by Diana Pastor
A few weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook of a guy from Cajolá, (one of the poorest municipalities of Quetzaltenango) who made a video of himself doing a cover of a rap song. What made it noteworthy? The song was in the Mayan language Mam. Soon after the video had been posted it had received numerous comments. Most were positive and congratulated the artist for giving his own cultural touch to a popular music genre. Others wrote that his rapping sounded pretty good, but that it would have been better in Spanish so that they could understand it. Some others seemed quite amazed how he was able to match the Mam words to the hip-hop rhythm.
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by Simone Riddle
Upon arriving in Xela four years ago I bought a Guatemalan recipe book. Food is my passion. It connects us to people and to cultures, and in my opinion is one of the best ways to get to know a country and those that inhabit it.
I came up with a project in which I would create one of the dishes from the recipe book per week. In hindsight it was an overly ambitious project. I consider myself a fairly competent cook yet I could not make sense of many of the instructions given. The writers assumed everyone knows the traditional techniques used here, such as toasting seeds and tomatoes to make the base of their ‘salsas’ or that one would know Guiskil could be made into a dessert as well as being served as regular boiled vegetable – I got looks of horror when I once served stuff guiskil with raisons and cinnamon as a main course next to a portion of broccoli! If it wasn’t for my Huehuetecan housemate I would have given up after the first couple of recipes. So to ensure that you folks don’t suffer the same fate, Xela Who brings you gringo-friendly Chapin recipes so Guatemalan food can live on forever, in our bellies and our hearts.
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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.
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.
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P o p p i n g
Daughter of Xelaju
And so have begun the long, long string of beauty pageants in Xela, to come to a culmination in September amongst all the other independence festivities. The most notable one in August was the Umial Tinimit Re Xelajuj No’j (the Daughter of Xelajju), which was rather difficult to miss due to the huge posters of the contestants hanging up in Central Park during the build-up to the big event. After an intense session of traditional dances, speeches on the role of women in politics and decision making in Guatemala, and a barrage of questions on a variety of topics ranging from mining, education, culture, and the youth, the judges made their decision and crowned Vivian Aracely Marín Chojolán. We would recommend checking out some of the other pageants during September – they can be quite an experience. Particularly worth checking out will be the one for the National Flower of the Mayan People and the one to select MISTER Guatemala, where the boys get to have a go at being beauty queen. Check out the events section for details.
F lo p p i n g
August 2013 saw Xela once again witness to heavy flooding in the streets, after a only a few minutes of intense rain. Zone 2 was the hardest hit, with rivers flowing through the streets and into people’s homes and businesses. As always, everybody is quick to point the finger at everybody else, and nothing is done to combat the persistent problem in Xela. Residents blame the municipality and the mayor for not fulfilling promises to install adequate drainage (no surprise there). The municipality blames local residents and businesses for not disposing of rubbish responsibly and blocking drainage systems with garbage, such as the Rio Seco which used to serve as a storm drain but these days looks more like an open sewer. Both are right of course, but it will be a miracle before both sides stop the finger-pointing & actually do something about it.
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by Diana Pastor
My next door neighbour has 3 children: Anthony, Jason and Brian. No, they’re not American. They are only part of the phenomenon that in recent years has led to Guatemalans baptizing their children with English names, or with popular names in other languages, with European favourites being particularly popular. It’s a phenomenon that has been growing over time, leading to a declining use of Latino names, whilst people with Mayan names are becoming rarer and rarer.
Jennifer, Ashley, Allison and Kathleen are some of the most common names for girls. Sure, there are also some more unusual ones. I read an article a few years ago in the newspaper about the most unusual names in Guatemala: one girl was baptized as Brittney Spears (as her first names) Rodríguez Shiloj. And the boys are certainly not left out either. You can not only find a host of Brians, Davids, Johnathons, Michaels or Charlies across the country. There are also names that are particularly unusual, as in the case of a child who was baptized as Terminator Jesus (after the famous film star Schwarzenegger and Jesus Christ). A real solid blend of Guatemalan and American culture. This is no joke, this actually happened in Guatemala. The civil registry employees across the country act as witnesses to the ingenuity, taste and creativity of Guatemalan parents.
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Last week we at XelaWho took you on the journey of Central American folklore to introduce you to such legends as El Cadejo, the dog of the drunks that roams the streets at night looking to protect or prey-upon those it encounters, and the Mico Brujos, the prankster, fruit-throwing witch monkeys that journey across the forests looking for unsuspecting victims. This month it’s time to introduce you to some more spirits that you may encounter on the darkened streets of Central America.
