Palacio de Correos (Post Office Palace), Downtown Guatemala
Weather these days: Perrrrfect! High in the high 70s, lows in the mid 50s. Clear blue skies, breezy.
One recent Saturday night I broke a molar. Excruciating pain ensued. Of course, no dentist was going to be available on a Sunday, so I resorted to La Muela Felíz (The Happy Molar), a very kitschy dental clinic chain in several working class Guatemalan neighborhoods.
Facade of La Muela Felíz in Zona 4
By the way, in case you ever have a dental emergency, you can call them at 2360-0945 for directions to any of their different clinics through the city ... and they are also on Facebook (of course!)
Saint Antonia, Patroness of Dentists (I guess?)
Anyhow, this being a viscerally Catholic country, there are saints inside out of the clinic, starting with Saint Antonia at the entrance, standing proud over a concrete molar. There was also a life-sized St. Francis of Assisi statue at the top of the stairs --don't ask me why! I suppose the purpose is to give some prayer opportunities to those faithful folk fearing the ordeal to come.
Entrance to La Muela Felíz
When we went in, I thought that the stone figures on the walls were reproduction of Mayan idols until I realized that they were cement reproductions of molars! Clearly the people at this dental clinic want you to make sure there is no mistake, you are there to get your teeth taken care of. The molar motif is just crazy.
Chairs and floor tiles with molar motifs
Crazy aesthetics aside, the consultation is free. I had to go to several appointments in which they placed a temporary plastic molar while the permanent one was elaborated. Then the installation of the permanent one on another date and a third one to ensure all was working fine.
The whole thing cost a grand total of approximately US$250 (or Q.2,000) and you pay in installments. They gave me quote for US$50 (or Q.400) for a set of several fillings (yes, I have yet to go back for said fillings).
Colorful waiting room at La Muela Felíz
Try to calculate how much that would cost in the US! No wonder I know people in the US who prefer to fly here to get their dental work done. Even with the plane ticket, it is worth it. I don't think you could possibly get it done in the US for anything less than 5 or 6 times that amount. And I felt very comfortable with the care I received.
Molar motifs on the balcony ironwork at La Muela Felíz
Other than that, life has been good if busy. Our community-organizing students finally graduated and it has been one of the best groups we have had up to now. As their final project they had a very clever photo exhibit, in which they showcased historic downtown buildings and, having provided sticky-pads and pencils for the public, asked them to write memories evoked by the images in relation to some life experience at those places.
Our community-organizing students
The exhibit was held at the former Post Office Palace (Palacio de Correos), which today functions as a state arts and music school. It was really interesting to see how many people have memories they want to share about the patrimonial buildings photographed and exhibited by the students.
Public at the student photo exhibit (and participants writing). Photo: Jose Manuel
The walls around the pictures were soon covered in sticky pads, as all sorts of people, from children to art students, passers-by and security guards, wrote up all kinds of memories they had of the buildings. Our students periodically retrieve the handwritten notes throughout several weeks, to later publish them with the photos in a memory booklet.
The idea is to demonstrate how important these patrimonial buildings are to common citizens on a day-to-day basis, for they are still in use, even if --like the former Post Office nowadays an art school-- they have been re-purposed as something else.
Member of the public writing a memory related to the patrimonial building she is looking at.
Photo: Jose Manuel
Photo: Jose Manuel
Upon their graduation, which was at the new Cultural Center of Spain on the pedestrian avenue (La Sexta) of the historic downtown, the City mayor, the Ambassador of Spain, and other notables attended. These new community organizers commit to work for the betterment of the cultural life and physical environment of the historic neighborhoods of downtown Guatemala, which is where most of them live or work. This kind of citizen support and contribution is very important, because the City Government has scant resources. Hence, the Mayor taking the time to attend the students' graduation.
Up to now, the program has had excellent results, and each group that has graduated continues, to this day, to organize festivals and events that increase conviviality among neighbors, as well as lobby for the betterment of the physical environment of their barrios. We are very proud of this program and our alumni.
The New Cultural Center of Spain on "La Sexta" in downtown Guatemala City
Anyhow, on my next post I will comment more on the social and political happenings these days around here. It won't take me so many months to write again, I promise! Just a few days. I am, after all, on vacation.