It’s rush hour in Xela, and the city is still as the grave. Cars on 4th calle stretch bumper to bumper from Parque Central to Calvario and beyond. The micros on 14th Avenue crawl at a snail’s pace up the hill to the signal on Rodolfo Robles, which itself has vehicles at a near-standstill stretching clear to the other side of Demo. Avenida Las Americas—an area of the city that, unlike the center, is designed for cars rather than horse-drawn carriages—is a slow-moving glacier of tail lights and idling engines, with time itself bending past the event horizon at the dreaded underpass. So for our wiley navigators of Xela’s roads, here’s XelaWho’s patented guide to surviving Guate’s ailing infrastructure…
Xela’s fleet of tricked-out beaters, numbering 200,000, is projected by some to double by 2020. The traffic isn’t just inconvenient; it threatens the livelihoods of the drivers of delivery trucks and taxis, and the lives of those who need speedy transport by ambulance to the hospital. Various studies and transit plans from the municipality have produced neither the funds nor the coordination nor the vision needed to address this problem. A traffic light here and there, along with the occasional traffic cop tooting their whistle, are basically cosmetic solutions—it’s like switching from Cabro to Brahva to spend less on beer.
Xela’s problems are small potatoes compared to Chimaltenango, however. The gateway to western Guatemala is a sprawling, clogged mess of whorehouses and pinchazos that adds a full hour to drive along the Pan-American highway from Guatemala City to Xela. During rush hour, or in the event of a parade or accident, that six kilometer stretch slows to a slog that can last two and a half hours or more. The construction of a 15 kilometer bypass that skirts Chimal rather than running through the middle of town was supposed to finish up this year; it’s over budget and behind schedule and somehow opposed by the people of Chimaltenango, who fear the loss of daily standstill traffic will leave their whorehouses and pinchazos short on customers.
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La Salsa Inglesa
Writing this recipe I had trouble deciding whether it’s best described as shakshuka or ’huevos rancheros’. The chili and the coriander give this breakfast dish a Latin American feel but without a typical roasted tomato sauce, fried eggs or black beans it doesn’t quite constitute as ‘huevos rancheros’ in my book. This is an ideal weekend brunch recipe. It requires little effort to cook, it’s low in fat (the eggs are steamed not fried), comforting and extremely nourishing. Add a handful of peas or spinach to add extra goodness. Shakshuka is a wonderful dish to share. When in good company place directly on the table to eat collectively straight out of the pan, but only do this with the most intimate of friends. Serve with tortillas or pita bread. Serves three hungry mouths, or six as part of a larger collection.
6 organic free-range eggs
2 tbs olive oil½ large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced1 jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin½ tsp smoked paprika1 small red pepper, chopped into thin strips
4 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1 handful cooked peas or spinach (optional)
Coriander for garnish
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and begin to fry the onion to soften. Add the garlic and chili and fry for another couple of minutes before adding the cumin and paprika, fry for one minute stirring continuously. Add the fresh tomatoes and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, sugar and bay leaf. Season and simmer for 10-15 minutes until you have a rich thick sauce.
Make six wells within the pan and carefully break in the eggs, cover the pan. After a couple of minutes sprinkle over the peas or spinach. Cook covered for another 5-10 minutes until the egg whites are firm but the yokes are still runny inside.
Serve immediately with toasted pita or tortillas and the coriander sprinkled on top. Bon appetit, Xela!
My Latin American food blog can be found at www.lasalsainglesa.com. AMA’s Alternatives Boutique sells homemade salsas, peanut butter and jams as well as beautiful textiles: 5a avenida 6-17 Zona 1.
by Diana Pastor
Guatemalans don’t like spicy food —don’t like it, at least, in comparison to their Mexican neighbors to the north, who are famous for their fondness of tongue-sizzling tastes ranging from the mild but addictive flaming hot cheeto to the nuclear fire of the ghost pepper. Guatemala, nonetheless, is not the Midwest of the United States, where ketchup is sometimes regarded as spicy. Chapines use some spice in their foods, like most of Latin America, and this article will serve as a brief survey of the most popular peppers that you can find in our cuisine.
