Posted by: powellpjc | August 16, 2009

Brothers in Arms. Notes on Guatemala.

Gunfire, broken sidewalks, tuk-tuks and 18 year-olds with shotguns. That’s my first impression of Guatemala. It’s a violent country and no one attempts to deny it. I am cautioned at every turn to stay off the streets at night and I do.

No reason to smile if you're packin' a 12 ga. streetsweeper.

No reason to smile if you're packin' a 12 ga. streetsweeper.

I left my boat in a marina on the coast, the port city of Puerto Quetzal. The security looked good, the docks were in good order and everyone was armed. The navy base is next door so I think the banditos give the place a wide berth.

Puerto Quetzal and it’s commercial centre, Puerto San Jose were both dusty, smelly and brooding. I got the hell out of there pronto and went to la Antigua, one of the country’s earlier capitals and a touristy, colonial town. Cobblestone streets, earthquake shattered buildings (un-repaired) and more shotguns.

Young men, big guns.

Young men, big guns.

On a Saturday afternoon the fireworks out in the country would remind one of Hamburg in 1943. The bursts are 1,000 feet high.

With the typical motorcycle-riding holdup artist, the regulations require all riders to wear identification. Presumably so one can identify the robber after he’s taken his automatico from your nose. Nevermind your bowels will be looser than slush in the gutter.

Identification, Guatemala-style.

Identification, Guatemala-style.

Of course there are redeeming features. The people are typically latin-American and very friendly, helpful and entertaining. The modes of transportation are unique. In Puerto Quetzal the pedi-cab took me 2 miles to a restaurant for $2. Driver didn’t even break into a sweat.

The pedi-cab, and no, that's not me.

The pedi-cab, and no, that's not me.

In Antigua they have the tuk-tuk. Built in India, they offer Antiguanos cheap and timely transportation. With their tiny wheels and the cobble-stoned streets however, one’s kidneys soon turn to purée.

The Indian-built 'tuk-tuk'.

The Indian-built 'tuk-tuk'.

 

And, yes, that is me in the bone-rattler.

And, yes, that is me in the bone-rattler.

There are mist-covered mountains and coffee plantations.

The markets are lively and colorful and have the largest radishes I’ve ever seen.

Killer radishes.

Killer radishes.

 

The 'you-name-it, we-got-it' seafood counter.

The 'you-name-it, we-got-it' seafood counter.

The fresh meat and flies counter.

The fresh meat and flies counter.

Crocodile loaves. Didn't try them but they do look good.

Crocodile loaves. Didn't try them but they do look good.

The people seem well-fed. The food is good. The coffee is almost as good as that of Costa Rica. There is marimba music, music from Peru and tonight I’m going to hear a concert featuring some famous Cubano.

The Buena Vista Marimba Club. Apologies to Ry Cooder.

The Buena Vista Marimba Club. Apologies to Ry Cooder.

 

The Antigua cathedral from without...

The Antigua cathedral from without...

 

...and from within.

...and from within.

I will come and go and thank the Guatemaltecos for their hospitality, but…

…there is no good reason to visit this country in peacetime.

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Responses

  1. I’d die for a crocodile loaf.
    dr

  2. Dond’esta Tony “el grande” Watkins photo?
    A fan

  3. stay with your people and i dont think they apreciate your presence anyway


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