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Recipe of the Month: Algo para Picar

by Simone Riddle

The most common dish that you can be asked to bring along to a social gathering in Xela is ‘algo para picar’ – something to nibble on. There are really only three acceptable dips to bring along with a mandatory bag of nacho chips: ‘frijoles’ (refried black beans), pico de gallo, and guacamole. So here are two of these recipes with a special twist.

Pico de Gallo

Why is pico de gallo called pico de gallo you may ask? There are many theories. The direct translation is ‘beak of the cockerel’. Some say it’s because of the dip’s vibrant colors while others say it’s because the chopped vegetables look like they have been picked at by hens. I always thought it  had something to do with the ‘picante’ involved but I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.

A Little Taste of the Mayans

By Juan Jardinero

“Don´t eat anything your [Mayan] great grandmother wouldn´t recognize as food.”

Michael Pollan

This month we take a journey back in time to explore some of the edible plants that were widely used and continue to be consumed by ,albeit much less, Indigenous Guatemalan communities in their diets. Throughout history and all around the world, groups of people have experienced dramatic changes in their diets. Usually due to relocation (war, natural disasters, migrating tribes), people would find themselves in new microclimates where they had to adapt to whatever plants were available to farm and eat.  The conquistadores arrival to the Americas marked a great change in pre-existing diets.  However it is within the last 50 years that the food floodgates have opened with increased access to imported foods and foreign crops varieties, not to mention new technologies and production methods that promote mono-crops, which have reduced the self-sustaining dietary model that relied on consuming various plants indigenous to Guatemala.

Artists Reclaiming Xela

Portada XW106 smallEl Colectivo Andén is a community of local artists based in Xela which aspires to reclaim public spaces in the city in order to create multidisciplinary projects exploring art, history & social transformation in Guatemala. In March 2014 the Collective hosted the event “Homenaje al Ferrocarril de los Altos” as part of their Zona Intervenida project – an eclectic mix of art, dance, theatre & film in homage to Xela´s iconic railway station (now a Cultural & Sporting Centre). We recently caught up with Bonifaz Canelo, one of the founders of the collective & the project, to learn more…

XW: How did the Colective Andén & its Zona Intervenida iniative come about?

BC: Actually, first came Zona Intervenida, which was established in February 2013 with the vision of using spaces in the Centro Intercultural in order to film a process of artistic interventions there, highlighting its importance for the history of Guatemala & Xela (the Centro Intercultural was originally built in 1930 as the Ferrocarril the los Altos but it only lasted 3 short years as a railway station before it was closed. It then served as a regional military base for over 60 years). A group of artists from Guatemala, the United States, France, Spain & elsewhere came together to work on the project.

Colectivo Andén then came about as a result of the collective work that took place during this initiative.



P o p p i n g

Xela’s Happy Too!

In March this year the United Nations launched a global campaign for happiness in order to celebrate the International Day of Happiness. To the theme tune Happiness by Pharrell Williams, they are encouraging individuals & groups from around the world to film & upload videos of themselves expressing their happiness in the diverse environments where they live. The campaign has caught hold in Guatemala & numerous videos have recently surfaced from groups of smiley happy people in places like Antigua, Cobán, Salcajá and, of course, Xela.   The video Xela is Also Happy  was produced by the group Movimiento 502 & uploaded to Youtube in April for all to see. We highly recommend everyone who has a love for this wonderful city to give it a watch: it comes with a 100% guarantee to brighten up your day & to put a big grin on your face.

Surviving (and succeeding) in El Terminal

by Diana Pastor

Many a’tourist have found The Terminal to be an inaccessible labyrinth devoid of logic & order. While I won’t deny the latter part, it is definitely not inaccessible! This article will give you a few tips to succeed in the Terminal, & buy your groceries & other items with the cool calm of a local.

