Guatemala

Following breakfast this morning, we travel back into Guatemala en route we made a number of short stops, the first one  not far from our hotel in Copan, La Sepulturas, a small archaeological site named for the large number of burials found there. Researchers believe it was a residential compound where the powerful noble scribes lived.  The most important structure was the ”House of Bakabs” (Bakabs were officials) with  an impressive carved hieroglyphic bench inside.

 

 

Back on the road it was not long before we met a group of people walking toward us with flags; we stopped and Hector greeted them and learned they were making a religious pilgrimage.

Religious Pilgrims

Religious Pilgrims

Nearing the border we began to see the trucks lining the road again. Border crossing have been uneventful but not without angst.

Back into Guatemala, traveling through a patchwork of farmland before turning onto a winding mountain road; we are all so very happy to have Oscar skillfully manning the wheel.   There is evidence of recent landslides and debris across the road, sometimes narrowing the road to one lane. We catch glimpses of the countryside through the trees; it is beautiful with villages built up the mountainsides, a lush green color and in some areas dense forests and other areas hillsides stripped of trees for firewood and now covered with grassy vegetation. These bare hillsides are a huge problem in the rainy season with nothing left to hold the soil.

 

Deforestation

Deforestation

Entering another small town we pull over on the outskirts at a large open area, a few men are working spreading something out on the concrete . . . coffee beans. They are emptying sacks of coffee beans to dry. George tries his hand at turning the beans, a continuing process until they are all dried then packaged for roasting.

 

 

Sunday markets bring a lot of people into the small towns, vendors along both sides of the street selling fruits, vegetables, chickens, pigs, colorful ropes and brooms; an open-air market and department store all in one.

We visited the home of a family who raises fighting cocks, not my cup of tea but at least we didn’t have to witness a fit, just the roosters.

The Museum of Paleontology, in Estanzuela, is home to a nice collection of Mayan artifacts, murals and fossils of the prehistoric creatures that once roamed Guatemala’s fertile lands thousands of years ago including animals from the Cenozoic to Paleozoic Eras (180 thousand to 30,000 years B.C.).

 

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Giant Sloth

 

 

Yet another quick stop by the side of the road at the home of a family who roast cashews. We have been enjoying these tasty treats that street vendors sell in most of the towns. The cashews are roasted for about 5 hours in wire baskets and are then cooled, bagged and sold to people for their personal consumption or for resale.

At last we arrive in Guatemala City but before going to our hotel visit Plaza Constitutional for the Sunday Mayan market where Muchacas from distant indian towns , wearing their best expensive dresses come looking for a boyfriend, to walk around or to buy “cortes”, the tradition Mayan skirts.   Vendors in the crowded plaza display an amazing variety of Mayan textiles.

Surrounding the plaza are the Cathedral and National Palace.  Twelve stone pillars frame the entrance to the Metropolitan Cathedral, inscribed with names, a solemn memorial to the thousands who disappeared or died during Guatemala’s civil war that claimed some 200,000 civilian lives before the peace accord in 1996. Our guide shared with us that he remembers these years and that many of his young friends disappeared during this conflict. The young boys were vulnerable because they were students and the government viewed education as a threat. Some things don’t change.

 

After settling into our hotel we walked a few blocks for a nice dinner after another very full day.

 

Tomorrow Lake Atitlan.

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