By Diana Pastor
What would Christmas and the New Year in Guatemala be without fireworks? According to the Bank of Guatemala, Guatemala imported more than four and a half million dollars worth of stuff that goes boom in the year of our lord 2013. That’s a lot of ordinance. Some fireworks are more likely to disfigure or dismember than others. If you’re curious about trying cheap explosives with your friends or (more likely) with your Guatemalan family, I?ve set up a handy risk scale you can use to judge the likelihood of blowing your hand off.
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By La Salsa Inglesa
This is an adaption of arroz con leche, a soothing warm drink made from rice, milk, and cinnamon. It is popular to have after work and great for the cold Xela nights.
Arroz con leche is Latin-American comfort food, bringing spiritual solace to nurse those post-election blues; I made this shortly after the Brexit vote and it eased the pain, momentarily at least. Arroz con leche literally translates as “rice with milk”, it?s what in the UK we would call “rice pudding.” Served as a dessert or beverage, hot or cold, this dish is enjoyed throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
- 1/2 cup rice
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- The zest of half a lime
- Cinnamon powder for topping
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By Rotten Tacos
My first night in Xela ended with making grilled cheese for some Aussie surfers at 3 am. It was a Monday. By Friday I was dancing on the King and Queen bar to Enrique’s “Bailando” and stumbling out of an after at dawn. Five months in I had a business, a bike, and 45 new paca clothes. I wasn’t going anywhere.
We call it “getting stuck”. We came for a month and 2 years later, we?re still here and we own a bar and 2.5 street dogs. The question I always get though is “Why did you stay here?” Maybe we?re a bunch of masochistic misfits that subconsciously enjoy Ciprofloxacin regimens, juggling 8 jobs to make ends meet and maybe fly home for Christmas, and screaming “Voy a poner tu cabeza en el culo de una vaca gorda!” in self-defense and redemption at some a-hole for copping a feel at 7:30 am on his moto. Puta, a skirt is not by default an invitation.
But more so, it’s the welcome and the possibility. It doesn’t matter who you were, where you’re going, what you wear, what you do, or if you’re doing anything at all. Xela welcomes you without hesitation or question into this community of ragamuffins with mild ADD and a not so mild penchant for drinking. This is a playground that lets you try anything without any qualifications whatsoever aside from “I’m breathing, I’ll show up, and I’m not an asshole. Most of the time.” I can get a new best friend and a job by talking to strangers and being intoxicated and charming 4 days a week. Wherever we were before wouldn’t let us get away with this.
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P o p p i n g
Starbucks and their heathen cup designers continue their unholy waron Christmas elsewhere, but here in Xela the battle is not lost – in fact, Christmas is doing pretty well.
Unimpeded by stopgap holidays like Thanksgiving, it creeps up earlier and earlier every year. Gallo rolls out their most gigantic and clearly branded Christmas trees. Cantinas hang up
streamers and ornaments. The near-constant distant thunder of fireworks is back. There?s still mashed potatoes and turkey in the tupperware in the fridge, and Christmas seems to be in full swing.
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The more observant of our readers may have noticed on their way to Paíz supermarket an enormous hole in the ground in the adjacent block with some scaffolding, pillars and a huge crane sticking out of it. The even more perceptive readers may have noticed that this hole in the ground was, until recently, teeming with workers toiling away with surprising efficiency (given we?re in Guatemala) to build the structure within a few metres taller every couple of days.
The construction within is being posited as one of Xela’s most ambitious and modern infrastructure projects to date. If all goes to plan (and that?s a big “if”), what is a now hole in the ground will be transformed into Utz Ulew, a behemoth of a shopping mall that will easily rival La Pradera (the mall where Walmart is located) for being the sparkliest, most vacuous place in all of Xela.
The mall will have three floors which will host an array of high-end stores, many setting up shop in Xela for the first time; four basement levels with enough space to park 700 cars; and a 12-floor tower hotel with 90 rooms, which would make it the tallest building in the region. Best of all, Utz Ulew will host a Cinépolis, which means that we will get a cinema in the centre of town that will hopefully have a little more variety than Alba Cinema in La Pradera, where the closest you’ll get to watching a genuinely decent movie is during the trailers for other films that they?re not showing.
Utz Ulew was scheduled to be completed in January 2017. But, like so many projects in Guatemala, things didn’t quite go to plan: last month the Ministerio Publico (Attorney General?s office) put construction on hold until further notice due to, yup you guessed it, corruption allegations (or “anomalies” as they put it). First, an ex-municipal councilman and his brother were arrested on charges of influence peddling to approve the construction license, which was approved without an environmental impact study and with a discount of around half a million quetzales less than it should have cost. According to Prensa Libre, the ex-councilman?s brother went so far as to change his name so that he could appear on the license as the project?s lead planner and manager, therefore being able to benefit financially from it and in the process proving that nepotism truly is alive and well here in Xela.
