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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.
Guatemala loves a good football game, and they love one football game in particular —the annual faceoff between Real Madrid and Barcelona FC, known asEl Clasico.This event is awaited with breath that’s not so much baited as it is perfumed by a healthy intake of Gallo. On a recent Sunday, Pasaje Enriquez was packed with jersey-clad aficionados who had come out to cheer and drink before noon on a Sunday.
On Twitter, the event made big waves —Guatemalans were tweeting under the hashtag #elclasico, but also signaling support with#viscabarcaand #halamadrid. Some took the occasion to poke fun at Guatemala’s fascination with soccer. “All I’ve seen today is #viscabarca and #halamadrid,” wrote one user. “No wonder Guatemala’s a developing country.” Others tweeted memes poking fun at players on both team or took wholesome selfies of themselves with their partners, dressed in their team’s colors and tweeting from the couch.
Holy Week awoke a spiritual fire in the hearts of Guatemalans, and near the middle of April #alabanza —praise —trended on twitter. Most of the tweets were earnest, simple, and stuffed with hashtags, including #dios, #jesus, and #domingo. Twitter can often seem like a godless place, so there was something earnest and healthy about seeing all that fervor expressed on the internet. No word on whether God uses Twitter, although the Pope certainly does.Genuine Guatemalan home-grown superstar Richard Arjona set off a minor firestorm on twitter when it was announced that he would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Latin Music Awards.
Arjona is a bit of a national hero —he’s done more than perhaps any Guatemalan musician to shape the landscape of Latin Music and has a long history of chart-toppers to his name. Arjona fans expressed their appreciation with #Arjoniemosunrato, celebrating the singer and his achievements. Most of the contributions under this hashtag were lyrics from his songs, many of which are too saucy to translate here. With the Arjona mania, however, came the Arjona backlash. #arjonaverguenzamundial was a space for people to talk about how much they hated his music. Some were ridiculous —”he uses subliminal messages.” Others were hyperbolic —”Hitler wasn’t as bad.”
Xelawho doesn’t have any strong feelings on Arjona one way or the other —the only music we need is reggaeton remixes featuring Daddy Yankee and the entirety of R. Kelly’s hip hop opera “Trapped in the Closet.” If anyone can make sense of the Arojna/Hitler comparison, however, send us an email. We’re genuinely curious. Oralé Xela!

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Pupusas are delicious

Xelawho would like to give an old-fashioned shoutout to thepupusa —that delicious Salvadorian grease dumpling that will steal your heart before clogging it with merciless efficiency. A good pupusa is often followed by another, and then sometimes by a third. Don’t think twice about putting down your shot at a long, healthy life as collateral so that you can get a heart attack’s worth of fried masa in your stomach.

Live fast, die young, and eat pupusas. That’s an epitaph you can see that epitaph on many marble mausoleums under the pepper trees of Calvario. It’s no coincidence that some of the best pupusas in Xela are on the far end of the triangular park that fronts the cemetery. Pupusas make life worth living; they also are hell on the circulatory system.

Make Guatemala Wait Again

17546858_10155269212099914_9139887215637117051_oIt’s rush hour in Xela, and the city is still as the grave. Cars on 4th calle stretch bumper to bumper from Parque Central to Calvario and beyond. The micros on 14th Avenue crawl at a snail’s pace up the hill to the signal on Rodolfo Robles, which itself has vehicles at a near-standstill stretching clear to the other side of Demo. Avenida Las Americas—an area of the city that, unlike the center, is designed for cars rather than horse-drawn carriages—is a slow-moving glacier of tail lights and idling engines, with time itself bending past the event horizon at the dreaded underpass. So for our wiley navigators of Xela’s roads, here’s XelaWho’s patented guide to surviving Guate’s ailing infrastructure.

