to Xela at 8:45am, and one from Xela to Guatemala City at 9:45am; on Wednesdays, there will be one flight from Guatemala City to Xela at 4:15pm, and one from Xela to Guatemala City at 5pm. The cost for round-trip and one-way flights will be ~Q950 and ~Q575, respectively, and can be purchased from the bank Crédito Hioptecario Nacional (CHN). Find their Xela location at 12 Avenida 5-12, Zona 1 in Xela.


It’s Feria Time!

Dust off your cowboy boots, people: it’s Fair time again in Xela. If you want to get technical about it, we’re talking about La Feria Internacional de Independencia. It’s when Guatemalans really show how they can put on a party.

First held back in 1884 in the Canton San Nicolas, the fair has had various homes over the years, but in 1984, to celebrate its centenary, the fairgrounds —CEFEMERQ — were constructed just out of town, and it’s been held there ever since.XelaWho 134 JPEG

The general tone has changed, too. Way back when, there were traditional games like chasing greased pigs (los coches encebados), balancing on ropes (la tamba del Diablo) and climbing greased poles (el palo encebado), along with parades through the city, social dances, horse races and beauty pageants.

That last part has survived, and grown. This year just some of the titles being contested are: Little Miss Quetzaltenango, Little Miss Maya, Miss Quetzaltenango, Miss Maya, Miss Indigenous, Miss Sports, and our favorites: Miss Municipal Employee and Miss Female Prisoner.

Out at the fairgrounds, the entertainment has become earthier too. You can expect the same sort of shooting gallery, sideshow games that are found all over the world, alongside food stalls (traditional and junk), rides, random concerts and the scariest Ferris Wheel you’re ever likely to ride.

The action goes from morning to midnight, from the 12th to the 16th, with crowds getting craziest on the main day, the 15th.

If you’re planning on hitting the fairgrounds (and we strongly recommend it) bear this in mind: every pickpocket and bagslasher in the country will also be there. Don’t panic, but don’t take Absolutely Anything, either.

One feature of the week is the free concert held on Independence Eve, the 14th, with bands playing everything from Marimba to Rock. At midnight the mayor gives a long-ass speech known as the “grito de independencia” — the independence shout — (which is not nearly as entertaining as a grito ranchero but then you can’t have everything), church bells are rung all over town and then the fun starts up again. Bars used to be allowed to stay open all night long on the 14th. However, in Xela at least, the Municipalidad has been cracking down on all night Independence partying over the last couple of years. Most places ignore the crackdown though, so many parties continue to go on late.


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.

Last month, the Ministry of Education, along with the Great National Campaign for Education and several other organizations, held a conference as part of an effort to discuss solutions to improving digital education and access in Guatemalan public schools. The Great National Campaign for Education is run by the Association for Research and Social Studies, an organization in Guatemala City that lobbies various ministries and community members to develop sustainable solutions to some of the country’s most pressing political, educational, and economic problems. The plan is to finally say #AdiosBrechaDigitalGT, and get all students properly trained to work in our increasingly digital world.

The future is uncertain for Guatemalan Magistrate Douglas Charchal, whose immunity was stripped during the #LaLinea investigation of 2015. It was suspected that Charchal accepted bribes to speed along rulings to favor the criminal doings of ex-President Otto Pérez and ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Charchal is now sending a letter around the supreme court, basically asking for his old job back. Although Charchal wasn’t linked directly to all the La Linea shenanigans, his involvement and favorable rulings were quite suspicious, and are reason enough for Guatemalans to be nervous about his plans to return to his day job. #FueraCharchal hashtags are flying all over Twitter, with Guatemalans continuing to voice their desire to shed the corrupt reputation of their government.


By La Salsa Inglesa

It is considered good food etiquette in Guatemala to keep your fridge full with pre-made food ready to offer unexpected visitors at any time of day or night; aunque solo tortillas con queso’ (even if it’s just tortillas and cheese) as the phrase goes. A Tupperware filled to the brim with frijoles is one requirement; a bowl of escabeche is another. Escabeche combines chilies and vinegar to make a spicy condiment ideal for desayunos, cenas, pupusas and, of course, on top of tortillas con queso.

This recipe was taught to me by the Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano’s (AMA) talented cook; my mentor over the summer who tirelessly serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner to groups of hungry service learning volunteers.

If you’re not keen on hot food be sure to take out all the chilies’ seeds and membrane. Leaving the chilies whole, which I did on my first attempt, made the escabeche extremely hot. For a medium-hot condiment try taking the seeds out of half the chilies, as suggested in the instructions below.