Christmas in Guatemala

With many people from different countries moving to Guatemala there are many forms of Christmas that takes place in this unique country. But as tradition would have it Guatemala natives celebrate Christmas in their own unique way.

Guatemalans also celebrate La Posada, as they take religious statues around town or to the plaza in the center of town, or bring them to all of their friends’ houses to sing carols. They also set off firecrackers and bang loud drums to celebrate these icons. German immigrants brought over the famous Christmas tree, which still today.

Guatemalans decorate for the holidays. If the families have spare money to purchase Christmas gifts for the children, then it is tradition to leave these gifts under the Christmas tree for Christmas day. On the other hand, adults exchange their gifts on New Year’s Eve.

Guatemalans also combine some of their old Mayan traditions into Christmas season, which are shown on the Feast Day of St Thomas on December 21st. There is a huge parade with a traditional Mayan flying pole dance. December 21st marks the birthday of Santo Tomas, patron saint of the Quiche Maya market town of Chichicastenango. Festivities are centered on the square in front of the church, where hundreds of costumed dancers perform amid a riotously colorful crowd of tightly packed Maya onlookers.

The typical food during this season is tamales.

Divers probe Mayan

Divers probe Mayan ruins submerged in Guatemala Lake

Source (Reuters)

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Scuba divers are exploring the depths of a volcanic lake in Guatemala to find clues about an ancient sacred island where Mayan pilgrims flocked to worship before it was submerged by rising waters.

Samabaj, the first underwater archaeological ruins excavated in Guatemala, were discovered accidentally 12 years ago by a diver exploring picturesque Lake Atitlan, ringed by Mayan villages and popular with foreign tourists.

"No one believed me, even when I told them all about it. They just said 'he's mad'," said Roberto Samayoa, a businessman and recreational diver who grew up near the lake where his grandmother told him legends of a sunken church.

Samayoa dived for years at the lake, often stumbling across pieces of pottery from the Mayan pre-classic period. In 1996, he found the site, with parts of buildings and huge ceremonial stones, known as stelae, clearly visible.

He named it Samabaj, after himself, but only in the past year have professional archeologists taken an interest, mapping the 4,300-square-foot (400-square-meter) area with sonar technology and excavating structures on a raised part of the lake bed.
Researchers believe this area, 50 feet below the lake's surface, was once an island until a catastrophic event, like a volcanic eruption or landslide, raised water levels.
The rising lake drowned the buildings around 250 A.D., before the height of the Mayan empire, and ceramics found intact there suggest the inhabitants left in a hurry.

"We have found six ceremonial monuments and four altars and without doubt there are more, which means this was an extremely important place from a spiritual point of view," lead archaeologist Sonia Medrano told Reuters in an interview.

The Maya built soaring pyramids and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 A.D.
Medrano, whose work is funded by the U.S.-based Reinhart Foundation, says the island has ruins of small houses for about 150 people and is crammed with religious paraphernalia, leading researchers to believe Samabaj was a pilgrimage destination.

Worshippers probably flocked there from the surrounding area, hiring boats from the shore to row them out to the island for prayer and contemplation, Medrano said.
Excavating in the murky, green water is challenging, with artifacts hard to see and buried under thousands of years of sediment.

The exact location of the site is a closely guarded secret, since the archaeologists want to protect it from looters who fish in the ruins for artifacts to be sold, sometimes for thousands of dollars, on the black market.

Written by: Sarah Grainger

Guateamala Starving Children

Guatemala Malnutrition Problem

It is hard to believe that here in the Americas that Malnutrition is a serious problem, but it is. When talking about starving children your first thought goes to Africa. But here in Guatemala the problem of malnutrition has become acute.

Guatemala is hardly one of the poorest countries in the Americas but according to Unicef almost half of the children of this war torn country are chronically malnourished. In some areas of Guatemala where the population is mostly Mayan the child malnutrition is over 80%. The diet for these families is mostly corn tortillas.

In my travels through the country side of Guatemala and working and sleeping in villages throughout the highlands I have witnessed hundreds of hungry children and adults. Tortillas are a regular source of food for these families. My wife being a nurse states that a regular diet of this food without a proper balance of fruit, vegetables, and protein will cause permanent damage to these children.

