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
I have no luz and I must scream
On a particular Sunday late in March, the streets of Xela were alive with the sound of generators. The power company was doing maintenance work on transformers at the sub-station that provides electricity to the valley; all of Xela, and all of the municipalities around it, were without power from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon.
The fair pages of Xelawho have seen complaints about power before. They will likely see complaints about power in the future. Nevertheless, let us reiterate: this is bullshit. Where exactly do they get off flipping the switch and leaving an urban area with near half a million people without power for an entire day? What about those of us who work online? Who have no strong desire to take a cold shower? Who don’t own a generator?.
We At The Hotel, Motel, Walmart Inn
Xela has a new hotel. The newly opened Latam Hotel, painted in milque and smartly trimmed with toast, rises for eleven stories over Walmart and the adjoining mall. It’s one of the newfangled high rises endeavoring to give Zone 3 a skyline, and it’s now accepting guests and open for business.
Inside, Latam is all glitz and glam—it’s got the refinement and obsessively mopped sheen of any overpriced international chain in, say, Zone 10 of the capital. The roof has a heated pool, which are truly rare in Xela, and a jacuzzi from which you can look out on the all-consuming haze of smog and dust that marks the end of the dry season. Were it not for the smog, you could in theory see Santa Maria, Cerro Quemado, and the Babel-like concrete spire of the half finished Utz Ulew mall.
For the enticingly low price of Q650-1,500 a night—merely what your faithfuleditor spends on rent each month—you too could enjoy that view. Latam is conveniently located near the Pradera mall, which boasts an impressive selection of sneaker shops, tinny Musak, and fast food. If you’re not interested in shopping, then the centro historico is just a microbus ride away. Microbuses, as you probably know, are for the poors and other undesirables (ex: your faithful editor) so it may be better to catch one of those consistently overpriced 40q taxis behind the San Martin bakery.
Latam only cost 50 million quetzales to build, which is a steal for 69 five star rooms (nice). It’s even got a restaurant and a gymnasium. According to their marketing materials, they hope to attract medical professionals (plausible), professionals and businessmen (also plausible), NGO workers (at Q650 a night?) and students (really?) Maybe students whose daddies own coffee plantations and are paying out-of-pocket for them to study economics at Marroquin while not on vacations to Amsterdam. Seriously, though, what student is going to stay there when you can pay Q35 for a flea-bitten mattress and a ceiling a few inches from your nose at a bargain pension literally anywhere else in the city?