Backpackers in Guatemala are a strange breed. Many come to the land of the Maya seeking an authentic adventure, claiming to be a different type of traveller to those that swarm into the likes of Cancun and Costa Rica‘s tourist traps on made-to-order package holidays. And yet, pretty much every single backpacker that you meet in Guatemala is on the same route, visiting the same places and staying at the same hostels (usually those hosting the best parties).
Don‘t get us wrong, we have nothing against the ?Top 10 Places to Visit in Guatemala? that are recommended by all guidebooks: Tikal, Semuc Champey, Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the likes are all epic spots that should be visited by anyone traversing the country. Nor do we have anything against Guatemala‘s infamous backpacker hostels: on more than one occasion the staff here at XelaWho have found themselves necking tequila late at night in their underwear at the bars of said hostels (sorry Mum).
Nonetheless, it is somewhat disappointing that in a country with as much to offer as Guatemala, so relatively few places are visited and so few backpackers get ?off the beaten track? to visit some of the country‘s less known, but equally jaw -dropping, spots.
Perhaps at the top of the list of the most underrated places in Guatemala is the department of Huehuetenango. So in this month‘s issue of XelaWho we‘re here to give you our top tips on getting to and travelling around what is frankly one of the most all-round beautiful areas in the country.
Unfortunately, there‘s still not much tourist infrastructure in Huehue which means that getting there and getting around can be a bit of a hassle. If you can, we recommend hitting up some locals with a car and suggesting that they travel with you (with their car of course, although you should tell them that it‘s their valuable company that you‘re really after). Just make sure that said car is in good condition and will not break down half way there, forcing you to hitch for the rest of the trip — as happened on XelaWho‘s fabled journey to Huehue earlier this year.
An excellent place to base yourself for travelling around is the remote town of Chacula?, which has lodgings called Posada Rural Finca Chacula?, offering a limited selection of private rooms and camping space next to a lake. If you can ?t access a car, then you can get there by taking a bus to Huehuetenango and from there you can either get a direct bus to Chacula? or you can take a bus to Nenton and then from there either get a micro or a pick-up to Chacula?. Once you‘re there, it‘s pretty easy to get to nearby spots, either in your own car, by hiring private transport from the local town (a rather expensive option) or by hitching on the back of pick-up trucks.
read more of "A Way Away in HueHue"
P o p p i n g
Volcan Santiaguito has quite literally been ?popping? as of late, with some huge pieces of volcanic material ending up far, far away from the volcano.
A giant bread-crust-like rock over a meter and a half in diameter was found over 1600 meters away from the vent of Santiaguito, which means that the likelihood of projectiles ending up close to frequented places such as El Mirador is quite possible. Santiaguito has a pretty tame past, though, speaking in terms of volcanic activity.
The biggest worry around Santiaguito is actually the landslides around the vents rather than what‘s coming out of the crater itself. So, as far as we‘re concerned, we can just enjoy the sky show until further notice!
read more of "Stuff"
XelaWho’s ear-the-ground correspondent, Alex Mac, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to Aldo and Rafael, the guys in charge at the world famous late night taco stand “El Quetzalteco” on the corner of Parque Central near the Dispensa Familar. If you’ve been out late stumbling around Xela and aren’t vegetarian these guys have probably saved your life… or at least eased your hangover!
So where are you guys from?
Aldo: I’m from Totonicapan. Rafael is from San Mateo Chiquito in Quiche?.
Wow, so far away. So how did you end up in Xela?
We both moved here for this job a couple of months ago. There isn’t much work back home and this was a good opportunity for us.
What’s it like working at the cart?
It’s great. We really like the work. We make lots of money but it’s a commission of our sales so we have to sell lots of tacos.
Alright, I’ll be sure to tell everyone to drink up and come gets some tacos later on. So who do you work for?
The owner is a guy called Roberto. He’s only got this cart but he’s a good owner, he treats us well.
read more of "Xelebrity of the Month"
Hola Macha. Prefieres hablar en inglés o español?
I’m much more charming in English
Sure.. let’s do that then
Alright. So what brought you to Xela and how long were you planning on staying?
I came to volunteer at Trama Textiles, a women’s weaving cooperative based here in Xela. I arrived in May 2014 and I was originally planning to stay for three months.
So what happened?
I really liked the community here right away. It’s so laid back, you can be working and it feels like you’re on vacation. When I arrived I was actually coming from the United States and planning to move back after volunteering at Trama, but in the end I realized Xela was much closer to what I was looking for.
Definitely. And what do you do here now?
About a year ago I started a smoothie and juice bar called Frutopia which is now located on sexta calle just a block and a half east of Parque Central.