One afternoon we did physicals to some 100 children in a small school in the highlands outside of Patzun. Every child was malnourished, had bad teeth problems, and dehydrated. Most of the children also were underdeveloped do to the fact of being malnourished.

As stated in an article printed in the EconomistThat points to a failure of government in Guatemala. The Mayan population were the main victims of a long-running civil war between military dictatorships and left-wing guerrillas. Although democracy came, and eventually peace, social conditions have been slow to improve. Income inequality remains extreme, even by Latin American standards. Two-thirds of the rural population remains poor. Guatemala came second to bottom of a new index measuring inequality of opportunity in Latin America published by the World Bank last year. Whereas Guatemala City has shiny shopping malls, gated mansions and trendy restaurants, many indigenous Guatemalans scratch an inadequate living as sharecropping subsistence farmers. “These people were totally abandoned in the mountains with no infrastructure, no education, no health,” says Rafael Espada, the vice-president”.

Guatemalan people are great people, the Mayan’s have some awesome culture and are loving gracious people.

We are here to help these people and get the word out about what is happening in our neighboring country.

Please consider partnering with us to help these children that are caught in between starvation and political power.

Wash Day in Antigua Guatemala

Now can you imagine your wife giving up the convenience of washing clothes at home and going down to the wash station in town to wash clothes by hand? Probably not! But that is what most Mayan women do in Guatemala. Here is typical scene of everyday life in Guatemala.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

To Me this is one of the best places in Guatemala or the world. I just love this part of Guatemala. The gorgeous volcano's that line this awesome creation of nature. The people in the villages that dot around this magnificent lake are really loving Mayan people. I cant wait to one day I get back to this piece of heaven.

Lghting candles to Saint San Francisco

I am taken back by the beauty in this photograph from Guatemala. This Mayan woman lighting candles to the Saint San Francisco. I believe this picture was taken in Antigua Guatemala.

Home cooked meal

How would you like to cook everyday over an open fire. We get so spoiled here in the U.S. with our conventional stoves. Most people would not know what to do if they had to live like this.

Window in Antigua

window in Antigua
Originally uploaded by Zé Eduardo...
Another awesome photo. I just love the colors in this picture. I love pictures of windows and doors. I have always had a fascination with the windows and doors of Guatemala especially.
This is an spectacular picture.

Mother carrying baby

What a picture taking moment. This is a common scene in Guatemala. I love the colors of the indiginous clothing and the wrap that is holding the baby. What awesome stiching in the hupil. A perfect picture.

Francisca y su bebe, familia de Almolonga con quienes vimos el desfile en Quetzaltenango.

Such an awesome picture. I just love the smiles on these Mayan people. They have so little, but they are so warm and friendly and when they smile, there smile is from ear to ear.

Santa Clara Arch, Antigua Guatemala

This is such an awesome place. Antigua is so beautiful with such great architecture like this spectacular arch of Santa Clara. This is truly one of the most photographed places in Guatemala.
This news out of the Sri Lanka's National Paper,

Guatemala: Guate-malan indigenous people who staged strong protests in the capital return to their places of origin Tuesday, after their leaders and the government agreed to hold a meeting with President Alvaro Colom.

After hours of negotiations, it was made known the President will meet with indigenous leaders on Thursday.

The Human Rights Office (PDH) acted as mediator in the situation at the Presidential House, when the 14 indigenous leaders who talked with governmental representatives had declared a hunger strike, and refused to leave the facility.

They alleged there were no satisfactory answers to the requested accomplishment of commitments previously reached with local authorities.

Hundreds of farmers were staging a sit-in in at Plaza de la Constitucion, as a measure of pressure, and to honor a farmer killed yesterday during the protest by an infiltrated agitator.

The PDH will guarantee the negotiations on Thursday. Guatemala, Prensa Latina

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Adorable Mayan Children

In the past few years a lot of people have found collecting pictures of doors to be a big craze. I took this picture a few years back while visiting a village called Mocolixot Guatemala. This little village is in the highlands of Guatemala not far from Patzun or Lake Atitlan. I just could not pass up this photo opportunity. These children are precious.

