Each month we send our field correspondent, Jalapeño Jacobo, to interview and harass one of Xela’s most infamous extranjeros to find out why the hell they’ve lived in Xela for so long (just kidding Xela, we love you.) This month we spoke to Alyce Devlin, who is originally from Melbun’, Australia but is now co-owner of Mandarina here in Xela.
What brought you to Xela and how long were you planning on staying?
I came to Xela in November 2014 to brush up on my Spanish. My plan was to stay for two months and then move on to Mexico where I was going to retire.
And so what happened?
Well it was going to take more than two months to fix my Spanish. A warning to all the newcomers: Spanish is harder than you think.. I also just really liked Xela, and decided that if I liked it, why leave.
What were your first impressions of the city?
It was grungy. And there were a lot of drunks sleeping on the street. Definitely not the prettiest city I had been to.
And you still stayed?
I liked the grunginess, it felt more real and less shiny than other places I had traveled. And Ok, I also met a hot young boy…
Ahhh so you stayed for a boy?
Nooo, but it was definitely a part of the attraction.
read more of "Stuck in Xela"
XelaWho’s ear-the-ground correspondent, Alex Mac, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to Luis, proprietor of the world famous Taiwanese Empanada shop just across the road from the Yoga House. A tried a true go-to of Xela’s hungover and hungry, these guys really know how to satisfy a craving…
So Luis, you’re originally from Taiwan, right? So how did you end up in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala?
Well about 18 years ago my son came here to study medicine at the San Carlos University and he said Xela would be a great place for me and his mother to move. So the following year, we did!
Wow, that’s quite a move. So when did you start the empanada shop?
Pretty much straight away when we got here. We needed to make some cash and I knew how to cook.
So how did the famous Taiwanese Empanada come about?
I invented it when we started the store. I guess it just made sense. Guatemala, Taiwan, Empanadas, Chilli Oil. It just all came together.
And you’ve got a team of young Guatemalan ladies working with you, do you all speak Taiwanese together?
Ah, they’ve been here a couple of years and are picking it up well. Probably more than my Spanish!
So how is it different living here in Xela not Taiwan? Do you go back to visit?
It’s a lot better here, I love it here. I go back to visit each year or two but this is my home, where I have my business and my family.
So there’s another Taiwanese restaurant that just opened up in town. Do you know them?
Yeah, we’re mates. It’s a small (extremely small) Taiwanese community here in Xela so everyone knows everyone.
read more of "Xelebrity of the Month"
By Auntie Dolores
Dear Auntie Dolores,
I’ve been living in the city for 2 weeks and few days ago I had my first date here with a Guatemalan woman. We met in front of the theatre and headed to a bar. I wanted to share a litro with her but she said that she doesn’t drink. I thought to myself umm strange but I can deal with that — at least on our first date — I know other people that don’t drink and they are fine, most of the time. Besides, we were having a good time together and she wanted to meet again on Sunday. But it wasn’t exactly the meeting I was expecting: she wanted me to go to the church with her. At this point I was confused, no alcohol, and church? Also she needed to be home at 7pm! There was definitely something weird going on. I asked her about all this and she explained, “Soy Mormona.” This marked the end of the date: she went home — it was already 7 — and I polished off another liter of cabro wondering how I can get better at dating in Xela. What is a Mormona? What can I do to have fun with this person?? I would be grateful for any piece of advice that you may have for me Auntie Dolores. Thanks in advance!
read more of "The Unbeliever"
Backpackers in Guatemala are a strange breed. Many come to the land of the Maya seeking an authentic adventure, claiming to be a different type of traveller to those that swarm into the likes of Cancun and Costa Rica‘s tourist traps on made-to-order package holidays. And yet, pretty much every single backpacker that you meet in Guatemala is on the same route, visiting the same places and staying at the same hostels (usually those hosting the best parties).
Don‘t get us wrong, we have nothing against the ?Top 10 Places to Visit in Guatemala? that are recommended by all guidebooks: Tikal, Semuc Champey, Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the likes are all epic spots that should be visited by anyone traversing the country. Nor do we have anything against Guatemala‘s infamous backpacker hostels: on more than one occasion the staff here at XelaWho have found themselves necking tequila late at night in their underwear at the bars of said hostels (sorry Mum).
Nonetheless, it is somewhat disappointing that in a country with as much to offer as Guatemala, so relatively few places are visited and so few backpackers get ?off the beaten track? to visit some of the country‘s less known, but equally jaw -dropping, spots.
Perhaps at the top of the list of the most underrated places in Guatemala is the department of Huehuetenango. So in this month‘s issue of XelaWho we‘re here to give you our top tips on getting to and travelling around what is frankly one of the most all-round beautiful areas in the country.
