Central America. Y’know, that little bit between North and South America (Geography for Dummies, 2013). Not the safest part of the world for tourists, but hey, significantly better than the assorted war zones of a few years ago. Robberies and other bad stuff are commonplace, although to be fair we didn’t see anything much more intimidating than a couple of pickpocketing attempts at the famous Chichicastenango market.
The market was set around the local church, and a very traditional service was taking place (hey, it was a Sunday after all)
I deliberately placed a couple of red bananas (yum) in my back pockets to help the pickpockets with their 5-a-day. If you do get offered the opportunity to be relieved of your valuables by gunpoint/knifepoint (delete as applicable), you should simply smile, hand over the goods and thank your assailant for giving you the opportunity.
That said, the people in general were very welcoming. They’ve got lots of their own problems without having to worry about tourists, particularly among the poorer indigenous Mayan communities. This is a beautiful and lush (hey it was the end of rainy season anyway) country, with numerous active volcanos dotted around the landscape. The most tourist friendly place was Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage town. Lots of people come here to learn Spanish on residential courses. Very good value for money by all accounts if you’re in the market for that.
We took a boat trip out on Lake Atitlan to one of the towns on the other side of the lake. Felt a bit like Switzerland or Austria for a while.
This is where we heard about the “Church of Maximon”. More a cult than a Church, but the heady mix of Catholicism and indigenous Mayan religions operating effectively “side by side” was curious and beguiling at the same time. Where else can you go into a church and see both a traditional Catholic mass and the local shaman performing rituals at the same time? Maximon is a God of the people. He drinks, smokes, behaves badly and rules within a culture of fear. The locals don’t want to upset him. I warmed to this dude and was quite happy to worship in his church that day #keepingitreal Look Maximon up on Wikipedia if you’d like to find out more, it’s all pretty interesting stuff.
Here’s a couple of the locals. Some of the ladies are even prettier than this.
It wouldn’t be a blog of mine without some reference to food or beer – here’s a traditional Guatemalan breakfast for your perusal. Eggs, salsa, guacamole, black beans and corn tortillas.
Oooh…and did I mention the coffee?? Guatemalan coffee is delish.