Upon entry to the Terminal, start keeping track of exits & the (somewhat) clear paths around you. Like being on an airplane, “please look for your closest fire exit, & remember that it could be behind you.” After the recent firestorm in the Guatemala City Terminal, you want to have some kind of a safety plan in mind, as it’s not impossible for a fire to break out. While in the market, you’ll see vendors using open fire to cook right next to the vendor who sells dried leaves (read: kindling for a market fire). Making a mental escape route is one way you can keep your safety in mind.

Ants on the menu for May – up for it?

by Diana Pastor

Every country has certain culinary delicacies for those with more demanding & adventurous tastes, and who are hungry for new dining experiences. Well for those of our readers who fit this profile – you’re in luck as for the month of May we have a special recommendation for those of you who enjoy something that’s light on the stomach but heavy on the palate. It’s a special kind of ant, although much larger than normal & with wings. They are called the Zompopos de Mayo, as they start appearing in large numbers during the first rains of the year which we will be seeing this month.

Zompopos are usually brown but some can come in darker shades.  They are pretty large as far as ants go, with a huge head, & when they are alive they are quite strong, being capable of carrying large leaves or enormous chunks of food in comparison to their size. But there is also a group of medium-sized Zompopos, which are responsible for carrying out the more menial & less demanding tasks in their nests.

Frijoles Blancos a la Vegetariana

by Simone Riddle

When we say frijoles we automatically think of black beans served with huevos revueltos, eaten both for breakfast & the evening meal. Yet there are other kinds of beans on offer in Guatemala’s markets; frijoles rojos, blancos & piloy (if you’re in Guatemala City or Antigua). So, why stop at black beans? The Chapin version of borletti beans – frijoles blancos – are used in a dish that is traditionally cooked with pork at better comedores here in Xela.

Many extranjeros residing in Xela are either gringos vegetarianos, cooking on a budget, or are not brave enough to venture into the depths of mercado central – is it the smell, the scavenging street chuchus, or the sight of pigs’ trotters that puts you off? – So Xelawho brings you the vegetarian version that can only be compared to the British classic, ‘Baked Beans’.

Wonder is the Seed of Knowledge

by Juan Jardinero

“Wonder is the seed of knowledge”
— Francis Bacon

Finding the right seeds that thrive in your own micro-climate can be a challenge and it will take time to determine which seeds work where. Especially around Xela, finding the right selection can be difficult, if not impossible. Also, when it comes to seeds, not all are the same, and sometimes the labeling of heirloom, hybrid or GMO seeds can be confusing. Here is a helpful guide to better understand the seeds that you may come across.

Got Shorty

Portada XW105 smallOn the 22nd of February 2014 dozens of soldiers and police descended on a luxury condominium in Mazatlán, Mexico, and finally managed to capture the legendary, but elusive, drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, more commonly known as “El Chapo” (Shorty). Eluding capture for an incredible 13 years, El Chapo´s legend grew into almost mythical proportions – a legend that will undoubtedly remain even as he is put behind bars in his 5* prison.

His tale is your archetypal rags-to-riches story: born to a poor family in a rural, mountain village in Mexico, he followed his father´s footsteps at a young age into the region´s main industry – growing and smuggling marijuana and opium.

It wasn’t long until he hooked up with the drug lord, and his soon-to-be partner in crime, Héctor “El Güero” Palma by overseeing drug shipments to the US-Mexican border. Gúzman quickly gained a reputation for  being a fearless and ruthless trafficker that enabled him to swiftly move up through the ranks: it is said that if any of his drug shipments arrived late he would simply shoot the responsible smuggler in the head rather than listen to excuses.



P o p p i n g

Pacaya Pyrotechnics

Always one for a spectacle, Guatemala witnessed another huge volcanic eruption in March when Pacaya Volcano began spewing rivers of lava and clouds of ash after a series of powerful explosions on the 1st and 2nd of March. The ash clouds reached a towering height of at least 4km before raining down on the Pacific Coast, reaching as far as Ocós on the Mexican border – some 250 kilometers away. Parque Nacional Pacaya is now open again for hikes and we´re told the new lava formations make for an incredible sight. With Semana Santa coming up, why not go and check them out for yourself?