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.
Strong women: Ana and her daughter Maria.
How come your stand is so successful?
I have experience with business, and I take good care of the accounting. But I don’t have an education, I learned by being a businesswoman. I do the math in my head, never with a calculator. I do accounts of up to Q500, just through mental arithmetic.
How are the hot springs?
CALIDAD! They relax you. But I don’t have time…
What are your hours?
I work from 8 til 7 at night.
What time do you get up in the morning?
At 5 in the morning. To do housework, wash clothes, make breakfast. I get home at 8 at night, then I cook dinner, wash dishes, sweep.
Your husband is lucky!
Nope, I’m single.
Only two, Maria and Sebastian. He just started kindergarten, his first year.
The classic dish is our beef stew. With cabbage, carrot, guisquil, corn, potatoes, a little bit of stone-ground hot pepper.
How much do you make?
Here we make maybe 500, 600 a week. Vegetables don’t make much money. What I’ve seen is that the little stores make more money selling dog food, the cat food, parrot food, sunflower seeds and canary food, the pigeon corn. And the dry beans and rice. Vegetables always go bad, so that’s why we don’t make a lot. You have to sell grains or cooking oil to make a lot.
I see you often speak K’iché.
We grew up like our fathers and mothers, they don’t speak very much Spanish, just K’iché, but through selling I learned good Spanish.
What do you like about Almolonga?
The sun comes out at 6 in the morning, and the air is crisp and carries the smell of vegetables. In the afternoon, the sun goes down, and at four we’re already in the shade. It’s a nice atmosphere.
Everyone should visit the hot spings of Almolonga. Hot water, many baths. This relaxes the body. Most people go to Zunil. But there they don’t clean their baths like we do, and they don’t have restrooms. Ours do. And our houses have garden terraces, and our home bathrooms are great. We have hot spring baths in our houses.