The chiltepe: This is the classic Guatemalan pepper —an old standby that can be found in markets across the country. If you say that someone is a chiltepe, that means they’re small or short with a personality that’s fiery bordering on explosive. The chiltepe is a small pepper—a tiny red or green bulb on the end of a short stem. You can find them pretty much anywhere and buy a small bag for the modest price of a single quetzal. Pop one in your mouth and bite down, and you’ll experience a small detonation of spice that will quickly clear your sinuses and bring a brief wave of tears to your eyes. Don’t worry; you’ll be okay. It’ll be over soon. Sizzle scale: Three fire alarms out of three
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February was another thumb-cramping month on Guatemalan social media. #DiaInternacionalDeLaMujer lit up screens across the nation with bold statements from twiteras chapinas in solidarity with the struggle for gender equality like @la_juventud who tweeted “Yes, International Women’s Day is over but the struggle for gender equality continues!” There were some more unfortunate contributors, however. None more so than @ADios_hi who tweeted “I’m ready to celebrate International Women’s Day thanks to Islam” with the picture shown on the page on the right. Adios @ADios_hi.
The biggest, loudest, rock-y-est, coolest band in Guatemala since Spinal Tap —Bohemia Suburbana—turned 25 last month. Their big birthday concert spurred a tweetstorm on #BS25 bigger than Trump bored in a national security briefing. @sofiataracena said she was “more excited than a kid in a Disney film.” So happy birthday to Guatemala’s favourite rockers—and big fans of Xela’s own Xelita IPA…
On a more somber note Guate’s twiteros got online on #ChuckBerry to commemorate the loss of one of the greatest rockers ever, Chuck Berry. @PublinewsGT said “Chuck Berry broke down racial barriers to create Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Too true @PublinewsGt. RIP Chuck.
Every man and his chucho with a smartphone was out snapping pics of Xela’s freak storm last month. The first storm of the year washes several month’s of Xela’s sins in the form of Lemon Tortrix wrappers down the drains into the sewage system creating blockages and havoc on the streets. Aside from the usual Nuestro Diario-type disaster pics, some Quetzaltecas posted some helpful advice to #InundacionesXela and #TiempoGT?such as @AlertaGt502’s suggestion for a new transport system for Xela on the page opposite.
And it just wouldn’t be social media if people weren’t whining about the traffic on #TraficoGT. In this case it’s not a 2 minute delay on your daily fixed-gear bike commute to your shift at that hip artesinal salt dispensary in Pittsburg (a.k.a Portland of the East), but the permanent car park known as Chimaltenango (see editorial). @chejoSb said “Chimaltenango, your traffic hurts me.” @Estuardinho10 said “Chimaltenango in Kaq’chikel means ‘trafico de la gran puta‘ (DIY translation). @AFS63 resorted to praying “please don’t be any traffic in Chimal” but should take note of @bohemio2k’s tweet “There’s traffic here in Chimaltenango *True no matter when you read this tweet*.
But there is an end in sight —the shiny new bypass in the sky around Guate’s favourite traffic jam will open in early 2018 (see page opposite).
La Huelga de Dolores
It’s Lent—that long period of anticipation that leads up to Easter, that special holiday on which all of Latin America absolutely loses their minds. In Guatemala, the Lenten celebrations come with the Huelga de Dolores.
What is the Huelga de Dolores? It’s a tradition maintained by the students at USAC that involves satirical newspapers, a parody of the Holy Week processions, a silly song, and a dancing skeleton—all done while wearing colorful hoods so you don’t get murdered by the government. The huelga is an opportunity to speak out against the state and the church, and to poke fun at their institutions, during the biggest institutional holiday of the year.
There’s a long history to the huelga which goes back to the 19th century. It’s a bloody and depressing one that we have neither the space nor the heart to detail here. If you see USAC students running around in colored hoods—especially on Good Friday —we advise you stop, listen, and attempt to unpick their satirical and foul-mouthed commentary
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by Diana Pastor
Some of our traveling readers probably noticed that the 21st and 22nd of February was marked by protests —indigenous organizations from communities across western Guatemala blocked various points along the Pan-American Highway. Their motives were diverse, but their top priorities were to mobilize against the rising cost of electricity and to push for reforms in Guatemala’s constitution to establish an indigenous court system.
