Celebrate Your Birthday Like A Chapin
By Diana Pastor
If you are living in Guatemala or are just passing through and by chance you happen to have your birthday whilst you’re here make sure you celebrate it the Guatemalan way. You should know that there are three key ingredients for having a birthday that is worthy of being called a cumpleanos chapin: something sweet, something salty and something to drink. If your budget is limited … don´t worry, there is a simple and cheap combination of these three vital ingredients that never fails: enchiladas, Magdalena cake and tea. These are the staple foods that are served at pretty much every Guatemalan birthday party.
If you still haven´t got round to trying enchiladas yet, then let me tell you that they are tostadas (basically large tortilla chips) with refried beans, avocado, beef or chicken mince, cabbage, tomato sauce and… basically any other ingredient that you fancy putting on top of your tostada, as long as it´s salty (we don´t want you going too crazy!).
If you fancy having a bit more of a culinary adventure for your birthday, you can try changing up the enchiladas for paches or tamales de arroz. These are more commonly eaten for Christmas – but then again, there´s no rule saying you only have to eat them then. If you want to buy some in Xela, you can look at some of the market stalls in the City Center, especially on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings when they are easiest to find.
Magdalenas are cakes without cream or filling that come in the shape of a large doughnut and without any decoration. You can get chocolate magadalenas, vanilla ones, orange ones and many other varieties. The easiest place to find them is in any Xelapan store.
And with regards to the tea, I would recommend going for the “te chirrepeco” – a cheap but tasty tea that comes in boxes. If it´s hot outside, then you can go for cooled horchata tea, Coca-cola or Pepsi (or, as a last resort, a bottle of Big Cola, the “I don´t have any money” version of Coca-cola).
If you have a bigger budget to spend, then you can splash out and buy a few of the treats that are usually bought for children´s party but that go down well for any birthday, regardless of age. The traditional thing to buy is the famous pinata. These come in different sizes and prices: the small ones cost around Q25, the medium ones Q50 and the big ones will set you back Q100. And remember, the pinatas don´t come with the sweets inside (a mistake more than a few extranjeros have made when buying pinatas). They´re traditionally filled with sweets, but you can put whatever you want inside. All you´ll need then is a handkerchief and a broom, which you should dress up with some coloured paper for the full experience. And when you´re trying to bust open the pinata, try to aim well – you don´t want someone´s memory of your birthday party being a trip to the hospital!
Celebrating your birthday chapin style really is that simple! Feliz cumpleanos!