Unfortunately, there‘s still not much tourist infrastructure in Huehue which means that getting there and getting around can be a bit of a hassle. If you can, we recommend hitting up some locals with a car and suggesting that they travel with you (with their car of course, although you should tell them that it‘s their valuable company that you‘re really after). Just make sure that said car is in good condition and will not break down half way there, forcing you to hitch for the rest of the trip — as happened on XelaWho‘s fabled journey to Huehue earlier this year.
An excellent place to base yourself for travelling around is the remote town of Chacula?, which has lodgings called Posada Rural Finca Chacula?, offering a limited selection of private rooms and camping space next to a lake. If you can ?t access a car, then you can get there by taking a bus to Huehuetenango and from there you can either get a direct bus to Chacula? or you can take a bus to Nenton and then from there either get a micro or a pick-up to Chacula?. Once you‘re there, it‘s pretty easy to get to nearby spots, either in your own car, by hiring private transport from the local town (a rather expensive option) or by hitching on the back of pick-up trucks.
read more of "A Way Away in HueHue"
XelaWho’s ear-the-ground correspondent, Alex Mac, brings you the stories behind the famous faces you see around town in Xela. This month he spoke to Aldo and Rafael, the guys in charge at the world famous late night taco stand “El Quetzalteco” on the corner of Parque Central near the Dispensa Familar. If you’ve been out late stumbling around Xela and aren’t vegetarian these guys have probably saved your life… or at least eased your hangover!
So where are you guys from?
Aldo: I’m from Totonicapan. Rafael is from San Mateo Chiquito in Quiche?.
Wow, so far away. So how did you end up in Xela?
We both moved here for this job a couple of months ago. There isn’t much work back home and this was a good opportunity for us.
What’s it like working at the cart?
It’s great. We really like the work. We make lots of money but it’s a commission of our sales so we have to sell lots of tacos.
Alright, I’ll be sure to tell everyone to drink up and come gets some tacos later on. So who do you work for?
The owner is a guy called Roberto. He’s only got this cart but he’s a good owner, he treats us well.
read more of "Xelebrity of the Month"
Hola Macha. Prefieres hablar en inglés o español?
I’m much more charming in English
Sure.. let’s do that then
Alright. So what brought you to Xela and how long were you planning on staying?
I came to volunteer at Trama Textiles, a women’s weaving cooperative based here in Xela. I arrived in May 2014 and I was originally planning to stay for three months.
So what happened?
I really liked the community here right away. It’s so laid back, you can be working and it feels like you’re on vacation. When I arrived I was actually coming from the United States and planning to move back after volunteering at Trama, but in the end I realized Xela was much closer to what I was looking for.
Definitely. And what do you do here now?
About a year ago I started a smoothie and juice bar called Frutopia which is now located on sexta calle just a block and a half east of Parque Central.
(Editors note: Frutopia is delicious. Jalopeño Jacobo recommends the Del Bosque smoothie but everything’s tasty)
read more of "Stuck in Xela"
Twitter lit up this month with the news that ex-army captain (and killer of Bishop Gerardi — a fierce opponent of the Guatemalan military) Byron Lima was killed in a prison riot by a rival prison gang. Lima is said have been one of the most powerful inmates in Guatemala and was only 3 years away from serving his 20 year sentence for the murder. The #ByronLima hashtag was bustling with crocodile tears for the infamous tool of the Guatemalan military regime and plenty of conspiracy theories on who wanted to keep him quiet about his powerful friends and their secrets. @XimeEnriquez didn’t believe the extremely graphic photos of dead Lima and reckons he has 11 other inmates killed in the riot to fake his own death and is in hiding. Sounds about right to me!
Well surprise surprise… after the Jimmy Morales came to power (supposedly) free from political back- scratching debts (except the frequent rumours about him being in the army’s pocket) the military budget has increased faster than any other sector’s. Guatemalan’s flocked to #AJimmyLeDigo (I’d Say to Jimmy) to point out how corruption in Guatemala seems to never end after the story was broken in a Prensa Libre article last month. @ChapineroTuv reminds us that unlike Otto Perez, at least Jimmy pays back his debts… #ElChapoGusman.
Poke?mon Go has taken the world by storm this month and has every unemployed 28-year-old feeling like they have a sense of purpose again. Guatemalans expressed their outrage on social media while watching overgrown nerds from other countries play the game until it’s official launch in Guatemala in late July when they could simply complain about their phone not being compatible with the game. Unfortunately, Guatemala has set a world first for the game with 18- year-old Jerson Lopez de Leon from Chiquimula becoming the first person in the world to be killed while playing the game. Jerson and his cousin Daniel broke into a house presumably to catch a Poke?mon after which Jerson was shot and killed and Daniel was badly injured. The tweets under the #Pokemon_Go_Guatemala, hashtag however, largely brushed over this with every manchild and his Pikachu instead racing to post their funniest memes.