What is indigenous court? It’s rooted in an ancestral legal system that dates back to the fifteenth century. Indigenous communities appoint judges and hold court to deal with crimes within their community —especially questions of land ownership, domestic violence, and alimony. Indigenous courts are common in the northwestern part of Guatemala, include the departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Totonicapan and Sololá. These departments tend to have lower rates of criminality than other parts of Guatemala.
In some places, the national legal system with th eir in dig en ou s community courts are already linked. A young Kaq’chiquel survivor of sexual assault recently sought indigenous court before the evidence was handed over to the legal prosecutor. Those calling for reform want to see a formal reconciliation between the indigenous and state legal systems.
What authority does the indigenous court have to punish? That depends on both the community and the crime. The aim is repentance and low recidivism —a common indigenous worldview is that life in prison is a living hell that will worsen someone’s behavior . Still, some of the punishments can be harsh. In Sololá, sentences may include restitution, community service, exile, or corporal punishment administered by the family of the victim. That last one is controversial: opponents reform say that it’s a violation of human rights. Many opponents of reform are also (ironically) pro-death penalty.
How did these proposed constiutional reforms come about? More than 1500 representatives of various Guatemalan organizations came up with the proposal. It’s long, and I’m running out of space, but if you have enough Spanish you can read them for yourself www.reformajusticia.gt
It is the diputados in Congress who will decide to approve or deny the proposed refor ms. They were expected to go through, but the last two meetings did not make quorum, leaving the country in suspense as to whether or not the changes will be made. In the meantime, we hope that Guatemalans will be tolerant and engage in diaglogue —to do better, in short, than they have with this proposal, which has tainted the conversation with the air of racism, hate, and misinformation.
#Volcandefuego —Guatemala’s Fuego volcano —trended this month as the mountain repeatedly belched lava, flames, and ash in to the sky. Residents of Antigua tweeted photos of their cars and patios covered in ash. Others were snarkier, seizing the occasion to take aim at (who else?) the government. “#Volcandefuego is warning the legislators of this country,” wrote one tuitero.
Guatemalans seized #elanunciodeNASA —NASA’s announcement of several new exoplanets that might be hospitable to human life. They seized this moment to make fun of Jimmy Morales, which should not surprise you. “That Jimmy Morales should be sent to the moon,” was the suggestion of one Twitter user, which sounds like a solid space policy to us here at Xelawho.
Protests blocking the Pan American Highway generated a lot of twitter noise around the hashtag #bloqueosgt. The classic anti-protester tweet, of course, is that they should all go out and get jobs. There was plenty of that in store. “I say and I’ve always said that #bloqueosgt only affect productive men and women,” wrote one user. “Get a job, huevones!” Some called for the protestors to be arrested, and worse. No tweets offered up viable solutions to the rising cost of electricity.
Some levity came from #nadamasrudoenGTque, or “nothing ruder in Guatemala than…” One young man recommended against ordering your tacos with Zone 1 in the capital. He made this point with a spiderman .gif of Toby Maguire squelching up his face, captioned “DIARRHEA” in block white letters. Enough said about that. Almost all of the recommendations had to do with food. So the next time you’re in Guatemala City, be careful about what and when you order —there’s a lot of unspoken rules you might be breaking.
#SFaborto created a space to talk about the abortion ship floating in international waters and offering women’s health care to the people of Guatemala. Men on the internet were in full form in this discussion of women’s bodies —down to a tweet, their eyes were on the ball. “Sorry FEMINAZIS, but the moment we start talking about SPERM then abortion is ALSO a men’s rights issue,” one man wrote helpfully.
P o p p i n g
Xelaju MC recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Xela loves a party, after all, and this was a pretty good excuse: there was a concert at the Centro Intercultural, a gala at the Teatro, and hundreds of fireworks.
