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Maya Night Skies

By Fathouse Productions

Ancient and modern Maya cultures have their own takes on the constellations of the night sky.

The Big Dipper, for example, is a macaw named “Seven Macaw” (Vucub Caquix) who has long tail feathers in the place of the Dipper’s handle. The seven probably refers to the number of bright stars in the constellation. His wife, Chimalmat or “shield,” is the Little Dipper. In the Popol Vuh, a K’iché Maya holy text, a bird deity named Vucub Caquix is so proud of how bright his jewels shine that he claims to be the sun and moon and the lord of creation. Offended by his pride, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque, the hero twins of the epic, go to battle and defeat the great bird.

Another constellation visible this time of year in Xela is Cygnus the swan, also called the Northern Cross. The tail of the swan is the top of the cross, and the wings of the swan form the crosspiece. To the Maya, this constellation is a stalk of corn, the material that mankind was made from. In some K’iché communities, the first full moon in March means that the brush in the fields is burnt. The ashes are then spread as fertilizer and the maize crop is planted during the full moon of April in anticipation of the rainy season, while later weeding is always done under a full moon.

Ask Dr. Sabelotodo: Visa Runs

By Dr. Sabelotodo

Dear Dr. Sabelotodo, I’ve been in Guatemala 3 months now and my visa is about to expire. People here say it´s not a drama — I just have to do a “visa run.” Can you please explain? — Anxious Ex-pat

Dear Illegal Alien,

Firstly, let me congratulate you on your decision to flaunt local immigration laws. The good doctor has friends who have been popping out of the country every few months since time immemorial — the most impressive stint being 13 years.

Say What???!

By La Gordita

Although English is obviously not the mother tongue of all travellers and expats, it does tend to be the default language most of us rely on to communicate with one another. While we study Español by day and attempt to communicate in English by night, there are some region-specific turns of phrase that make even native English speakers scratch their heads. Below is a handy guide to deciphering English from around the world.

Phrase: “Crack the shits.” Origin: Australia.  Meaning: To get upset about something. Example: When Lonnie got his phone bill he cracked the shits.

Phrase: “Pants.” Origin: UK. Meaning: No good. Example: “This party is pants!”

Adventure time at Irtra & Xocomil  

By Diana Pastor

Xela, a bit different from the southern coast of Guatemala, doesn’t really have what most would consider a “bikini-friendly climate.” And, as you’d know if you’ve been here during the months of January and February, some mornings can be quite chilly, even getting down to freezing temperatures some nights! Recreational parks Xocomil and IRTRA are great places to go to escape the cold, and are a very popular destination for many Guatemalans during the Easter holiday. The parks are located in San Martin Zapotitlan, in the department of Retalhuleu, about an hour and a half by chicken bus from Xela (you can take a bus from La Terminal bus station in Zone 3).

Low-Fat Nacho Chips

By La Salsa Inglesa

You tend to find that Guatemala’s delectable dips such as guacamole or refried beans almost always come accompanied by a generous portion of nacho chips, ‘para picar’. Yet it’s increasingly rare to find homemade nachos despite being such a popular snack. We want this to change in Xela. That’s wtortillachipshy this month we bring you a quick and easy nacho recipe. There’s a slight ‘trampa’ because we recommend using readymade ‘tortillas de harina’ which are larger and thinner than the usual handmade ‘tortillas de maiz’, turning wonderfully ‘crujiente’ (crispy) when baked. While nachos are typically deep-fried, these tortilla slices are lightly brushed in olive oil then baked, making them a healthier alternative to the bought variety. Taking only 10 minutes in the over they will be ready faster than you can say ‘Tecún Umán’!

Weekend Getaways

XW 127 Portada Small JPEGXela’s a swinging town. From the raging nightlife to the endless jumping over potholes, there’s never a dull moment. Yet the other day your faithful editor was walking in the Minerva market and saw a guy with a selfie-stick selling selfies. Right then it hit me that technology is ruining everything and I needed to escape the Xela metropolis and get out of dodge for the weekend. Fortunately, there are tons of cool weekend spots within striking distance and, as always, the good folks at XelaWho have got you covered.

