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XelaWho by Issue

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Guatemala in the Panama Papers

By Fathouse Productions

You’d trust a company called Brodway (not a typo) Commerce Inc., right? Well, so did Mossack Fonseca, the money-laundering, shell company-creating, law-skirting Panamanian law firm whose leaked documents are the now-famous “Panama Papers”. The firm saw no problem creating Brodway Commerce as a shell company for Guatemalan entrepreneur Marllory (also not a typo) Chacón, the Queen of the South and one of the most successful female drug kingpins of all time.

It appears that Mossack Fonseca did not even do the least bit of research on the Queen before accepting her as its client and allowed her to launder millions of drug dollars. Guatemala’s corporate sector appreciates that kind of… trust, putting Guatemala 6th on the list of countries home to the businesses that hired the now-infamous Mossack Fonseca (after the other trust-loving corporate havens of Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland, the US, and Panama).

But Mossack Fonseca’s trustiness and Marllory Chacón’s use of the firm wasn’t the star of the leaks here in Guatemala. It was the lawyer who had hooked up the Queen with Mossack Fonseca: Francisco Palomo.

Top 5 Churches to See in Guatemala

By Diana Pastor

I love Catholic churches… both for their architectural value and because they reflect a part of culture. I have always thought that churches near Xela have styles and special features that make them ideal touristic sites for those looking to appreciate local architecture. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most special churches in and around Xela so you can visit them and learn a little about thesevaluable religious jewels from the west.

At the top of the list is the La Iglesia de la Ermita, located in the municipality of Salcajá. This church was built in 1524 and still stands today… without having had any major modifications! It was the first church built in Central America and the first to be named a Christian church in Guatemala. Getting there is easy: you can take a bus to Salcajá from La Rotunda in Xela and it should only take you around 30 minutes.

Close to Salcajá, not in the Department of Quetzaltenango but in Department of Totonicapán, is la Iglesia deSan Andrés Xecul. It is a psychedelic-like monument that attracts many tourists for its bright colors.

To get there, take a bus to go to San Francisco el Alto and ask the driver or attendant to drop you at the stop “La Morería”. Once you’re there, you’ll cross the road and take a pick up or tuk-tuk to take you to the center of San Andres.

TEDx Comes to Xela!

Can an idea change the world? Are dreams worth having?

By itself, ideas are only figments of one’s imagination, concepts of fantasy. Implemented, however, ideas can bring about profound impacts and become the seeds of change. Think about how microfinance has spread worldwide and transformed the lives of millions. Or how a personal idea of yours has changed the trajectory of your life.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is coming to Xela for the first time in history! Organized by a team of committed volunteers, TEDxPuenteDeLos Chocoyos will bring together the best minds of Xela from a variety of fields for a one-day conference focused on the concept of taking actions for your dreams. The theme of the event is “Ser Nefelibatas, caminar soñando”, which literally means to be a dreamer, but walk while dreaming. The event will showcase speeches divided into 4 main themes: Pequeño a Grande, Jamás pensé, Jamás sonè, Sín Limites and Sueños Unidos. Yes, all the speeches will be in Spanish.

The team has put together 10-12 speakers who are weaved into the fabric of Guatemala. They include Carlos Guzman, the entrepreneur who grew Xelapan from a single store to the chain it is today, JuanCarlos Barrios, the guitarist of the famed Bohemia Urbana, the Xela-famous Bonifaz, who has used theatre to talk about issues ranging from migration to the importance of water, and Luis Grijalva, Xela’s current mayor. It is our hope that their stories will inspire the audience to start taking actions for their dreams.

Xelebrity of the Month

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.

IMG_8565Strong women: Ana and her daughter Maria.

Shits McGee and the Levadura Hongos

By Rotten Tacos

When I visited home last summer the family was planning on participating in a 5k fun run at our local small town festival that celebrates the 80th year of getting drunk in a beer tent in name of an obscure root vegetable.

Heading to bed the night before my mother asked me “So what time are you getting up tomorrow before the run?”  And I responded casually, coolly, comfortably, “Meh, like 6…enough time to eat breakfast and take a shit.”  My entire family stopped what they were doing, turned, and looked at me with “WHAT did you just say?!” faces.