Somehow, the boys from Mario Camposeco are popular here in Xela, they bring out that special kind of affection that consistently disappointing sports team helps to engender in its fans. In those seventy-five years, you can count the number of league titles that they’ve won on the fingers of one of your hands.
It’s not all about league titles, of course. The chivos are beloved here because they’re of Xela —they belong to the city, in all of their mediocrity, and that in and of itself is worth celebrating.
The anniversary celebration was also, of course, occasion for a football game. Almost eight thousand people packed Mario Camposeco to capacity, generating some 200,000 Quetzales in profit. Xelaju MC, as they are wont to do, lost 0-1 to Municipal. The important part is that we still love them.
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It’s been a rough month here at XelaWho HQ. From Donald Trump’s election to Eric Trump’s on-point Gordon Gecko impressions, we here at the magazine need a breather. And what better way to get away from it all than by indulging in a little weekend away on the lake? “But I’ve already partied hard in San Pedro and had my chakras realigned in San Marcos”, you say? Good for you, but we’re talking about a proper lake retreat a little off the beaten track in beautiful Santa Cruz La Laguna. True to the modern spirit of fully disclosing conflicts of interest, your faithful editor just moved to Santa Cruz -but that being said it’s still a top place to visit. So here goes with XelaWho’s shameless self-promotion/guide to doing ol’ Lago Atitlan like a local…
After breathing in way too many dusty black clouds put out by our cool but hardly eco-friendly camionetas, even the team here at XelaWho needs to get out of our beloved city for a couple of days now and again. So when we’re not being forced to flee to Mexico for the baffling 90 day ritual of The Border Run, most of us tend to head to the lake’s own Bermuda Triangle —San Pedro, San Marcos and Panajachel. There, days mysteriously vanish to hangovers sitting in fancy restaurants, staring at the lake, ordering bloody mary after bloody mary.
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Fernando and I had been on a few dates, and were supposed to meet up to catch a movie at Blue Angel café one night. He showed up an hour late, and we decided to go for a drive and smoke a jazz cigarette instead of keeping the Blue Angel family up past their bedtime. A little later, he asked if I wanted to go somewhere more private. I assumed his apartment, so obviously I agreed and off we went.
As we drove, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of auto-hotels around, enough so that I made a joke about zone six being la Tierra de los auto-hoteles. For the uninitiated, an auto-hotel is a pay-per-hour love stop for sordid affairs, illicit sex, and for married and unmarried couples who have nowhere else to get it on. Fernando laughed nervously, I thought, and we kept driving. A short time later we pulled into a parking lot of a reasonably nice looking condominium building. Each condo had its own little car park quaintly painted with hearts, mountains or stars.
As we pulled into the garage I saw a sign reminding the driver to cut their engine. I didn’t think much of it at the time, especially since the other sign stating the hourly rate of Q140 hadn’t caught my eye. I nervously followed Fernando up the stairs, excited to finally see his place, and a little anxious that things were moving so fast. He opens the door at the top of the stairs and we walk in. I took a quick look around, trying to take it all in. I was immediately struck by the large bed in the middle of the room. I look to my left, my eyes scanning for the non-existent kitchen. Its then I realize Fernando is sliding money through a waist-height window in a steel door to the left of the bed. I take a closer look at the bed and noticed “Auto-Hotel Camelot”, stamped on the pillow cases, and a four-pack of condoms placed neatly between the two pillows.
There was a retro comic-book style applique on the bedroom side of the bathroom window, featuring an image of a woman who did not look happy, with a banner at the top with the words, “I became ill…” As it slowly dawned on me that this was definitely not Fernando’s modern one-bedroom apartment, and I realized the groan-factor of my joke about the land of auto-hotels, I suddenly started to panic.
My thought process was basically, “holy eff, this is an auto-hotel, I don’t know if I can do this, I kind of feel like a lady of the night. Wait a minute, that’s actually kind of hot. This guy is paying money for the privilege of playing pants-off-dance-off, and this may be my only opportunity in life to get it on in a love hotel in Latin America. What am I waiting for?”
Moral of the story? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.