WEDNESDAY FEB 5, DAY 11…
So here we are in Central America…..Guatemala Guatemala is known as the land of trees. It’s a relatively small country in Central America….about the size of Ohio and has a population of around 20 million. The land is lush and tropical, with mountains, lakes and volcanos that are still active and still causing damage today.
The country is a mix of Spanish and Indian cultures. Guatamala and Southern Mexico are home to the famous Mayan Indians. Today’s population is 55 percent Mayans with 23 tribes and 19 dialects. The national language is Spanish though the tribe typically speak their native dialects…English through the region is minimal.
The nations flag is blue and white, blue because it Is located between two oceans, pacific and Atlantic, white for peace and purity … the bird, in the middle is a quetzal…. never heard of it…but it is the symbol of liberty and that is how the port got its name.
Guatemala’ economy is built on Agriculture. With a 2 season climate, rainy and dry ….ideal for growing crops. Harvest is November to April.
80 percent of Guatemalas’ agriculture trade is sugarcane…..the 7’th biggest producer of sugar in the world and one of the the primary suppliers to the US.
They produce two million tons of sugar a year and at night they burn the fields, enhancing the quality of the soil for crops. This process creates a heavy smoke across the night sky with a strong smell.
In the 1850’s, Guatemala, like its Mexican neighbor, Chiapas, also got into coffee and are one of the top providers to the Central American region.
Guatemala also grows many fruits and vegetables… bananas, corn and 17 types of mangos …. (they only export three….those with tougher skin).
The southern area of Guatamala is covered with jade ….second hardest rock to the diamond. In 1000BC the Mayan tribes carved this stone to create masks and entomb the dead…..a way of “protecting the spirit”of the deceased foerever.
Today jade shops recreate the masks and symbols of these goddesses for souvenirs.
Through weaving, Mayan women have had the role of clothing the family and keeping the “threads” of the Mayan culture together.
So I was curious about the Mayans …. quite honestly prior to this visit I knew the name… but with all my great wisdom….I thought they were some ancient tribe that no longer existed.
….I wanted to learn more about the culture….
so off to the old city of Antiqua, about 50 miles from port, a city of 48k and about 40 percent Mayan
In 1979 UNESCO declared the old city of Antiqua a World Heritage Cultural Heritage site
Of course like any third world county it has its poverty as well …..
and I must say I was struck by the number of disfigured people and the condition of there teeth…
no I was not asking them to open there mouths…
but I assume this has to do with limited access to good medical care.
…..with that said, I have a new appreciation for the culture… both Mayans and Spanish. Guatemalans are friendly …. there eyes show warmth and there smiles kindness…I would have never seen myself saying this ….but I would love to come back again.
Tomorrow I promise I will be shorter …
on our way to El Salvador