I went to the 15th Anniversary Festival of the museum of Universidad San Carlos (MUSAC), the first university in Central America (founded 1553). The early 19th century building is truly beautiful, located quite close to us. Used to be the law school. Its lovely library of antique books is to die for. You know the type: Old leather-bound tomes, antique furniture, glossy wood, that dusty smell.
The theme of the festival was Guatemalan gastronomy. Researchers from the Center of Folklore Studies offered fascinating talks. There were great food tastings. The Center of Folklore Studies offers useful guidance on Guatemalan folklore and culture. It's housed in the century-old building of the Botanical Gardens, built over an old cemetery. I should mention that I haven't met one person yet who doesn't like the Botanical Gardens. I love it too.
Back to food. There's a lot going on in Mesoamerican food studies. Guatemalan cuisine is an admixture of Mayan, African, Spanish cultures, with Arabic and Asian influxes. The ports of Mexico were the load-transfer spots for all cargo shipped from Asia to Spain. Hence, rice (which stopped there on its way to Spain) is a much more common diet staple in Mesoamerica than other Latin American regions. So much for "authentic" cuisines, right?
Historians have decoded, in the last years, previously indecipherable Mayan glyphs. They've found many ancient texts which refer to foodstuffs appropriate for individuals of different castes of Mayan society. Some foods were "right" for the military, others for athletes, and the "maceguales" or common people were restricted from foods allowed to the elite. There's a whole lot of recent information on that available, down to ancient recipes.
When in Mexico, I've tasted Aztec foods that remain in Mexican cuisine, such as ants' eggs and certain worms which taste like french fries (no, not like chicken). In Guatemala, I've eaten giant ants called zompopo de mayo. Salty and taste like peanuts. In Honduras I ate grilled iguana, garrobo, and it was delicious. Now that does taste like chicken! Goes well with beer, too. (See? I call that food studies MY way.)
One doesn't have to travel far to see Mayan murals and stellae, as there are some in many local institutions. Two blocks from us, in the National Library, there are an interesting few stellae and murals one can see for free (see above and below). They are beautiful and expressive.
See the footprints going from one character to the other in the mural above? There is some sort of interaction going on there, I wonder what it is. Makes me want to learn all this stuff.
There are many US, European and Asian archaeologists funded by US and European universities, living in Guatemala for one or two decades, just digging through all these things. They just had an important international conference in Antigua on the subject, which I sadly missed. I can't go to everything, I already try not to miss out on so many events!
My dissertation committee has adjourned for the summer so I won't hear anything about my last draft till the end of the season. However, I'm already working on other research for articles and books in progress. I am so glad that a) I am surrounded by excellent Gauatemalan research resources and b) have wi-fi internet so that I can access JSTOR and all the other databases at my university in the US. Got the best of both worlds here!
Now, if I only could access Hulu and Pandora, the whole thing would be as near perfect as anything. But Magnatune has been working out fine and I do get to watch Jon Stewart every day, if one episode behind schedule. Guatemala City now has a local "American" radio station, with US DJs and all. It's pretty decent; classic rock, old school pop, some Lady GaGa, some alternative, etc.
Below, one of my kitchen shelves which I keep stocked with all sorts of local beans and grains, but also with local artisan pieces. I am afraid my kitchen shelves have more art stuff and books than food, but that's another story!
Bed & Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala
In the Historic Center of Guatemala