Apparently nonchalantly mentioning your bowels in any context has not become the vogue trend in the rural U.S. of A. I put the blame on living in Xela.  “Why weren’t you in class?” “Why weren’t you out Friday?” “Why did you leave in the middle of a sentence when we were talking at lunch?”  And the answer is nearly always “I’m not feeling well”, an accepted statement that immediately symbolizes understanding by all of the ailment and side effect of this locale.

A true way to really participate in the local culture, the stomach bug is worn somewhat as a badge of accidental pride among those visiting and residing in Xela. And with so many options, you could spend years testing the resilience of your colon and immune system.

Sunshine Mango Salsa Recipe

By La Salsa Inglesa

It’s our favorite season in Xela: mango season so here’s a mango recipe to take full advantage of the current gluttony. This salsa uses raw ingredients and should be ready in about 10 minutes. It goes well as a side for grilled chicken, fish or even tacos, and with intense, fresh flavors it makes a memorable dish for Xela’s Mangospotluck scene; double the quantity if there’s a large group.

There are two important things to know about mangos that I’ll share with you having learnt through my own mistakes. 1) There are different varieties of mango depending on how you’re going to use them 2) Cutting a mango is an art.

Having recently returned to Xela and somewhat out of practice in mango shopping I was lured by the cheaper ‘3 por Q5’ deal at Mercado Central. When I cut the mangos the flesh was so stringy my salsa looked more like spaghetti. I then realized I’d bought mangos para chupar (the smaller, yellow variety) rather than Tomi mangos. Tomi mangos are the largest kind; firm to touch I never bought them thinking they were unripe. Tomi mangos are more expensive at ‘3 por Q10’ but perfect for this recipe. I’m not that confident in choosing the best mangos so I tend to ask the market seller to choose mangos  ‘para hoy’ or ‘para mañana’, depending on when I’ll use them.

Secondly, how you cut a mango can mean the difference between a mushy mess and salsa success. The advice I got was to begin by peeling the mango, then cut vertically down both sides of the seed to leave you with two halves of flesh that you can then easily cube. Don’t forget to cut the remaining flesh off the seed.

Amateur Beer Pong Player

Dear Auntie Dolores,

I’ve been dating a gringo for three months. I’m Guatemalan so when we first met I was a bit worried about our cultural differences but until now everything has gone more or less smoothly, apart from his obsession with punctuality and my lack of the same. Last week he invited me to a party with his friends and they wanted to play “drinking games.” Well apparently I wasn’t prepared! How can they call what they did “games”?! It was a night of endless drinking with high levels of competition and adrenaline! He really wanted me to participate and play with his friends but I couldn’t hang on for long and naturally my night ended early after half an hour of something called “beer pong.” I hope you can help me deal with it better next time and also to understand the personality of my boyfriend when he plays.


Amateur Beer Pong Player

Xela Rising? What about the Centro Historico?

XW 130 Portada JPEGEx-pats come and go to ol’ Xelatown and it’s easy to think that life goes on and things just stay the same. Your favourite veggie lady is still on the same corner in La Demo, Kevin is still patrolling the Yoga House and that pothole that always gets you is still right there waiting for you. There are larger changes at hand, however, and our lovely little Xela and especially its Centro Historico (Old Town) is undergoing some significant changes. As always, the team here at XelaWho is here with the scoop!

Xela is no industrial powerhouse, most of that stuff happens over near the capital. Xela is the second largest administrative center in Guatemala though, and that’s why every man and his dog that needs to go to the Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria (tax department) or the Registro General de la Propiedad (property registration department) comes from miles around to do their paperwork. Among many others, these two edifices to bureaucratic government based right opposite the Dispensa Familia near Parque Central support a horde of lawyers, accountants and mysterious offices full of people there to help you navigate the labyrinths of paperwork needed just to register your car.

