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XelaWho by Issue

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What it means to date an Española

By Richard Brown

Slanderous was the article my dear Spanish partner wrote in the last issue of XelaWho about what it is like to date this gringo. Here is my rebuttal, informed by the teaching of our epitomal General Patton that a good offense is the best defense. Patton also said that the will to win could determine the fate of a culture. Indeed, in my partner this will is weak, like her physical constitution. Just as in soccer it is socially acceptable to tie a game, it is socially acceptable in Spain to sleep during the day, every day. It appears that the American will to excel and to innovate is matched in Spain only by the will to nap. The bed calls to the Spaniard like free enterprise calls to the American.

Lazy red Spaniards. During the workweek, my partner spends as much time as possible lying down, like a soccer player. Specifically, like Marcelo of Real Madrid; her, no, our soccer team. I accept that the name of my, no, our football team, the Washington Redskins, comes from the slur settlers would use to refer to their victims as they burned villages and killed people. But at least my team picks what they put on their uniforms, even if it’s the disembodied head of an Indian. We don’t have ‘Fly Emirates’ stamped over our hearts like Christianaldo. How shameless.

The Money Masters: Part 2

By Diana Pastor

In last month’s article, we discussed the faces on Guatemala’s bank notes, and so continuing in this vein this month we’re going to discover a little about who, and what, is to be found on Guatemala’s coins. Whilst it can be a bit tedious to learn about the long list of Guatemalan Presidents that we find on our bank notes, on the coins we can instead find lots of interesting national and cultural symbols which perhaps are even more interesting than the stories of the individuals that appear on our bank notes.

On the 5-cent coin we can find two national symbols. On one side you can see the ceiba tree, a beautiful representative of the biodiversity of the country. On the other side you will find Guatemala’s national emblem, which consists of a quetzal on the declaration of independence, two rifles and laurel branches. Its value is negligible but it still continues to circulate in the country.

Recipe of the Month: Jocón

by Simone Riddle

Last month we learned how to cook arroz a la chapin. Now it’s time to learn el plato principal. Jocon is not as complicated as you might think. It uses the traditional Mayan method of toasting sesame and pumpkin seeds, blending them to make a paste with bread or tortillas and using this as a base for many typical dishes. Once you’ve got the hang of this process, other recipes like el famoso Pepian will be bien faciles.

What you’ll notice is that the more traditional Mayan dishes like Jocon are in fact résaludables. High levels of malnutrition in the western highlands can be linked to the marginalization of the Mayan people over time to the least fertile lands. This made room for rich landowners to use the best land to grow produce for export. Add to this the influx of cheap processed foods like packet soups and you can see how malnutrition and diabetes are now major health issues affecting rural indigenous communities today.

Grow Your Own: Worms!

by Juan Jardinero

“…it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.”
Charles Darwin

Earthworms are special creatures; their job is to plow the soil by tunneling through it. Their tunnels provide the soil with passageways through which air and water can circulate, and that’s important because soil microorganisms and plant roots need air and water just like we do. Without some kind of plowing, soil becomes compacted, air and water can’t circulate in it, and plant roots can’t penetrate it.

Even the ancient Greeks understood the importance of Earthworms, Aristotle referred to them as “the intestines of the earth”. This is something we should appreciate because earthworm droppings — called castings when deposited atop the ground — are rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and these are all important nutrients for healthy, prospering ecosystems. In your own backyard you might be able to confirm that grass around earthworm burrows grows taller and greener than grass just inches away. Even in ancient Egypt, farmers were not allowed to touch earthworms for fear of offending the god of fertility.

Trendy: What’s been buzzing on Guatemala’s social networks

With the highest number of Facebook users in Central America and a Twitter population growing by the thousands every month, social media can be a great place to find out what’s buzzing in Guatemala. Of course, there’s also a whole lot of nonsense posted online too, but at XelaWho we like nonsense so in this section you will find some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.

It´s been a crisis and scandal-ridden month for Guatemalan politics. Early in the month, a high court judge named Claudia Escobar Mejia resigned from her position in protest of the corrupt process by which justice officials are selected, in one of the most outspoken critiques yet from a Guatemalan judge. She claims that the process is rife with corruption, which plays a key role in protecting officials from legal action and leads to only 25% of the candidates who are nominated actually having the required experience.

The Constitutional Court has  suspended the swearing in of supreme court judges, stating that the allegations are serious enough to warrant a temporary stay while they are examined. Civil society organisations have been calling for an annulment of the process, check out #CCAnuleProceso and #ProtestaMagistrados to keep up to date with their campaign for judicial independence. “¡La justicia no se vende!”

People Power

Portada XW111 smallThe protests and downright political fiasco that surrounded the proposed Ley para la Protección de Obtenciones Vegetales (more widely known as the Ley Monsanto) was one of those all too common moments in Guatemalan politics where you weren’t sure  whether to celebrate, laugh, cry or do a double facepalm. Or perhaps do them all together at the same time.

So what was all the fuss about? Well, let’s start with the law itself. Its most controversial elements related to the proposal to make possessing, exchanging or even saving seeds patented by international agribusinesses a criminal offence punishable by fines of up to $1,300 (yes, that’s dollars) and prison sentences of up to 4 years (yes, that’s years). These penalties would also apply to hybrid seeds that had been crossed with a protected variety, even unintentionally, so campesinos would find themselves at risk of being prosecuted if their unprotected seeds cross-pollinated with the patented seeds of nearby farms.

Given that a whopping 27% of the entire global seed market is controlled by one company, it’s not too difficult to see why the law was quickly named after Monsanto, a company whose malicious corporate practices around the globe make The Umbrella Corporation look about as harmless as Ben & Jerry’s in comparison.



P o p p i n g


Any event that requires us both to drink beer and listen to some good live music goes down as a clear winner in XelaWho´s books.

So we are most excited that there will be some Oktoberfest celebrations in Xela this year, courtesy of El Cuartito. From  Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th of October there will live music all day from a variety of different bands and a range of international beers from all around the world for you to try. There will even be traditional German sausages, bratwurst, on sale to soak up all the booze.

As per usual Oktoberfest celebrations, you will be expected to stumble your way home using a friend´s shoulder for support.

What It Means to Date a Gringo

by Patricia Macias

I’ve dated a gringo for almost a year now, and I have some things I want to say.

I speak Spanish, he speaks something else. A recent example in an ice cream shop: `Un coño pequeño de chocolate, por favor.´ (A small chocolate c··t please.) I admit that sometimes it´s not his fault, like when his friend told him the Spanish verb `to poop´ is always reflexive.

Second, I asked him to explain American football.  He learned soccer in about eight seconds. So far, we´ve spent four hours in football `class.´ Too bad his clearly racist team the Washington Redskins lost 45-14 last night. He said if I pass an exam he´ll award me a diploma.  For this sport, I definitely deserve it. Even more so for putting up with him taking his football out with us at night and playing catch with his friends, terrifying Xela´s pedestrians.

The Money Masters

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.

Recipe of the Month: Arroz Guatemalteco

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.