Perhaps the most famous tale is that of La Llorona, Guatemala’s archetypal boogey(wo)man, used to scare the wits out of little children and prevent them from roaming the streets unaccompanied at nights. According to legend, La Llorona was a woman named Maria who lived many years ago. She had two children and fell in love with a younger man who didn’t want the responsibility of looking after her burdensome kids. So she could be with him, she took her children to the Rio Pensativo of Antigua and drowned them. A rather drastic measure and one that she quickly regretted when the fickle young man proceeded to tell her that he didn’t want to be with her anyway (in fairness to the guy, the whole children-drowning thing was probably a bit of a turn-off…). After coming to terms with the gravity of what she had done, Maria took her own life. She then became trapped between the spirit world and the living world, – cursed to wonder the streets at night looking for her children and wailing “Aaayyyy, mis hijos!” (“Oh, my children!”). It is said that she will kidnap stray children who resemble her own and they will never be see again…
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P o p p i n g
Progress on Salcajá
A lot of crime goes by in Guatemala unpunished. Heck, if you know the right people in the right places you can pretty much get away with ripping the whole country off for millions of dollars. Alternatively one can just obtain their get-out-of-jail-free card by getting elected as president… Having said that, storming a police station in broad daylight and shooting dead 8 police officers is not an act that is taken lightly, no matter how dirty said police officers were. And to give the current administration credit – they have certainly pursued this particular incident with vigor. Six men have already been arrested in association with the crime and the police have identified the criminal syndicate that they believe was responsible for executing the raid. They are currently offering a whopping Q100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the elusive “Guayo”, the leader of the group.
F lo p p i n g
Noise Brigades Return
Ahhh… there’s just nothing like that feeling of waking up at 7am to the sound of thumping drum beats, crashing symbols and wailing trumpets. It can only mean that time of year has arrived upon us once again – marching band season where the local school bands endlessly practice their marching routines at all hours of the day in preparation for the celebrations on September 15. To be fair, the bands certainly need their practice – some poor music teacher is set the daunting task of putting together a band that anyone in the school is allowed to join (regardless of music ability or knowledge of the songs) and getting them to perform something that at least remotely sounds like a song… in time with each other. Good luck to them.
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By Susana Ramundo
Our culture is full of customs, beliefs and traditions that distinguish our nation from others. Humanity itself created the concept of sin to manipulate its social and familial environment. So that she doesn’t have to keep telling her child to be still, the mother tells him that it’s a sin to stick his head into the fabric she is weaving, otherwise he will stop growing. Obviously the real reason is that she will never be able to make any progress with her work if he keeps being a nuisance every couple of minutes.
The neck is one of the most sensitive parts of the human being, sexually speaking, and so is it a sin for a woman to touch the back of the neck of a man because if she does he will lose all his wisdom and become a fool? Or is it a sin because any man can quickly become rather foolish in response to a touch from a woman’s delicate hands on one of those sensitive parts of the human body?
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Those walking back home at night in Xela a little tipsy after one-too-many cuba libres will almost certainly encounter a street dog or two (or ten) on their stumble home, usually to be found devouring mountains of rubbish bags piled up high on street corners. Just about any encounter with these shaggy animals on the streets at night can feel like a scene straight-out of a horror movie, especially when they look up from their garbage gourmet to stare at you with their frenzied eyes, reflecting the lights of the streets above.
However, according to Guatemalan legend there is one dog in particular (or rather two, to be precise) that those wondering the streets at night need to be wary of. Its name is El Cadejo. Legend goes that it is a spirit that roams the streets of Guatemala (and also El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras & Southern Mexico – he gets around) at night, taking the form of a shaggy dog with fiery eyes and goat´s hooves. It has a particular affinity with drunken people, although those under the influence need to be wary (a lot to ask I know) as El Cadejo takes two forms.
The first is the white Cadejo, and there are no prizes for guessing that this one is the good one. This incarnation will guard inebriated people against those who try to rob or hurt them, including against its doppelganger: the black Cadejo. Some say that the black Cadejo is an incarnation of the devil himself that can freeze anyone with its gaze and will attack and kill unsuspecting victims on sight. According to legend, many have tried to vanquish the black Cadejo, but have failed and perished – so we would recommend, well, running (or stumbling) if you happen to encounter him on the streets of Xela.
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P o p p i n g
Guatemala´s obsession with beauty pageants (there aren´t too many places with an pageants for Miss Electricity Company or the Municipal Employee´s Girlfriend) reaches its annual climax on the 5th of July with the finals for the Miss Guatemalan Universe Competition, which will be held right here in Quetzaltenango. We will of course be cheering for Ana Mayela Aguilar Rivas, who will be representing Xela for the competition (which hasn’t won since 2008)!
F lo p p i n g
Police Station Siege
It´s not like we´re unaccustomed to violence here in Xela, but the events that unraveled in Salcajá on the 13th of June were enough to shock the nation. An armed gang of at least 10 men brazenly stormed into the police station in the Central Park of the normally tranquil municipality of Salcajá and killed 8 police offices. Unsurprisingly, narcotrafficking is suspected, although exact motives remain unknown.
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