Despite their overly bureaucratic nature, these offices are key source of economic lifeblood for Xela’s Centro Historico but are moving out to shiny new buildings in Xela’s rapidly developing Zona 3, Zona 9 and some other unknown areas where they don’t sell bagels or IPAs. Their move, along with many other business they support, is spurred by the long standing historical preservation building codes supported by Xela’s Oficina del Centro Historico which passed and enforces the codes with the admirable goal of making sure any new buildings built in the Old City keep with Xela’s architectural heritage. These rules essentially mean that renovations or expansions of existing building are strictly prohibited with very few exceptions.  The perverse effect of these overly strict rules, however, is that it is practically impossible or ridiculously expensive for any businesses to expand an existing office or to renovate a new location.

As you’ve probably noticed – last year, a tragic fire burnt down the La Parranda block just behind Pasaje Enriquez leaving nothing but a smoldering shell and memories of messy times carving it up on the D-floor and late night stops at Rica Burger. The good news is that someone has finally taken it upon themselves to rebuild a good part of the block. San Martin Bakery to the rescue! The big time bakery is coming to Zona 1 and will rebuild most of the block so you can get your fresh baguettes and lattes. The bad news is that for many of the smaller shops that inhabited the block the cost of rebuilding is too much and they will relocate out of Zona 1.

2 Fast 2 Furious: Guatemalan Guns

Fathouse Productions

XelaWho has previously reported that high-ranking Guatemalan officials indicted for corruption are really undercover corruption agents because their cases are so ridiculous. Breaking news continues to support our position.

A story recently broke involving the guy in charge of Presidential Logistics and Security (SAAS). He, like many high-ranking officials in comedian-turned-President Jimmy Morales’ FCN party, is ex-military. Colonel Jorge Ignacio López Jiménez is qualified for the secret service gig because besides his military experience, he also runs an armed security company called Business Vigilance and Security, Guatemala (Visegua).

In April, police arrested three Visegua security guards for trafficking arms to street gangs. When they were arrested they were supposedly delivering an Uzi, a shotgun, two pistols, and other munitions.

But were the three security guards just embezzling weapons from the company and independently selling them for some extra cash?

Nope, since several of the weapons came with silencers available only to government forces.

Military affiliates have long been thought to profit from inappropriate or illegal arms sales. After all, through the mid-90s the Guatemalan government had a strict and quite effective gun control system in place to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of leftist guerrillas. Since the peace accords with the guerrillas, that system, along with military stockpiles, has mysteriously disappeared, and the country has been ravaged by gang and cartel violence.

We suspect López is an undercover officer, inspired by US Dept. of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ (AFT) operation “Fast and Furious,” which became Obama’s first major scandal. The operation involved “gunwalking,” which means not interfering with suspicious arms sales. The ATF got tips from gun store owners when people wanted to buy weapons especially popular with Mexican cartels, like modified AK-47s, and paid in cash out of paper bags (true story). The ATF said, “Sounds good! Just get us the serial numbers.” The idea was to see how the guns got to Mexico to potentially bust cartel leaders. Without telling Mexico.

No problem, until the weapons were used to kill a Border Patrol officer and a Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agent. And, even though I’m not finding this in my research, probably quite a lot of Mexicans, too, I guess.

Dem Dirtay Gon Tek Me Lan

By Rotten Tacos

I want you to call a Guatemalan — right now — and ask them one question: “Es Belice una parte de Guatemala? (Is Belize a part of Guatemala?)”. The answer will be “Si”. Dragging on since before Jesus Christ rode dinosaurs, Guatemala and Belize have reignited their lovers dispute: Who owns Belize? In Guatemala, Belize is mapped as part of Guatemala. To a Belizean, this is a load of bull and them crazy Guatemalans jus try steal belease cus don go be ma beauty de que de hav o yonder.

A bit of history: Let’s blame Spain. And Britain. And maybe some angry Scotsmen and some guy in 1859 that forgot to build a road.  1494 – Spain makes a bad treaty. The Mayan Belizeans kill the Spaniards, leaving room for Scottish Baymen to move in and become lumberjacks.

1670 — Spain makes a bad treaty. They “forget” who owns what (…the Mayans) and do a shit job of drawing lines, using this to stake a claim on land England had already staked. Baymen give Spain and the Queen the middle finger saying “Sod off. We got this. We run Belize.”