Monday, November 29, 2010

Salcaja

This weekend James and I went to see the Church of San Jacinto, the oldest church in Central America! It's very close to Quetzaltenango in a town called Salcaja. The church was built in 1524 and still looks pretty good for its age.




The town is also known for cloth weaving. I heard that 5 out of 10 houses in Salcaja have a cloth weaver. This is a great place to buy traditional Mayan clothing. Much of the clothing is elaborately hand embroidered. Since it's almost completely cloth, it's really a beautiful market. The great thing about this market is that it's not catered to tourists. All of the weavings for sale are meant to be worn. I took a quick picture of one vendor's merchandise to show all the different colors, patterns, and styles of the Mayan cloth.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mexico

A few weeks ago James and I realized that our Guatemala visas had expired. We were illegal aliens. Luckily, all we really needed to do was apply for an extension, which just means they give us another stamp and authorize us to stay in the country for another 90 days.

There are two way to do this...

1) We can go to Guatemala City, hand over our pass ports for a week, pay a fine, and go back to the city to retrieve the pass ports.

OR

2) We could leave the country for 72 hours. 

Taking a trip sounded like a lot more fun. We only live about 2 hours (if your driving in a car) from the Mexican border and the beach is only 30 to 45 mins past the border, so we decided to go the a beach for the weekend. 

Unfortunately, taking the chicken buses may have saved us $75 but extended that 2 1/2 hour trip to 6. We made it to the border but still had a long way to go.



HOWEVER - after 5 buses, 3 taxis, and a lot of walking we made it to the beach! We found a nice hotel for $20 a night and the next morning spent our time soaking up the sun on this pretty little number ...


The beach was VERY long and we had it all to ourselves, except for a fisherman. The water was a great temperature but was a little difficult to swim in because it was so strong. 
We decided that our time would be best spent building a sand castle. I must say, it turned out quite well.


After the beach we took off to see the city of Tapachula. In the afternoon we visited a small ruins site called Izapa. 






That night we ate a nice dinner, walked around the central park, and watched an outdoor movie about the life of Central American immigrants as they make their way through Mexico. The morning brought us to a church service in Tapachula and then the long journey back to Xela. Over all it was a pretty good trip. We are currently legal!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kite Festival 1 - Giant Kites!!!

Last Monday, Megan and I traveled to a small town called Sumpango Sacatepequez to visit a festival of kites. During the All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, kite flying becomes super popular all over Guatemala. People told us that is in an ancient Mayan tradition of communicating with one's ancestors.

The festival was spectacular. The festival takes place in a dirt soccer field on top of a hill. While climbing up the hill, we saw hundreds of small kites in the air.



We bought a couple of small kites and spent a while flying them. At the top of the hill we found the main attraction, Los Barriletes Gigantes, or giant kites. The small ones were about 10 feet wide, and the largest were around 60 feet!!!





Kite Festival 2 - Kite Details

There were probably about 50 giant kites on display. Each was very unique with an incredible amount of detail. The colors and patterns come from small pieces of tissue paper. The frames were typically made of bamboo. 


Each kite had a specific message. Some were environmental, others human rights, and others political. 

(Pride in indigenous culture)


(The riches of our beloved Guatemala)

(Pollution)

They were very beautiful from far away, but even more beautiful close up.

Kite Festival 3 - Giant Kites Flying

The grand attraction was the flying of the giant kites. Megan and I got really good seats on the edge of small cliff. 


As you can see, there were a lot of people, and they didn't leave much room for the 100+ pound kites to fall. There were some close calls

video

Most of the kites flew for 20 or 30 seconds, but were too heavy to stay in the air. However, one smaller kite (a mere 10 feet across) got up pretty high and stayed there for more than an hour.

video

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crazy Market Road

Today, we had to drive through one of the markets in Central Quetzaltenango...

It was a tight squeeze.



Monday, November 8, 2010

Crazy Dirt Road

A few days ago, my team and I were out doing interviews up in the mountains. The view was amazing, but the temperature never got above 50 degrees. I decided to shoot a video of part of the drive along a dirt road. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera that day, just my laptop with built-in camera.



View Aldea La Cumbre in a larger map

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alfombras

To celebrate the day of the dead, alfombras (or carpets) are made with colored saw dust in the streets of many towns in Central America. We were lucky enough to get to see some of the alfombras in Xela. All of the alfombras were extremely beautiful and detailed. Because this is a religious holiday, they also have religious themes of scripture or picture.




The saw dust is laid while damp so that it is able to keep shape. The shapes are made with stencils or by creating shapes by hand or with knives.




Here are a few more examples of the types of alfombras we found in Xela. 


This one was our favorite ...