For good and for bad, Guatemala is a happening place, y'all.
Guatemala has been selected as the site for the World Coffee Conference 2010, with over 77 countries participating in this event. This one is a biggie.
Also in town these days, a traveling exhibit of a collection of Picasso portrait drawings. I haven't yet seen it, but will this week, when I visit the National Museum of Modern Art.
Guatemala has also been selected for the International Sculpture Festival, which takes place at the National Museum of Modern Art until March 14th. From what I understand, all artists could select the material they preferred from Guatemala's marble quarries which by the way, just found out that Guatemala produces very good marble! Who knew?
Now this one is really cool because a dozen awarded international artists will be creating sculptures during this time, open to the public. I read that thousands of visitors are expected. They will also provide free sculpture workshops. I will most definitely drop by this event! Pictures coming soon.
Another interesting piece of news here is that (finally!) a commission has been established for the purposes of searching for the thousands of "disappeared" during the years of the dirty war.
Anthropological work has begun at the cemeteries, in the common graves where all unidentified dead were (and still are) buried as "XX". The work will take anywhere from 8 months to a year, and they will search all burials from the late 1970s to mid 1980s, the most active years of the war.
This, as well as the amazing work being done at the archives of the National Police Archives Project, supported by international organizations and the U.N., should provide some fascinating results in the years to come. I just hope that families who had loved ones disappear might find some closure after all these years.
Regardless of where anybody may sit in the ideological spectrum, I cannot imagine a grief akin to having a loved one disappear and never knowing what happened to him or her. I doubt anything more than closure for some will come out of this. By the way, you can read up on the Guatemalan National Police Archive Project by clicking here.
So there is progress on that side, but on the other side, former President Portillo, who had been incarcerated for laundering millions of dollars from the national wallet and is supposedly awaiting extradition to the US, has been moved to the Military Hospital--of all places!--due to "chest pains" or some generic ailment of the sort, despite the fact that doctors cannot provide any sort of diagnosis or documentation to ascertain that there is, indeed, real cause for the man to be hospitalized outside of the prison system hospital.
Moreover, I read somewhere that doctors sent by the Justice Department found nothing wrong with the man. Oh surprise. Still, he remains hospitalized. And out of prison.
My guess is that he'll just settle for a life of comfort at the hospital until all the brouhaha blows away--or till he can safely abscond. The justice system in Guatemala tends to be--how can I put this?--a travesty? A joke? If you want to brush up on the saga, click here.
The weekend before last we were invited to a wedding party, which started at noon at a beautiful hotel and when we left 10 hours later, the party was still going on. The endless supply of food and music never stopped and I am still amazed that the dancing never stopped, not for 10 hours! WOW. This almost tops the New Years' party I went to some time ago, here as well, which lasted 3 days, non-stop. Guatemalans party, y'all!
And no, I am not a party animal nor anything of the sort. It just so happens that I go to these parties and then they never end. I don't want to be unpolite and leave too early. Hence ...
Friday night went out to Bar Central, "the" happening bar in downtown, and was talking to Cody, from the University of Arizona, who is doing his doctoral dissertation research, on Nicaraguan history, at the historic archives of Archivos Generales de Centroamérica half a block away from us. All original documents for colonial Nicaragua are housed there. He explained that his interest in Nicaragua started on some vacation visit to the beaches there.
Yes. That's how doctoral dissertations get started. I wrote a thesis on Guatemalan and Honduran politics because I wanted a reason to be traveling around the area. Had heard you could bump into a 3-day party 'round here ...
Just so you know, this is my one claim to fame: I go so often to Bar Central and rave about the nachos so much, that the owners, when publishing their new re-vamped menu, named their nachos "Nachos Trudy" in my honor. Yep, you know it, that one is definitely going on my epitaph! One of the things I like of the place is its mix of neighborhood bar with European expat and artsy Bohemian crowd. It has got a bit of all.
Anyhow, I really wanted to talk about the music. The band was Guatemalan reggae and the crowd seemed to know all the songs because they wouldn't stop singing the lyrics and dancing. Lately there has been a slew of reggae bands playing all over downtown, many of them with original music.
Interesting, because the following is not widespread--Guatemala's cultural environment is extremely conservative and doesn't take easily to change (for example, a majority of people wear what was in fashion in the US like 3 years ago!)--yet, even though not quite mainstream, the following is quite intense.
I am curious to see if this reggae passion "takes" in the coming months. After all, the downtown scene is pretty much the core of artsy happenings, so it may start here and stay here, or start here and radiate. We shall see. Veremos.
Part of this movement is the all-female band Naik Madera. They create a catchy blend of salsa, reggae, hip-hop all with feminist lyrics. Not the stereotypical "man hating" feminist lyrics, just plain positive feminist lyrics. Though I have found that often what men deem "man hating" is just that women want to get out of being the default kitchen duty grunge.
What really surprised me at their last concert, which I happened to go see, was that there were many young men in the crowd (most seemed to be with their girlfriends, though) who were heartily cheering the band and dancing to the tunes. I like a lot of their lyrics, especially the one that goes "¿Callar mas? ¡Nunca más!" Translates (sort of) as More of being silent? Never more!
Like I said, the music is catchy. Which may be why men were dancing to their feminist consciousness-raising. Plus, it isn't hostile. They are funny and lively.
The women of Naik practice what they sing, as they do a lot of stuff such as organize international art festivals for women artists and things of that nature. Their last event was a call for lyrics from women of all walks of life, especially women in service labor, peasants, even prostitutes, to contribute lyrics from their working experience, as their new CD's theme is Women and Labor. So if you know of anybody who might be interested in participating, have them contact Naik Madera! (They are on Facebook, of course!)
Here is a cool music video of Naik Madera (Watch it, watch it!!!):
Yes, I know, they do appear to be flashing the Cathedral in their promo pic.
Anyhow, it has been a busy week. I managed to go to Antigua to follow up on research archives and resources, which I shall post next time, and we had a whole week of full house--full to the gills!--with a group ordering a 3-course meals three times a day for several days, and then non-guests, who found out that there'd be food, coming to the hotel to buy meals too! Crazy, crazy busy.
Holy Week is coming up, and more crazy business to come, as thousands fall upon the historic center to visit the awesome celebrations. This year, Holy Week begins on March 28, so it's almost here ...
Thanks for dropping by, keep safe and till next post, I bid you adieu.
Bed and Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala