By Diana Pastor
I’ve made a bet with friends and acquaintances for some time and it has always been foolproof. I offer to give them a Q50.00 note if they can tell me who the person whose face it is that appears on the note. No one has ever been successful. Who is this mystery man and the others that appear on our money?
On the Q1.00 note (which, according to the Bank of Guatemala will not be around for much longer as the production of these notes will stop in 2017), is José María Orellana. He was the president of this country between 1921 and 1926. During his rule, the quetzal was created as the country’s official currency. It is believed that he was poisoned by his enemies when resting in a hotel room in Antigua Guatemala and so he was unable to finish his term as president.
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By Simone Riddle
‘How hard can cooking rice be?’ you may ask. Well, that used to be my attitude until I moved to Guatemala. My lesson in cooking rice took place on one of the first times I invited friends over to have a curry for dinner. I had decided to wait to cook the rice knowing that my friends would rock up an hour later than agreed (coincidentally, they did). Just as I was about to pour the rice into a pan of boiling water, I hear my friend scream “No! Vos Simoné, que hacés?” The condemnation in his voice was so great it was as if I was about to drop a small child into the pan. That’s how I received my first lesson in how to cook rice properly: o sea, arroz a la chapina. I have never served up stodgy rice again.
Every family will have una versión propia of this recipe. There will be variations of the veduras cortadas, don’t worry about these minor differences too much; never ever question your host mom’s recipe. Nunca.
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by Shad Qudsi
“To many of us who experienced the ferment of the late 1960′s, there seemed to be no positive direction forward, although almost everybody could define those aspects of the global society that they rejected, and these include military adventurism, the bomb, ruthless land exploitation, the arrogance of polluters, and a general insensitivity to human and environmental needs.”
Bill Mollison (considered the ‘father Permaculture’).
Almost 30 years after this publication, this statement is truer than ever before. Across the planet, there is a growing awareness of the inequalities promulgated by our current arrangement. Within most people, there is a deep-down understanding that at some point, we as a species will be held accountable for all of these egregious actions. And yet, despite this awareness, we are still at a loss as to what direction we should now take. The question is, what should we do now? We don’t agree with war. We don’t agree with the exploitation of resources and marginalized people. We don’t agree with the direction in which our species is headed. But now what? Where do we go from here?
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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.
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P o p p i n g
Guatemala never ceases to amaze us with its wonders. There´s often talk about the mysterious forgotten Mayan city that lies at the bottom of Lake Atitlan, but no one really knew much about it. Until now. This year a documentary called Mayan Blue (“Samabaj: La Atlantida Maya” in Spanish) was released, which charts the discovery and exploration of the 2000 year-old lost city, Samabaj. It links the investigation to the Mayan cosmovision and a catastrophe that fundamentally reshaped everything they believed about the earth and the origins of their underworld. National Geographic showed the Spanish version for the first time in August and will most likely be showing repeats which you can watch if you have a TV. You can also find a copy of the Spanish version on Youtube.
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by Diana Pastor
Given that I’m currently traveling, I’m going to take the opportunity to write this month’s XelaWho article on the different types of Guatemalan travellers that you could come across abroad. Let’s separate them into 3 groups, taking the example from the different kinds of airline tickets you can buy: first class, business and economy.
First class: Here you’ll find all of the government officials. Between summits, meetings and exchanges our politicians have made ??more than 260 trips in two years, not by plane, but by helicopter, and most of them using this form of transport for short-distance travel. One such trip was made by the president’s secretary, who instead of driving a car for 45 minutes decided it was necessary to take a simple, if not exactly cheap, trip in a helicopter. The cost? Almost $3,500. It is estimated that if the government used land transport instead of using helicopters in some of the trips that they have scheduled, it would lead to a 3500% reduction in their budget for transport.
read more of "On Travelling, Classes and Guatemalans"
by Simone Riddle
If there’s one thing Guatemalans can do better than anyone, it’s beans. Although Mexicans have many winning dishes, their beans, which are dark red in color are definitely inferior to Guatemalan frijoles negros. Cheap to buy, simple to cook and high in protein, black beans should be a staple ingredient for all extranjeros living in Xela.
This is an adapted version of the traditional ‘sopa de frijol’ taught to me by a compañera in AMA (Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano) a women’s association who offer traditional Mayan cooking classes to visitors in Xela. The original soup normally contains bacon but I think that gives it quite an overpowering taste. So for all you non-pork eaters, here’s the vegetarian alternative with broccoli florets to give the soup a bit more substance. This recipe uses tinned beans for those that neither have the utensils nor the time to cook them from scratch, making it an excellent mid-week dinner for when you’re short on time.
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by Juan Pablo Echeverria
“How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?”
— George Carlin
So you’ve been working on your garden for a few months, you have your tomatoes growing, your herbs have fully established themselves and are growing well. Your lettuce and other greens are providing you with your daily vitamins and minerals. All is well in your backyard food garden. You might now be ready to introduce a new element into your flourishing environment. CHICKENS!
Having chickens as part of your garden will not only provide you with eggs and meat but will also complete the cycle within your garden as they are great sources of nitrogen and can help you produce the soil you´ll need to continue to grow more delicious and nutritious food.
So what does it take to have happy, healthy chickens in your garden?
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Happy Birthday to us! XelaWho turns the grand old age of 9 years old this month. That’s pretty good going, we’d say – if we were a dog we’d be 63 years old now, which is really old. But fortunately we’re not, so there’s still a good few more years of life to be squeezed out of us yet (we hope).
It is often said that with old age comes maturity and wisdom – but sadly neither of these things have yet to materialise at XelaWho, so you can rest assured that our ninth birthday is not going to lead to some sort of revelation or mid-life crisis in which we decide to bore the socks off you by filling XelaWho with actual serious content. You all have Revue Magazine for that.
A lot has happened since we started this modest magazine way back in 2005. So what better way celebrate our 9th Birthday Special Edition than by looking back at some of the highlights and lowlights of the past 9 years, both in Guatemala and across the world? We therefore present to you our definitively inconclusive list of “things that have happened since 2005”:
* 1.24 billion people have been born – equivalent to almost the entire population of China – while half a billion have died, leading to an increase of around 700 million people in the world’s population
* Guatemala won its first ever medal at the Olympics.
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P o p p i n g
Nice One Germany
Alas, that’s it for the Football World Cup for another 4 years – now the population of Xela will have to invent some other kinds of excuses in order to drink copious amounts of beer at 10 in the morning (September’s coming up soon guys, don’t get too twitchy!).
For someone whose enthusiasm for football ranges from totally uninterested to “alright then, I’ll come and watch the game but only if we watch it somewhere that serves alcoholic beverages,” I’ll be the first to admit that it was a pretty thrilling competition. From some of the amazing performances by the underdogs (a special shout out going to Costa Rica – so close to reaching the semis!), the abysmally embarrassing performances by some of the “big names” (Spain, England and a particularly big WTF from Brazil’s last two matches), to the nail-biting games decided in the last few minutes, it was certainly a fun ride! And a big congrats to the Germans for walking away triumphantly with the cup at the end of it all.
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