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Antigua Guatemala Coffee Industry

Central America Sept 07 193Image by Shared Interest via Flickr

Author Tom Johnson

Several articles in the New York Times are reporting small coffee growers in Guatemala are having a hard time making ends meet. Visiting Antigua as much as I can I enjoy the fresh taste of Antigua Coffee especially from one of my favorite destination in Antigua “Café Condesa” across from central park in the heart of Antigua.

Antigua sits in the heart of Panchoy Valley, surrounded to the North by the Manchén hills and Candelaria where one can enjoy the wonderful landscape. The Agua volcano rises 3,750 meters above sea level to the South. The Manzanillo and La Cruz hills rise to the East and the Acatenango volcano, reaching 3,960 meters above sea level, and Fuego volcano, which is 3,800 meters high, tower over Antigua to the West.
Tourism is the main source of income for Antigua, followed by coffee, which is a favorite of international markets. The large amount of high quality traditional handcrafts manufactured here are also an important source of revenue. SOURCE

The coffee industry is huge in Guatemala, a lot like the corn and soybean business is in the Midwest of the United States. A lot of people depend on this industry for their livelihood. As reported today in Times, the future of the Fair Trade — coffee movement is in question, as some backers raise concerns about whether it has reached the limit of how much it can help. In a private-industry survey last year of 179 Fair Trade coffee farmers in Central America and Mexico, a copy of which TIME obtained, more than half said their families have still been going hungry for several months a year. "When I got the results, I was shocked," says Rick Peyser, director of social advocacy for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Vermont, the Fair Trade company that commissioned the survey. "I was ready to quit." Massachusetts Fair Trade firm Equal Exchange spokesman Rodney North admits, "There is a potential disconnect between what the buyer thinks Fair Trade is accomplishing and the situation on the ground," from Latin America to Asia.

I would really hate to see the coffee growers take a harder blow than what they already have taken. The economy in Guatemala is extremely bad and something like this would put a devastating blow on the already weak economy.

Click here to view the entire article.
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Antigua Guatemala Doorway

There are some very interesting doorways in Antigua Guatemala. The architecuture and detail on some of the buildings are really something to see.

This doorway is very narrow, I would hate to try and move furniture in or out of this door.

I believe that this is a picture of one of the old government buildings in Antigua.

The old world charm of these buildings is just like being in Europe.

Keep checking back for more pictures and personal stories of Guatemala.
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Christina Aguilera visits villages in the Guatemalan highlands near Lake Atitlan

Christina Aguilera - My Reflection album coverImage via Wikipedia

Author Tom Johnson


Christina Aguilera Sees Hunger First Hand In Guatemala

Christina Aguilera and her husband Jordan Bratman traveled with WFP to villages in the Guatemalan highlands near Lake Atitlan, where up to 80 percent of the indigenous children are malnourished. Guatemala has the fourth highest child malnutrition rate in the world.

Quoted by Christina Aguilera; “I wanted to see with my own eyes what hunger means,” she said. “I don’t think I can ever forget these images. The people of WFP do such a great job helping hungry children and mothers. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful project and incredible team.”

Read More:

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Plaza Del Apolstol Santiago, Guatemala

Plaza Del Apostol Santiago

Here are a few more pictures of Plaza Del Apolostol Santiago also known as Cerro De la Cruz.

Here is a beautitul Statue that sits at the parking area by the entrance to the plaza.

Andrew and Gary sitting at the base of the cross overlooking Antigua Guatemala.

Cerro de la Cruz

Author Tom Johnson 9-28-09
Cerro de la Cruz

The Cerro de la Cruz, a hill north of the city with a big cross planted overlooking Antigua Guatemala. This area is safe during the day and offers some of the best views of Antigua. The safest and easiest way to get here is by vehicle. I would not recconmend walking here from town, for two reasons. First it is not safe, especially at night, and as you climb the air gets thin and you may pass out if you are not in great shape. But this is a must to see while visiting Antigua. A great photo opportunity on a clear day.

Botran Solera 1893

The Ron Botran brand of spirits was established in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in 1939, situated at more than 7,500 feet above sea level. The corporation was founded in 1963 and they currently export a wide range of fine rums throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.

Botran Solera 1893 is distilled from virgin honey obtained from the sugar cane after undergoing a slow fermentation process. The rum is aged to perfection at an elevation of 2300 meters above seal level in small oak barrels. The rum is prepared using a blend of the finest rums of Casa Botran.