The cheapest and most fun way to hit the road is to take a camioneta (chicken bus) from the Minerva terminal. Just hop on a city micro-bus from the corner of 5th Calle and 14th Avenida near the park (just listen out for guys yelling hiper, hospital, pradera or terminal) and you’ll land up next to the Minerva market. From there you’re just a short 5-minute walk through the market full of grimy puddles, yummy bus snacks and people trying to knock you and your grandmother down with a cart full of bananas.

If you make it through (well done!), you’ll get to the main bus terminal, which can be recognized by the hundreds of buses milling around. Helpful touts with impressive vocal chords constantly scream destinations out. So either follow your ears or tell one where you’re going and they’ll politely shove you towards the right bus. Before you start enjoying the thumping cumbia and nod-off, drooling on some señora’s huipil (traditional indigenous blouse), double check that the sign on the front of the bus has your destination on it! Overly eager touts will often barrel you onto a bus to Panajachel when you’re trying to go to San Pedro so there’s no harm in quadruple checking that este bus va directo a San Pedro, verdad?

When the crew here at XelaWho need to blow off some steam after a hard week of Pulitzer worthy journalism, San Pedro La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan) is our weekend spot. Affectionately known by regular weekend warriors as San Piedra La Locura (Saint Crack – The Madness), San Pedro is an eclectic mix of shoeless foreign hippies, young Guatemalans looking to make it with said hippies and the best range of food for the lowest prices you’ll find before you head back to south-east Portland.

Guatemala’s All New Undercover Guys

By Fathouse Productions

XelaWho broke the news last October that the president and vice president jailed last year for corruption were actually undercover anti-corruption agents, since Vice President Baldetti helped reveal corruption scandals when in Congress and President Pérez Molina said that with his leadership, “there will be ZERO tolerance for corruption.” The question was: why did the rest of the media not reveal their involvement in huge scandals had been part of a sting?

The answer is now clear: so President Jimmy Morales can use similar tactics. Morales was elected last year on a platform of transparency that was notoriously short on substance. As an outsider to the political system (he is a comedian by trade), he (also) promised zero tolerance for corruption. His inspiring campaign slogan was “Not corrupt, or a thief.”

Uncle Jose and the Doorstop Gang

By Rotton Tacos

Every time I visit my grandma she sees me off by waving from the porch and saying “Now you make safe choices”. And every time I reply by saying “…you know I will”, while knowing I’m lying though my teeth as my brain says “… there are some things you never tell grandma.”

The first time I entered Guatemala was, technically, illegal.  On my first trip out of the jungle in 2 months, I was dropped off at the Belize-Guatemala border at 5 am, alone and determined to go 2 days non-stop to Nicaragua for a New Year’s Eve party.


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.

Acclaimed actor #seanpenn doesn’t really make the news much anymore. He isn’t one of those actors that seems to be in every movie (*cough* Paul Rudd *cough*), nor is he known for his outlandish behavior. That is, until he got the chance to interview the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — Mexico’s (previously) most wanted drug cartel kingpin. To say that the coordination and execution the interview was difficult would be the understatement of the year, and wouldn’t have been possible without the connection (and translation services) of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, a confidant and friend/non-enemy of Guzman. I know what you’re thinking— “why is it that those who don’t even speak Spanish get all the cool job opportunities in Latin America, anyway?” Well, my friend, apparently you just need to be Sean Penn.

My Guatemalan Boyfriend

By Kendal Bergman

Editor’s note: This is a classic XelaWho article from way-back in 2007 that still gets talked about to this day, so we’re reprinting it just for Valentine’s day!

When I came to Guatemala, I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and wanted to have fun, learn some Spanish, and reinvent myself, so to speak. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking for anything serious.

But one Wednesday night, while out dancing salsa at this hip new club, I found myself repeatedly drifting back toward a cute Guatemalan guy who could really move. What’s more, when we sat down to have some Cuba Libres (rum and coke, but with lime – totally awesome), I saw he was really interested, and interesting. Well, at least I think he was interesting; my Spanish isn’t so good.