Guatemalan twitter has been buzzing with the super popular hashtag #GIRLSTALKBOYS this month. Your editor checked it out, thinking it was something about turning the tables on machismo with a Girl Stalking Boys. Apparently Girls Talk Boys is a worldwide hit song from the new Ghostbusters movie which has also taken off in Guatemala and which doesn’t have anything to do with girls stalking boys. It’s the kids that are out of touch… it must be…
By La Salsa Inglesa
These outstanding quesadillas were inspired by the first vegetarian Chapi?n I met in Guatemala (and the most chilera), often found frequenting Tan Lechuga Yo at lunchtimes. First sampled at one of the longest standing vegetarian restaurants in Guatemala City, Rey Sol, these quesadillas have been my go-to fast food recipe for many years. Even the Taco King at Tacorazon admitted they were delicious!
Using the simple ingredients: carrot, cream cheese and tortillas, nothing can prepare you for how good the combination of melted cream cheese, spiced carrot and toasted flour tortillas will be. With no culinary skill or equipment required and ready in around 20-30 minutes this dish makes for a perfect light mid-week dinner or lunchtime snack.
read more of "Cream Cheese and Carrot Quesadillas"
By Auntie Dolores
Dear Auntie Dolores,
Some of my friends always say that I overreact and that I am always looking for drama in my life. On this occasion, however, I think I have good reason to worry.
Firstly, I’m gay and I recently broke up with my boyfriend. Of course, I miss him and it has been hard to get over him but now I am beginning to find other distractions, if you know what I mean, and I am starting to feel much better. However, there is just one problem; I’ve been dreaming a lot lately and these dreams are the cause of my concern. Why? Well, I’m dreaming constantly about a friend… about a female friend!!! And I’m not dreaming about her in friendly situations!
This is the first time this has happened to me and I’m rather confused, to say the least. I have always had a reputation as a man’s man and have only ever been attracted to, and been a magnet for, other men. However, I see this girl or, rather woman, so often in Xela and I have these feelings which have started to feel somewhat awkward… oh god, this city feels so small sometimes!
I thought it would be a good idea to kiss her to show myself that this is nothing more than a stage but I don’t think her boyfriend will be happy about it, nor let me in his bar.
Auntie Dolores, you know that Xela is the kingdom of gossip and I would never want the rumor to spread and to ruin my flamboyant notoriety/reputation.
Please Auntie Dolores help me, what can I do to stop this madness?
– Chivo Drama King
Hi Chivo Drama King,
First of all you need to relax. Madness? At this point I have to agree with your friends when they say that you overreact. Sometimes we dream things that our subconscious wants us to act out. In which case go with your gut feelings and take this girl out for a drink and, as for her boyfriend… well, maybe he‘ll be interested in joining in the fun. Or maybe, it‘s really him you are dreaming of! As for your reputation, don‘t worry, if it‘s the girl or her boyfriend, Xela is quite an open city and this is the 21st century. Remember, there is nothing wrong with a gay man having a physical relationship with a female.
If you would prefer not to confront your feelings, then perhaps you should distract yourself. Go out for a Cabro, or three, and activate your Grindr profile; I have no doubt the ?distractions‘ will come fast. If this is not your style put on your high heels and have a cross-dressing party at your place.
Either way just remember to enjoy yourself and never close yourself up in the closet again, it doesn‘t matter if you‘re dreaming of a boy or a girl… just set your mind free!
Have your own burning question that you would like to send to Aunty Dolores? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Diana Pastor
Not all travellers are able to enjoy the luxury of cruising in a shuttle or first class bus. Sometimes, when you‘re strapped for cash, not running on a tight schedule, or need to travel to remote places, traveling by chicken bus may be your only option. Sometimes the novelty stepping onto one of these colorful, noisy, exhaust-spewing buses touring throughout Guatemala is what ends up defining our Guatemalan experience. Your journey may be (slightly) more pleasant if you take a few precautions however — precautions that can help you avoid problems or bad experiences on a journey through the beautiful country of Guatemala.
One of the most important things you have to know as a chicken bus traveler is that you should never carry much luggage. There is usually not enough space in the overhead storage bins of the bus, and they‘re quite small anyway. Even if you get on a empty bus, sometimes the ayudantes (the men who collect the bus fares) will want to charge extra for luggage in addition to the passage already paid. If you‘re in a bind and need to carry luggage with you to your destination, keep all valuables in one bag, and keep that bag on your lap. Throw your backpack or suitcase on top of the bus with the help of an ayudante. Be careful, though, during rainy season! Your bag may get completely soaked if it‘s on the top of the bus. It‘s best to check the forecast and plan accordingly.
read more of "Top Tips for Chicken Bus Travelers"