The political scene in this country is a never-ending telenovela, y'all.
First, the famous Rosenberg case, in which an upper-class lawyer was gunned down, having left a video behind with himself in it, stating that if the video was aired, it meant he had been murdered by order of the president and some of his cabinet members.
Became big cause célebre. Mass protests. International coverage. Mind you, nobody is directing mass protests for the bus drivers in marginal areas who get gunned down every single day!
Anyhow, an international commission led by the European Union conducted an investigation and found that--I kid you not--Rosenberg had orchestrated his own death, down to hiring the sicarios who gunned him down and faking the death threat calls he kept receiving. Real or not real, can't deny it is a soap opera. Either way, end of story.
Meanwhile, the former president of the nation, Alfonso Portillo, had been extradited from Mexico to face huge corruption and fraud charges in Guatemala. Things like diverting hundreds of millions of dollars destined for poor children's meals and public education, to his private offshore accounts. Same old, same old.
He walked into the courtroom for his arraignment--all smiles and smirks--the judge pronounced a fine for one million quetzales--something like 120,000 US dollars--Portillo pulled the check (clearly previously written out for that amount and signed) from his breast pocket and handed it to the judge, turned around smiling and walked out, a free man.
He walked out smirking and giving thumbs up sign, as if he were some skanky rocker bailed out after being arraigned on a petty drug charge. The ensuing scandal seemed to make him even more gleeful.
Well. He was running up and down the nation, playing at being a future congress representative (Guatemalan politics, the gift that keeps on giving), when the US government filed an extradition motion against the man. Something about using US banks and offshore banks to launder money.
Instead of laying low, in his arrogant foolishness, he walked around bragging that he had congressmen in his pocket, that he would not be arrested and so on. Well, his friends and protectors must have felt the heat too much, because he was turned in and arrested, like a common felon, just this week.
Look at the picture below! Big difference from his cynical smirking of the first arraignment. Big.
Well. It remains to be seen if he is actually extradited to the US, but my guess is that chances are good that he will be.
He has become poison to his political amigos--heard about what happens to good weather friends?--and I don't think anybody feels like taking any heat for him. Acting in-your-face cynical when it is only Guatemalans looking on is one thing, getting away with it when the US government bears down hot and heavy is another.
Sad, but that's the way the cookie crumbles around here. At least it has been an amusing denouement. Thing is, all governments here have behaved this way and the present one appears to be no exception, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when this administration is over.
One wonders what would happen if unethical law-breaking bankers in the US were also prosecuted thus. But we know what happens. What the hell, we just bail them out with taxpayers' money. And frankly, I don't even have the energy to get mad anymore.
I thought you all might enjoy these pictures of vaults, cellars and such in the XVI century city of Antigua. I am not sure what that vault above used to be, but it is huge, with a very tall ceiling.
If you look at the picture above--the window, more precisely--you can appreciate how thick these stone walls are. The light coming through the windows, then, is not widely disseminated across the interiors, but constrained by thick walls, it comes through in narrow shafts of light which appear milky and diffuse.
This monastery was immense and big on interior gardens which, from the looks of it, served also as orchards and kitchen gardens. Some rooms did seem to have wide windows meant to allow lots of clarity inside, and these were, usually, the common rooms, such as the reading rooms, work rooms and such.
The entrance above is to the cellars--perhaps to store wine and such--but they were too low for me to feel like walking/crawling in. The ground has risen a lot through the centuries, and covered a great deal of the walls and floors, so that the entrances have been "lowered." And people used to be shorter, too.
Plus, lets just say I am somewhat afraid of bats and tarantulas in there.
Wow! Pres. Obama is stating, as I write, that students who have graduated will/shall/should get their student loans forgiven after 20 years if they work in public service. I may have heard wrong--I confess to not paying too much attention--but having some hefty student loans of my own, I would love that!
One thing to say it, though, and another to have it come true. Politicians, right and left, are big on making promises they do not keep. And by the time 20 years pass, I will be more concerned with retirement than student loans ...
Back to the ruins. The catacombs had a wider and taller entrance, so I did dare try that one. The entrance is kind of low, but once inside--as opposed to the cellars--the ceiling is tall and vaulted. I tried to imagine how lovely it must have looked, with candles flickering off the walls.
I don't quite understand why there were so many entrances to this one, unless some of them were originally windows. After all, only one entrance had steps. But even as windows they would have been set too low. Yet some start a bit above ground, so who knows. One of those things that sort of nag at me, but I accept that I may never know the reasons why. Do any of you know?
I enjoy all the comments people leave, especially when they shed light on some mystery. So my sincere thanks to all who comment and send emails.
I will return to Antigua next week and will have more information on research centers and archives there. I didn't have time to visit them all last time, and some where closed. But keep posted, there is more to come.
Meanwhile, still working on incorporating ten more pages of "methodology explication" into my dissertation and--so promises my dissertation chair--the dissertation will be done and ready to be turned in to the other committee members. So it is all on me, now.
Have I had time for those ten pages of methodology description? No. Been overwhelmed with work. This includes setting out lots of potted and hanging plants around the hallways in the building, some rattan chairs and so on. I like to sit around plants and read, so I figure other people might, too. Hence, lots of plants, books and magazines everywhere. Making granola for guests and haus-frau-ish things of that nature.
This was exciting though. The metal band Death Before Dishonor, from Boston, came to stay with us for some bigass concert they gave here. Very cool guys, some of them had full sleeves of very artsy tattoos. Below you can see a YouTube video of this band, which you may (or may not) enjoy:
I have several nephews who have their own bands, from mainstream rock to metal, so I am sort of exposed to this genre. Not my daily cup of tea, I admit, but I can listen to it on occasion and have a good time.
This is interesting. We have had many rock bands staying with us over time. We have never had a problem with rock bands acting rowdy, but we have had a bit of a behavioral problem with traveling businessmen on occasion! I am told, however, this is a problem of hotels worldwide and thankfully, it has never really been an out-of-hand problem for us.
There seems to be a big--if informal--reggae festival of sorts in the historic center since the beginning of the year, with many reggae bands coming over for concerts, reggae parties, etc., in all the bars and pubs of downtown Guatemala. Went to one recently (see below) and it was pretty good. The best band, Culto Público, creates original music, and I like that.
Reggae band Culto Público of Guatemala
This weekend promises more of the same, us going to pubs to listen to bands at the multi-venue Reggae Festival. We keep bumping into friends from around the world who live here, Guatemalan and foreigners, so it is always fun. We never know who we'll see.
Most people in the area, nationals and foreigners alike, tend to be artists, writers, journalists, photographers, graphic designers or academics. Or an admixture of any of these.
Downtown Guatemala has very much become the fermenting center of arts in the capital city, and I like it that way. It is not frou-frou artsy, but still bohemian, local and raw. I hope it keeps getting better without gentrifying obnoxiously. But only time will tell...
I shall leave you with a picture of sunset as viewed from my balcony and wish you all peace and health. Thanks for visiting.
Bed & Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the heart of the Historic Center of Guatemala
In the heart of the Historic Center of Guatemala