(Editors note: Frutopia is delicious. Jalopeño Jacobo recommends the Del Bosque smoothie but everything’s tasty)
read more of "Stuck in Xela"
Twitter lit up this month with the news that ex-army captain (and killer of Bishop Gerardi — a fierce opponent of the Guatemalan military) Byron Lima was killed in a prison riot by a rival prison gang. Lima is said have been one of the most powerful inmates in Guatemala and was only 3 years away from serving his 20 year sentence for the murder. The #ByronLima hashtag was bustling with crocodile tears for the infamous tool of the Guatemalan military regime and plenty of conspiracy theories on who wanted to keep him quiet about his powerful friends and their secrets. @XimeEnriquez didn’t believe the extremely graphic photos of dead Lima and reckons he has 11 other inmates killed in the riot to fake his own death and is in hiding. Sounds about right to me!
Well surprise surprise… after the Jimmy Morales came to power (supposedly) free from political back- scratching debts (except the frequent rumours about him being in the army’s pocket) the military budget has increased faster than any other sector’s. Guatemalan’s flocked to #AJimmyLeDigo (I’d Say to Jimmy) to point out how corruption in Guatemala seems to never end after the story was broken in a Prensa Libre article last month. @ChapineroTuv reminds us that unlike Otto Perez, at least Jimmy pays back his debts… #ElChapoGusman.
Poke?mon Go has taken the world by storm this month and has every unemployed 28-year-old feeling like they have a sense of purpose again. Guatemalans expressed their outrage on social media while watching overgrown nerds from other countries play the game until it’s official launch in Guatemala in late July when they could simply complain about their phone not being compatible with the game. Unfortunately, Guatemala has set a world first for the game with 18- year-old Jerson Lopez de Leon from Chiquimula becoming the first person in the world to be killed while playing the game. Jerson and his cousin Daniel broke into a house presumably to catch a Poke?mon after which Jerson was shot and killed and Daniel was badly injured. The tweets under the #Pokemon_Go_Guatemala, hashtag however, largely brushed over this with every manchild and his Pikachu instead racing to post their funniest memes.
Guatemalan twitter has been buzzing with the super popular hashtag #GIRLSTALKBOYS this month. Your editor checked it out, thinking it was something about turning the tables on machismo with a Girl Stalking Boys. Apparently Girls Talk Boys is a worldwide hit song from the new Ghostbusters movie which has also taken off in Guatemala and which doesn’t have anything to do with girls stalking boys. It’s the kids that are out of touch… it must be…
By La Salsa Inglesa
These outstanding quesadillas were inspired by the first vegetarian Chapi?n I met in Guatemala (and the most chilera), often found frequenting Tan Lechuga Yo at lunchtimes. First sampled at one of the longest standing vegetarian restaurants in Guatemala City, Rey Sol, these quesadillas have been my go-to fast food recipe for many years. Even the Taco King at Tacorazon admitted they were delicious!
Using the simple ingredients: carrot, cream cheese and tortillas, nothing can prepare you for how good the combination of melted cream cheese, spiced carrot and toasted flour tortillas will be. With no culinary skill or equipment required and ready in around 20-30 minutes this dish makes for a perfect light mid-week dinner or lunchtime snack.
read more of "Cream Cheese and Carrot Quesadillas"
By Auntie Dolores
Dear Auntie Dolores,
Some of my friends always say that I overreact and that I am always looking for drama in my life. On this occasion, however, I think I have good reason to worry.
Firstly, I’m gay and I recently broke up with my boyfriend. Of course, I miss him and it has been hard to get over him but now I am beginning to find other distractions, if you know what I mean, and I am starting to feel much better. However, there is just one problem; I’ve been dreaming a lot lately and these dreams are the cause of my concern. Why? Well, I’m dreaming constantly about a friend… about a female friend!!! And I’m not dreaming about her in friendly situations!
This is the first time this has happened to me and I’m rather confused, to say the least. I have always had a reputation as a man’s man and have only ever been attracted to, and been a magnet for, other men. However, I see this girl or, rather woman, so often in Xela and I have these feelings which have started to feel somewhat awkward… oh god, this city feels so small sometimes!
I thought it would be a good idea to kiss her to show myself that this is nothing more than a stage but I don’t think her boyfriend will be happy about it, nor let me in his bar.
Auntie Dolores, you know that Xela is the kingdom of gossip and I would never want the rumor to spread and to ruin my flamboyant notoriety/reputation.
Please Auntie Dolores help me, what can I do to stop this madness?
– Chivo Drama King
Hi Chivo Drama King,
First of all you need to relax. Madness? At this point I have to agree with your friends when they say that you overreact. Sometimes we dream things that our subconscious wants us to act out. In which case go with your gut feelings and take this girl out for a drink and, as for her boyfriend… well, maybe he‘ll be interested in joining in the fun. Or maybe, it‘s really him you are dreaming of! As for your reputation, don‘t worry, if it‘s the girl or her boyfriend, Xela is quite an open city and this is the 21st century. Remember, there is nothing wrong with a gay man having a physical relationship with a female.