Xela’s fleet of tricked-out beaters, numbering 200,000, is projected by some to double by 2020. The traffic isn’t just inconvenient; it threatens the livelihoods of the drivers of delivery trucks and taxis, and the lives of those who need speedy transport by ambulance to the hospital. Various studies and transit plans from the municipality have produced neither the funds nor the coordination nor the vision needed to address this problem. A traffic light here and there, along with the occasional traffic cop tooting their whistle, are basically cosmetic solutions.
Xela’s problems are small potatoes compared to Chimaltenango, however. The gateway to western Guatemala is a sprawling, clogged mess of whorehouses and pinchazos that adds a full hour to drive along the Pan-American highway from Guatemala City to Xela. During rush hour, or in the event of a parade or accident, that six kilometer stretch slows to a slog that can last two and a half hours or more. The construction of a 15 kilometer bypass that skirts Chimal rather than running through the middle of town was supposed to finish up this year; it’s over budget and behind schedule and somehow opposed by the people of Chimaltenango, who fear the loss of daily standstill traffic will leave their whorehouses and pinchazos short on customers.

Shakshuka Style Eggs

La Salsa Inglesa

Writing this recipe I had trouble deciding whether it’s best described as shakshuka or ’huevos rancheros’. The chili and the coriander give this breakfast dish a Latin American feel but without a typical roasted tomato sauce, fried eggs or black beans it doesn’t quite constitute as ‘huevos rancheros’ in my book. This is an ideal weekend brunch recipe. It requires little effort to cook, it’s low in fat (the eggs are steamed not fried), comforting and extremely nourishing. Add a handful of peas or spinach to add extra goodness. Shakshuka is a wonderful dish to share. When in good company place directly on the table to eat collectively straight out of the pan, but only do this with Chocolate and avocado potsthe most intimate of friends. Serve with tortillas or pita bread. Serves three hungry mouths, or six as part of a larger collection.

Ingredients

6 organic free-range eggs

2 tbs olive oil½ large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced1 jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped

1/2 tsp cumin½ tsp smoked paprika1 small red pepper, chopped into thin strips

4 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

1 bay leaf

1 handful cooked peas or spinach (optional)

Coriander for garnish

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and begin to fry the onion to soften. Add the garlic and chili and fry for another couple of minutes before adding the cumin and paprika, fry for one minute stirring continuously. Add the fresh tomatoes and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, sugar and bay leaf. Season and simmer for 10-15 minutes until you have a rich thick sauce.

Make six wells within the pan and carefully break in the eggs, cover the pan. After a couple of minutes sprinkle over the peas or spinach. Cook covered for another 5-10 minutes until the egg whites are firm but the yokes are still runny inside.

Serve immediately with toasted pita or tortillas and the coriander sprinkled on top. Bon appetit, Xela!

My Latin American food blog can be found at www.lasalsainglesa.com. AMA’s Alternatives Boutique sells homemade salsas, peanut butter and jams as well as beautiful textiles: 5a avenida 6-17 Zona 1.

The Best Guatemalan Chiles

by Diana Pastor

Guatemalans don’t like spicy food —don’t like it, at least, in comparison to their Mexican neighbors to the north, who are famous for their fondness of tongue-sizzling tastes ranging from the mild but addictive flaming hot cheeto to the nuclear fire of the ghost pepper. Guatemala, nonetheless, is not the Midwest of the United States, where ketchup is sometimes regarded as spicy. Chapines use some spice in their foods, like most of Latin America, and this article will serve as a brief survey of the most popular peppers that you can find in our cuisine.

The chiltepe: This is the classic Guatemalan pepper —an old standby that can be found in markets across the country. If you say that someone is a chiltepe, that means they’re small or short with a personality that’s fiery bordering on explosive. The chiltepe is a small pepper—a tiny red or green bulb on the end of a short stem. You can find them pretty much anywhere and buy a small bag for the modest price of a single quetzal. Pop one in your mouth and bite down, and you’ll experience a small detonation of spice that will quickly clear your sinuses and bring a brief wave of tears to your eyes. Don’t worry; you’ll be okay. It’ll be over soon. Sizzle scale: Three fire alarms out of three

Trendy

February was another thumb-cramping month on Guatemalan social media. #DiaInternacionalDeLaMujer lit up screens across the nation with bold statements from twiteras chapinas in solidarity with the struggle for gender equality like @la_juventud who tweeted “Yes, International Women’s Day is over but the struggle for gender equality continues!” There were some more unfortunate contributors, however. None more so than @ADios_hi who tweeted “I’m ready to celebrate International Women’s Day thanks to Islam” with the picture shown on the page on the right. Adios @ADios_hi.

