Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OFF TO GUATEMALA.....AND NICARAGUA








I can´t recommed going into Guatemala City at this point, it´s too dangerous. Over the last year or two, more than 100 bus drivers have been killed, that´s over 100, squeezed by gang members applying extorsion tactics to the companies, and killing drivers when rejected. There have been 653 women killed in the whole country this year and about 6300 women raped and beaten over all countrywide, according to a morning story in the Presa Libre, which has become quite a reputable paper these days. The headlines this morning declared that the government paid indigenous people, about 20,000 of them, anywhere from 50-75 Quetzales )(7.5 to the dollar) each to come in to the capital and demonstrate IN FAVOR of the goverment´s proposed budget, which would likely push monies into the hands of the leaders rather than into the specific programs to help the education, health, and welfafe of the people. Really astonishing. Every day there are stores of 7, 8,or 15 people murdered it the capital. The goverment can´t send in security guards for the buses as: 1. they are out of money, having pocketed it all, and 2. the security guards are many times working for the drug lords,the gangs, beholden to them. Three more people murdered this moring, a passenger, a driver and a young gang member who had previously been jailed but let out on a low bail amount.

So, at the airport one must jump into a hired car or hotel representative and drive directly to Antigua, where these problems seem a million miles away, even though it is just a 45-minute drive. DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DARK. There is crime here after dark, particularly, but it has improved in the last year or so. Just make sure you are home by 10 pm as that'[s the cutoff hour for the tuk-tuk's, the two person little taxis. Iit´s a small city, walkable from end to end, north to south, east to west, but don't walk after dark, call a reputable cab from your hotel.

I´m still in awe of what a truly remarkable place this city is, especially when walking around at 7 am before the traffic starts. Cobblestone streets, huge churches, both in ruins and in use (personal favorite is San Francsico on 1st Ave. South), cool sunny climate, perfect for a hour or two of fast walking. The historical board does a very good job here, and it should serve as a model for other colonial cities.

Our hotel is a dream, we are very lucky. La Quinta de Las Flores, an old public bath and laundry, coloial times. Four or five pools, fountains and a couple of acres of tended beautiful gardens, exquisite textiles adorning each room, the volcano peeking out from behind the morning mist in the distance. Only about 14 rooms. http://quintadelasflores.com/about-us.htm I don´t get paid to mention this, honest. It´s going to be hard to leave.

2 comments:

  1. Damn all that is so beautiful and right up my alley. I've got to get there soon. You know how to pick 'em!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Al Webber, RPCV TogoDecember 12, 2008 at 5:17 PM

    Judy, your comments are so sad about Guatemala City. After I visited you and Tita in El Salvador in 1968, I flew to Guatemala City and then Mexico City on my way home. With the little practice in Spanish that I had with you, I befriended a cab driver and he showed me the whole city for free in his cab. I went to the big market right beside the central square and a child took me to her mother inside and explained why the blue and black wool poncho that I bought was the best made. I wandered to the big relief map of the country and met a class of young students and made charming photographs of all the children with the teacher and sent them prints after I got home. I loved the park on the hilltop with the open-air theatre and only later discovered it was designed by their city planner, a fraternity brother of mine at Alpha Rho Chi, from the University of Illinois. I stayed at Mission Chapultepeque with volunteers from many countries and learned of their lives in Guatemala...one PCV trapping jaguars in her yard! During a siesta and afgternoon I did take the bus to see Antigua, and it was fantastic. I know it was not easy though even then, and guard dogs barked from house rooftops as we walked as a group of volunteers to the cinema at night. "Esperez la Obscuridad" with Audrey Hepburn didn't help the mood!! But Guatemala was fantastic, and just flying over the volcanic countryside was so spectacular...they had held the plane for me to arrive!! l

    ReplyDelete