If you would prefer not to confront your feelings, then perhaps you should distract yourself. Go out for a Cabro, or three, and activate your Grindr profile; I have no doubt the ?distractions‘ will come fast. If this is not your style put on your high heels and have a cross-dressing party at your place.
Either way just remember to enjoy yourself and never close yourself up in the closet again, it doesn‘t matter if you‘re dreaming of a boy or a girl… just set your mind free!
Have your own burning question that you would like to send to Aunty Dolores? Shoot us an email at email@example.com.
By Diana Pastor
Not all travellers are able to enjoy the luxury of cruising in a shuttle or first class bus. Sometimes, when you‘re strapped for cash, not running on a tight schedule, or need to travel to remote places, traveling by chicken bus may be your only option. Sometimes the novelty stepping onto one of these colorful, noisy, exhaust-spewing buses touring throughout Guatemala is what ends up defining our Guatemalan experience. Your journey may be (slightly) more pleasant if you take a few precautions however — precautions that can help you avoid problems or bad experiences on a journey through the beautiful country of Guatemala.
One of the most important things you have to know as a chicken bus traveler is that you should never carry much luggage. There is usually not enough space in the overhead storage bins of the bus, and they‘re quite small anyway. Even if you get on a empty bus, sometimes the ayudantes (the men who collect the bus fares) will want to charge extra for luggage in addition to the passage already paid. If you‘re in a bind and need to carry luggage with you to your destination, keep all valuables in one bag, and keep that bag on your lap. Throw your backpack or suitcase on top of the bus with the help of an ayudante. Be careful, though, during rainy season! Your bag may get completely soaked if it‘s on the top of the bus. It‘s best to check the forecast and plan accordingly.
read more of "Top Tips for Chicken Bus Travelers"
Last month the world was once again shocked and saddened by a brutal mass shooting in the U.S. Attendees at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida were massacred by a lone-wolf gunman who had pledged allegiance to the self-declared “Islamic State” leaving 49 dead and injuring more than 50 others. A key difference in the Orlando shooting, however, was that it targeted a gay nightclub on Latin Night with most of the victims belonging to Orlando’s vibrant LGBTI community and over 90 percent being Latino. As the shooting happened to coincide with Xela’s yearly LGBTI pride march, we here at XelaWho HQ thought we’d take a break from our usual hilarious rants about chicken buses and garnachas to reflect on the state of the Xela’s LGBTI movement.
When it comes to progress on LGBTI civil rights and acceptance, Guatemala isn’t usually the first country that comes to mind — actually, it’s way down the list. When one of the most popular songs to mosh around on the dancefloor and chant along to in Xela has the chorus “amo al matón, matarile al maricón” (I love the bully, kill the faggot) it’s not a great sign.
Given that context, the powerful display of solidarity at last month’s Xela LGBTI Pride March was something rather extraordinary. Now only in its 6th year (the capital’s march is in its 16th year for comparison), this year’s marcha was the biggest yet, attracting around 150 attendees, up from the usual 30-50. Xela’s marcha is the only LGBTI pride parade in western Guatemala with people coming in solidarity from San Marcos to La Capital. Stunned onlookers in Parque Central were treated to impassioned speeches about LGBTI civil rights and some of the best lip syncing from a Guatemalan in drag this editor has ever seen.\
Part of the reason for the low attendance over the years is that many members of Guatemala’s LGBTI community are afraid of violence and discrimination if they come out publicly. To show their support but remain anonymous, many members of the LGBTI community travel to other cities to attend pride parades while not attending marchas in their home towns. After Orlando, prominent members of the gay community in Guatemala, including the organizer of the popular GayGuatemala Facebook page, who have spoken out about the need for more acceptance, have received violent threats to themselves and their businesses.
read more of "Life’s Better in Colour! The LGBTI Movement in Xela"
By La Salsa Inglesa
Chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers) are a popular Guatemalan dish. This recipe is a quicker version than the original because it fills the peppers with cheese rather than meat and vegetables, and uses a simple batter mix without the need of an electric whisk. However, it is by no means comida rápida so give yourself an hour or two on a rainy weekend in Xela to experiment with this recipe.
Another thing: true Chiles rellenos belong to highest class of Guatemalan culinary art. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t come out perfectly first time. Looks aren’t everything and they will still taste delicious. Trust me.
The batter should be enough to cover about 6 red peppers and 4-6 jalapeños (optional if you like hot chilies. Otherwise, you can always use more red peppers). Make as many as possible to aprovechar de the batter and fat. I tend to serve one large pepper and one jalapeño per person with a salsa de tomate casera.
- 6 largish red bell peppers (chile pimiento)
- 4 jalapeño chilies (optional for those that like their food hot!)
- A lot of oil for frying (at least a medium-sized bottle)
- Half pound of queso fresco
For the batter
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup flour plus at least half an extra cup for coating all the chilies
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (polvo para hornear)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonato)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oil
read more of "Chiles Rellenos Vegetarianos"