The biggest, loudest, rock-y-est, coolest band in Guatemala since Spinal Tap —Bohemia Suburbana—turned 25 last month. Their big birthday concert spurred a tweetstorm on #BS25 bigger than Trump bored in a national security briefing. @sofiataracena said she was “more excited than a kid in a Disney film.” So happy birthday to Guatemala’s favourite rockers—and big fans of Xela’s own Xelita IPA…

On a more somber note Guate’s twiteros got online on #ChuckBerry to commemorate the loss of one of the greatest rockers ever, Chuck Berry. @PublinewsGT said “Chuck Berry broke down racial barriers to create Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Too true @PublinewsGt. RIP Chuck.

Every man and his chucho with a smartphone was out snapping pics of Xela’s freak storm last month. The first storm of the year washes several month’s of Xela’s sins in the form of Lemon Tortrix wrappers down the drains into the sewage system creating blockages and havoc on the streets. Aside from the usual Nuestro Diario-type disaster pics, some Quetzaltecas posted some helpful advice to #InundacionesXela and #TiempoGT?such as @AlertaGt502’s suggestion for a new transport system for Xela on the page opposite.

And it just wouldn’t be social media if people weren’t whining about the traffic on #TraficoGT. In this case it’s not a 2 minute delay on your daily fixed-gear bike commute to your shift at that hip artesinal salt dispensary in Pittsburg (a.k.a Portland of the East), but the permanent car park known as Chimaltenango (see editorial). @chejoSb said “Chimaltenango, your traffic hurts me.” @Estuardinho10 said “Chimaltenango in Kaq’chikel means ‘trafico de la gran puta‘ (DIY translation). @AFS63 resorted to praying “please don’t be any traffic in Chimal” but should take note of @bohemio2k’s tweet “There’s traffic here in Chimaltenango *True no matter when you read this tweet*.

But there is an end in sight —the shiny new bypass in the sky around Guate’s favourite traffic jam will open in early 2018 (see page opposite).

Orale Xela!

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La Huelga de Dolores

It’s Lent—that long period of anticipation that leads up to Easter, that special holiday on which all of Latin America absolutely loses their minds. In Guatemala, the Lenten celebrations come with the Huelga de Dolores.

What is the Huelga de Dolores? It’s a tradition maintained by the students at USAC that involves satirical newspapers, a parody of the Holy Week processions, a silly song, and a dancing skeleton—all done while wearing colorful hoods so you don’t get murdered by the government. The huelga is an opportunity to speak out against the state and the church, and to poke fun at their institutions, during the biggest institutional holiday of the year.

There’s a long history to the huelga which goes back to the 19th century. It’s a bloody and depressing one that we have neither the space nor the heart to detail here. If you see USAC students running around in colored hoods—especially on Good Friday —we advise you stop, listen, and attempt to unpick their satirical and foul-mouthed commentary

Indigenous Community Organizes For Reform

by Diana Pastor

Some of our traveling readers probably noticed that the 21st and 22nd of February was marked by protests —indigenous organizations from communities across western Guatemala blocked various points along the Pan-American Highway. Their motives were diverse, but their top priorities were to mobilize against the rising cost of electricity and to push for reforms in Guatemala’s constitution to establish an indigenous court system.

What is indigenous court? It’s rooted in an ancestral legal system that dates back to the fifteenth century. Indigenous communities appoint judges and hold court to deal with crimes within their community —especially questions of land ownership, domestic violence, and alimony. Indigenous courts are common in the northwestern part of Guatemala, include the departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Totonicapan and Sololá. These departments tend to have lower rates of criminality than other parts of Guatemala.