A few days later, Xela business mogul Celso Macario Gómez, one of the project?s directors, was also arrested and accused of using his influence to get the license approved on these terms, according to Stero100. Goméz is one of the most interesting characters of Xela’s business community. Coming from a poor background and with only an education up to 6th grade, many years ago he started a small wholesale business in La Democracia. He grew the business to become the biggest in Xela, using his growing influence to buy out the competition. When imitators tried to copy his successful business model, he was known for ruthlessly lowering his prices until they went bankrupt. He is now the biggest wholesaler in town for practically all of the brands you see in all of the tiendas on every street corner: crisps, sodas, chocolates, you name it. Unfortunately, if the accusations are true, it looks like the old adage that “power corrupts” holds true in this case.
It’s hard to know who to get pissed at over this scandal. On the one hand, with so much government bureaucracy surrounding construction projects in Guatemala, one can hardly blame businessmen for resorting to greasing the hands of some greedy politicians in order to expedite their projects, rather than waiting years for them to be approved through the normal channels. On the other hand, cheating a municipal government that can’t even find the funds to fix its dysfunctional drainage system out of half a million quetzales is clearly unacceptable. At the end of the day though, as always, it?s the ordinary folk that suffer the most: over 300 people are now unemployed until further notice and for the time being the population of Xela will have another “monument to corruption” to look upon every time they go to Paíz to do their grocery shopping.
By Fathouse Productions
The word shark appears suddenly in English in 1569 (stay with me, it?s worth it) in a pamphlet circulated after English fisherman fished a f^^^îng monster in the Straits of Dover, wherever that is, and brought it to London (somewhere in England?). The pamphlet says, “Ther is not a proper name for it… but that sertayne men of Captain Haukinses, doth call it a Sharke.” In other words, “DAMN, ¿¿THE F^^^ IS THIS?? We don?t know, but we know some hard-ass sailors who call it a “shark.”
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By Diana Pastor
Are you a fan of hot springs or saunas? If you are, you’ll want to hear about something that can renew your body and mind. I’m talking about a “temazcal” —a room for steam baths that many Mayan families in Guatemala still have in their houses. Most of these temazcales are private, but a few can be rented by tourists and foreigners to get a taste of the temazcal experience.
The temazcal we’ll be visiting today is in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán. To get there, we’ll need to squeeze onto a chicken bus seat two sizes too small, bump along in the back of a pickup truck for the better part of an hour, hop out at the plaza and find Doña Faustina. She’s got a temazcal for rent.
It’s small —temazcals usually are —and looks like a pyramid or an igloo. You can’t stand inside; to enter, you’ll have to crouch. The oldest temazcales are build from adobe; but most today are made from concrete, which works just as well. They’re wider than they are tall —great for those who hate headroom or love crawlspaces.
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By La Salsa Inglesa
Breakfast: my favourite mealtime in Guatemala and often the most social. Sometimes this is a simple affair, whipping up eggs and beans quicker than you can say “Ducal”.
There are plenty of great places to desayunar in Xela, too many to name here in fact, but if you fancy trying your hand at making desayuno casero this breakfast burrito will leave your guests enamoured with this Guatemalan weekend ritual.
Arroz Casero – The Burrito Filling
Serves approximately 4 – 5
- 1 cup rice
- 1.5 cups cooked black beans (i.e. a can)
- 2 cups water or the liquid from the can
- of beans but careful this can be very
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tsp oil (if possible olive)
- 1 tsp vinegar
Take a utensil with a heavy handle and
smash the garlic cloves to break up the
Add all the ingredients to a medium-sized pan and mix well. Cover, bring to boil over a high heat then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the rice is done. Make sure you stir occasionally to avoid sticking and you will probably need to add more water towards the end if all the water has evaporated before the rice is cooked. Season well before serving warm.
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By Jalapeño Jacobo
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 Hanne De Wyngaert, who is originally from Antwerp, Belgium but is now owner of Que Onda Vos here in Xela.
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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 here are some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.
All is not well with Jorge Carlos Garcia Paiz. The former diputado candidate for the VIVA party got himself into hot water this month when he lost his cool and punched out a barber. A security camera in the barbershop captured Paiz losing his temper with the man cutting his son’s hair. He walks over to the barber, exchanged words with him, before effectively chasing him to the front of the barbershop. The man cowers behind the cash register; Paiz grabs the man, shakes him, and smacks him upside the head several times. Then his wife comes over and whacks the barber with her purse. All this makes the “vision with values” slogan of VIVA more clear: the vision is of fashionable haircuts, and the values allow for defense of those haircuts with violence if necessary.
Paiz has been rightfully castigated on social media. #TodoPorEseCorteMuco started as a platform to mock Paiz. Muco can mean unfashionable, but here it?s not far from basic, as in basic bitch. Think of a dude who might harass you for a quetzal on a bus in Guatemala City: carefully gelled hair, sneakers with neon laces, listening to Daddy Yankee on his phone without headphones. He’s probably named Kevin or Brayan, and in memes he and his muco haircut —or is it your muco haircut? —are responsible for the small victories and defeats of living in Guatemala: getting assaulted, not getting assaulted, waiting in traffic, getting stopped and searched by the police for no reason
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