Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala


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.

Puerto (Port) Quetzal

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.

Fields of coffee, bananas and mango trees

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.


Homes of workers that harvest the fields

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.

Making jade sculpture

Today jade shops recreate the masks and symbols of these goddesses for souvenirs.

Mayan carved sculptures … goddess of corn and goddess of the earth or goddess of “filth”…. yes promiscuous….but that is a story for another day

Textiles are also very important in the Mayan culture. These brightly colored woven fabrics are a a way to distinguish the 23 tribes since each group speak a different dialect.
Women have traditionally been the ones to create these textiles in Mayan society.

Through weaving, Mayan women have had the role of clothing the family and keeping the “threads” of the Mayan culture together.

….creating thousands of brightly colored distinctive embroidered patterns capturing local flowers, birds and Mayan symbols
So the mayan dress (Traje) is a statement of culture and personal Identify
and textiles are considered a form of Mayan art and religious beliefs
These crafts are sold on the streets everywhere
….this is typical… Local women wrapped with textiles for sale including carrying “wares” on her head

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

Entering the old city of Antiqua, founded in 1543

In 1979 UNESCO declared the old city of Antiqua a World Heritage Cultural Heritage site

Old Antiqua is known for its cobblestone streets, colorful Facades, tiled roofs restored and unrestored ruins of churches, palaces, convents and mansions.
Only small vehicles, scooters and Bicycles can make there way through the narrow cobblestone streets ….even for pedestrians it is difficult at best…. It makes Nantucket look like a cake walk.
Also on these cobbled streets are Charming small hotels
And cafes with Beautiful courtyards and colorful wisteria
And even in this beautiful old city Mayans have to take the trash out to
….. the city center is lush with tropical foliage. Christmas celebrations are held
in the square each year with everyone eating tamales for a week between Christmas and New Year
The influence of Spain is very much seen in the architecture
And in particular the churches

The Spanish Dominicans dominated the church for centuries and have had a big influence over the community

The Church of San Francisco….Built in the 1700s ….next to the original church destroyed by an earthquake in the 1600’s
Shrine inside church of San Francisco

hope you like this photo… I got reprimanded for taking it … can’t read Spanish
But we were not suppose to be taking pictures
The Arches were built to shroud the Dominican clergy

Dominican nuns did not like to be seen…arches were built as a way to cover themselves walking from one building to the next
Today you can still feel the influence of the Catholics…Churches, Shrines everywhere. When the bell tolls at noon, men, women and children go to church
And girls in catholic school uniforms walk home
And Boys in their school Uniform
So Summing it up ….the parts of Guatemala I saw are beautiful….
Shopkeeper in Jade shop

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

One thought on “Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

  1. Their fabrics are so vibrant and striking. I’d have a hard time resisting buying some! Love your photos – they capture beautifully the people and their culture. It does seem like a nice place to visit.


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