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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Guatemalan Highland Wanderings 2

Guatemala, land of ancient customs and forlorn mists still cloaking your people in mysterious ways. But what is this that I see your people throwing off?...What once was under the paganistic fancies of Mayan rituals....and what once was a subdued people under the yoke of Spanish dogmatism. Now half your inhabitants praise one God and His revelation. No, the days of chanting ignorance, of black magic, and loathsome sacrifice on top of smoking altars are nearly gone. And the days of religious peasantry in the guise of saintliness and parish dominance are becoming less and less. Guatemala,your people believe in something that makes them smile everytime I pass by them in the marketplace.

Jeremy and I took off eastwards further into the highlands of Guatemala. Nearly all transportation is done by what tourists call "chicken buses", termed so because during a considerable haul the riders will be packed in these buses like chickens. The buses themselves are the same buses I remember from my childhood being chained like galley slaves to be made to go to school. The U.S. supposedly donated a bunch of these buses and sent them way down into Central America. Now, the Guatemalans got a hold of them and they spiced them up. Placing chrome on the outside along with colorful designs. So that some of these buses that had this intense lustre to them you could spot as it would roar down the dusty road glimmering in the sun and blaring latino christian music. And then inside the buses at the front was what I took to be the name of the bus, but which was in fact the bus line's name. So we hopped on a variety of bus line names, all scrawled on the front in Spanish were biblical names like "Lion of Judah", or "The Goodness of God" or "The Love of Christ". Then in would enter tons of tons of the Mayan people. All of the women bearing the most colorful embroidered clothing with indigenous shawls and native head bands. Some of the men still wore their ancient clothing but most all of the men fancied the cowboy hat. These traditional multi-colored costumes were used by the Spanish to tell which village a Mayan was from by the patterns of their clothing. Three centuries later, and the people still dress this way.
We took one of these buses to one of the main highland towns, Quatzaltenango. Or what most people called Xela (pronounced "shay-lah"). You can probably see why they shorten it. The air here had much more moisture than the air back in Mexico, and it was much cooler. Jeremy and I forgot to carry anything warm seeing how we were traveling further south we doubted it could be very cool. But we were wrong. We were in the mountains and in the rainforest where it poured down the first night. Jeremy hadn't seen real rain at all since he got to Mexico and that was back in January. So it thundered and poured and we found a hostel for 2 dollars a night and shared a room with a girl from Spain and a girl from Denmark. Tourism was pretty big in these parts mostly by young backpackers like ourselves. The next day we got up and had our first full day in Guatemala...which I will write about next.


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