My mom--Mami, to me--was raised in Mississippi and went to college and lived in New Orleans, supported the civil rights movement, integration, was a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, and taught me, by example, to stand up for the oppressed and for what is right. I talked with her several times a day and always looked forward to it. She managed the inn. She read all my papers, no matter how boring, and I consulted her constantly. She is, and forever will be, terribly missed. No words suffice to describe how much.
Still shell-shocked by all this I went to walk the streets--literally--during the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is HUGE here. Over 200,000 visitors just to the Historic Center sanctuary alone (which happens to be a couple blocks away from the inn).
There are other sanctuaries throughout the country, from what I understand. However, the line to enter the church itself was so long, it was a several hour wait just to get in. Not that I even tried!
I wouldn't even make that line for tickets for the Metallica concert coming up in March ... and if I am here, I will go to that concert ... yet I saw thousands of people patiently standing in line to light a candle and to do whatever it is people do when they get up to the statue itself. So if you're into those things, the feast is every December 12.
All of the food here portrayed is delicious. However, eating it is a game of Russian roulette. I have had dysentery a couple of times in the last 20+ years from eating street food in Latin America but what the hell, that's what antibiotics are for and one survives. At my age, I admit it, my "wild" behavior is reduced to eating street food on occasion. Gone are the days when I'd ...
Taking the car in and out during these few days was an exercise in frustration and futility. Try driving through swarms of people who feel no need to get out of your way. Thankfully, I can walk everywhere I need to go around here and since I am really not in the mood to go out anywhere, it wasn't bothering me none.
Some interesting things about this feast:
Guatemalan children are dressed in Mayan attire--regardless of ethnicity--in honor of the "Virgen Morena" (dark-skinned Virgin). Mind you, I saw plenty white, blond and blue-eyed "Mayan" children in these streets those days. Moreover, it is traditional to take pictures of the children on this day, so there were many quaint photographer stands in the streets.
And ... the Virgin of Guadalupe is used as a symbol of resistance by many groups that feel oppressed, something I just found out. Like, I guess, migrant workers in the US, Latin American youth gangs of different kinds, indigenous movement groups, even Latina feminists.
On the other hand, Mexican food is incomparably delicious, especially in Puebla. But that's another story. Interesting fact, though, is that Guatemalans and Mexicans don't seem to like each other a lot. Mexicans make Guatemalans jump through hoops in order to provide a tourist visa to Mexico, from what I am told.
It is also fun, if one is in a good mood, with lots of musicians on the streets plying their trade and hoping for handouts. The scent of pine everywhere, because of the Christmas trees. A large book fair at the main plaza. Lots of incense in the air, concerts, festivals. The weather is still warm but with a cool breeze and chilly in the mornings and at night.
Awesome sunsets too.
Not fun: Endless firecrackers popping all the time. It's truly a health hazard.
There is a wildly popular reality show aired on cable TV here, produced in Mexico, titled La Academia. One of those silly shows where singers of dubious talent are voted off each episode or something.
So, they came to air one show from the main plaza--there was one Guatemalan singer participating, Napoleon (I swear to God, that's the kid's name)--and there were over 50,000 people at the plaza for this show. People are supposed to phone in their votes via cellphone. Stuff like that. We could hear the clamoring for hours... hours... till around midnight. Add this to the hordes invading for the Feast of Guadalupe festivities!
Next day it was all over the local headlines: Napoleon was still in the game. He had not been voted off.
You know, there is a famine going on in the Eastern region of the nation and bus drivers get killed every day here, not to mention daily corruption scandals by government authorities, but this is what makes the headlines. Go figure! Ah well, what can one say, but c'est la vie.
Hotel - Lofts - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala