Welcome to Guatemala! Having spent many years living in and loving Mexico my husband and I were ready for a new Latin American experience and adventure. The decision was not easy, but the country we chose for our next stop on our "nomadic" journey was Guatemala, the country and neighbor to the south of Mexico. We were ready for a new culture, new customs, new sights, new challenges, new adventures, new, new, new! The luck of the gods must have been with us since “Guate” not only lived up to our expectations, but exceeded them.
What we found in Guatemala was very different from our experiences in Mexico. Guatemala was truly a third world country with old Spanish colonial customs and also indigenous Mayans still living and speaking their own dialects and practicing their ancient Mayan traditions. "Gaute" was truly unique and mysterious and that was very appealing to us.
Mayan traditions and religious beliefs are still practiced and honored in Guatemala. And many of the indigenous Maya still wear their traditional clothing.
We chose the very beautiful city of Antigua to be our home in Guatemala. Antigua was a truly spectacular Spanish colonial city with amazing baroque architecture, fascinating historical sites, beautiful natural surroundings (which included active coffee-growing plantations), three picturesque volcanoes (one of which is still active!), and a very comfortable climate. What a location!
We used Antigua for the next two years as our base to explore many pueblos of Guatemala including the famed market town of Chichicastenango and the villages of gorgeous Lago (Lake) Atitlan where we also eventually lived. The following is a some background information which will help you get to know Guatemala. Come along and let's go Guatemala!
The Mayan ruins of TIKAL are incredible!
For those of us who like a "thumb nail" of some facts, here you are:
Full name: Republic of Guatemala
Population: 15 million (UN 2012)
Capital: Guatemala City
Major languages: Spanish with more than 20 indigenous languages
Major religion: Christianity, indigenous Mayan beliefs
Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 75 years (women) +/-
Main exports: Coffee, sugar, bananas, fruits and vegetables, meat, petroleum, cardamon
Guatemala is a country of striking features and a strong indigenous culture. Mountainous, heavily forested, and dotted with Mayan ruins, lakes, volcanoes, orchids and exotic birds, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in Central America. Its indigenous population, the Maya, make up about half of the population. Many Guatemalans are of mixed Amerindian-Hispanic origin. Mayan languages are spoken alongside Spanish which is the official tongue of the country. Spanish is usually the second language of the indigenous Maya who speak one of many Mayan dialects as their primary language.
Mayan mother and precious child in their traditional dress
The former Mayan civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization which continued throughout the Post-Classic period (10th to early 16th centuries) until the arrival of the Spanish. After independence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala was a part of the Federal Republic of Central America. After the dissolution of the Federal Republic, Guatemala suffered much of the political instability that characterized the region during the mid to late 19th century. Early in the 20th century, Guatemala had a mixture of democratic governments as well as a series of dictators. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala underwent a civil war fought between the government and leftist rebels. Since the civil war Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections. However, there remains many social, political, and economic issues which are still unresolved. I sincerely hope that Guatemala with it’s stunning beauty and strength of identity can be rewarded with unity and prosperity in the near future.
The weekly tianguis (market) is still a very important custom. A tianguis is an open air market or bazaar that is traditionally held on certain market days in a town or city neighborhood in Mexico and Central America.
Following is the slideshow of my web album (just click on the album below) which offer a glimpse of the beauty and culture of Guatemala. Future posts covering different towns, areas, and festivals will follow this introduction to one of my favorite Latin countries, Guatemala. Until then, please enjoy!
LET'S GO GUATEMALA ALBUM
As always, I look forward to hearing from my blog friends. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments, suggestions, or questions. Until then, wishing you good health and safe travels. Laura
Memories are just a click away!