In some places, the national legal system with th eir in dig en ou s community courts are already linked. A young Kaq’chiquel survivor of sexual assault recently sought indigenous court before the evidence was handed over to the legal prosecutor. Those calling for reform want to see a formal reconciliation between the indigenous and state legal systems.

What authority does the indigenous court have to punish? That depends on both the community and the crime. The aim is repentance and low recidivism —a common indigenous worldview is that life in prison is a living hell that will worsen someone’s behavior . Still, some of the punishments can be harsh. In Sololá, sentences may include restitution, community service, exile, or corporal punishment administered by the family of the victim. That last one is controversial: opponents reform say that it’s a violation of human rights. Many opponents of reform are also (ironically) pro-death penalty.

How did these proposed constiutional reforms come about? More than 1500 representatives of various  Guatemalan organizations came up with the proposal. It’s long, and I’m running out of space, but if you have enough Spanish you can read them for yourself www.reformajusticia.gt

It is the diputados in Congress who will decide to approve or deny the proposed refor ms. They were expected to go through, but the last two meetings did not make quorum, leaving the country in suspense as to whether or not the changes will be made. In the meantime, we hope that Guatemalans will be tolerant and engage in diaglogue —to do better, in short, than they have with this proposal, which has tainted the conversation with the air of racism, hate, and misinformation.

Trendy

#Volcandefuego —Guatemala’s Fuego volcano —trended this month as the mountain repeatedly belched lava, flames, and ash in to the sky. Residents of Antigua tweeted photos of their cars and patios covered in ash. Others were snarkier, seizing the occasion to take aim at (who else?) the government. “#Volcandefuego is warning the legislators of this country,” wrote one tuitero.

Guatemalans seized #elanunciodeNASA —NASA’s announcement of several new exoplanets that might be hospitable to human life. They seized this moment to make fun of Jimmy Morales, which should not surprise you. “That Jimmy Morales should be sent to the moon,” was the suggestion of one Twitter user, which sounds like a solid space policy to us here at Xelawho.

Protests blocking the Pan American Highway generated a lot of twitter noise around the hashtag #bloqueosgt. The classic anti-protester tweet, of course, is that they should all go out and get jobs. There was plenty of that in store. “I say and I’ve always said that #bloqueosgt only affect productive men and women,” wrote one user. “Get a job, huevones!” Some called for the protestors to be arrested, and worse. No tweets offered up viable solutions to the rising cost of electricity.

Some levity came from #nadamasrudoenGTque, or “nothing ruder in Guatemala than…” One young man recommended against ordering your tacos with Zone 1 in the capital. He made this point with a spiderman .gif of Toby Maguire squelching up his face, captioned “DIARRHEA” in block white letters. Enough said about that. Almost all of the recommendations had to do with food. So the next time you’re in Guatemala City, be careful about what and when you order —there’s a lot of unspoken rules you might be breaking.

#SFaborto created a space to talk about the abortion ship floating in international waters and offering women’s health care to the people of Guatemala. Men on the internet were in full form in this discussion of women’s bodies —down to a tweet, their eyes were on the ball. “Sorry FEMINAZIS, but the moment we start talking about SPERM then abortion is ALSO a men’s rights issue,” one man wrote helpfully.

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Superchivos Cumpeaños

Xelaju MC recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Xela loves a party, after all, and this was a pretty good excuse: there was a concert at the Centro Intercultural, a gala at the Teatro, and hundreds of fireworks.

Somehow, the boys from Mario Camposeco are popular here in Xela, they bring out that special kind of affection that consistently disappointing sports team helps to engender in its fans. In those seventy-five years, you can count the number of league titles that they’ve won on the fingers of one of your hands.

It’s not all about league titles, of course. The chivos are beloved here because they’re of Xela —they belong to the city, in all of their mediocrity, and that in and of itself is worth celebrating.

The anniversary celebration was also, of course, occasion for a football game. Almost eight thousand people packed Mario Camposeco to capacity, generating some 200,000 Quetzales in profit. Xelaju MC, as they are wont to do, lost 0-1 to Municipal. The important part is that we still love them.