Botran Solera 1893 reveals a medium dark amber color due its aging in oak.

On the nose: Botran Solera offers a delicate caramel aroma, coupled with golden raisin, a hint of dried apricot tart-fruit, and a slight oaken vanilla foundation, leaving traces of almond

Guatemala GoldImage by Morkai79 via Flickr

nutmeg aromas till the end.
Perfectly smooth to sniff with moderate complexity and no offensive alcohol aromas.
The initial taste is complex as you would expect of a rum matured in the rare Solera method, whereby rums of different vintages are periodically and sequentially blended, so that younger rums are blended with progressively older ones until a certain age and flavor is achieved.

A great rum for drinking alone or on the rocks.
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Guatemala; Exploration For Oil And Natural Gas

Mapa de los paises miembros del Sistema de Int...Image via Wikipedia

By Tom Johnson 9-21-09

World Energy Research, a New Zealand-based energy research and investment company, is moving into energy exploration in Guatemala. WER plans to investigate the viability of 12 project sites with a focus on environmentally-friendly oil and natural gas extraction methods.

Of the 12 sites, three are natural gas reserves off the Pacific coast of Guatemala and nine are onshore sites located in the departments of Peten, Huehuetenango, Quiche and Alta Verapaz. All projects will be privately operated and based on contracts by the Guatemalan government.

This development is expected to bring multiple benefits to the area, including the creation of up to 1500 direct and indirect jobs in each project area. As well, World Energy Research is structuring plans for a long term and holistic preservation of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Next to the Brazilian Rain Forest, the Maya Biosphere Reserve is the world's second largest oxygen producing natural habitat.

Chad Willis, managing director of World Energy Research, said, "This move into Guatemala will be an important advancement not just for our company and our investors, but also for Guatemala who will benefit from having their own sustainable energy market into the future, possibly even enough to develop their export markets." Guatemala is the largest oil-producing nation in Central America.

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Nickel mine in Guatemala may resume operations

World MapImage via Wikipedia

By: Tom Johnson 9-20-09

Talks are underway to possibly reopen the Fenix nickel project in Guatemala. No start date has been set up yet. But economic conditions are looking favorable, the company's Guatemalan partner said on Thursday.
The company's Guatemalan partner said that the project, which HudBay bought in 2008 when it acquired Canadian miner Skye Resources was suspended as nickel prices plummeted in the wake of the global financial crisis.

A spokesperson for Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel or CGN HudBay's local partner, said a decision on restarting work at the mine in the eastern Guatemalan town of El Estor could be made later this year.

"We're still in 'slowdown' but there are some positive signs, nickel prices have improved and the global economic crisis has started to get better," Regina Rivera told Reuters.

The mine has a capital cost estimate of around $1 billion, which could change depending on how managers choose to power the plant.

Skye Resources which acquired the project in 2004, came up against local opposition to the reopening of the mine with squatters occupying company land and burning down a hospital and community relations office built by Skye.

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Mysterious ruins may help explain Mayan collapse

PETEN, GUATEMALA - DECEMBER 11:  NASA Deputy A...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

By: Tom Johnson 9-20-09

The Mayans from central America and Mexico were best known for best known for stepped pyramids, beautiful carvings and murals and the widespread abandonment of cities around 900 A.D.
Hidden in the hilly jungle, the ancient site of Kiuic (KIE-yuk) was one of dozens of ancient Maya centers abandoned in the Puuc region of Mexico's Yucatan about 10 centuries ago. It looks like they just packed up and walked away, says archaeologist George Bey of Millsaps College in Jackson Miss., co-director of the Labna-Kiuic Regional Archaeological Project. "Until now, we had little evidence from the actual moment of abandonment, it's a frozen moment in time."
New clues may come from Kiuic, where the archaeologists explored two pyramids and, most intriguingly, plantation palaces on the ridges ringing the center. Of particular interst: a hilltop complex nicknamed "Stairway to Heaven" by Gallareta (that's "Escalera al Cieloa" for Spanish-speaking Led Zeppelin fans) because of a long staircase leading from Kiuic to a central plaza nearly a mile away.

Santa Rosa de Copan 034Image by Michael R. Swigart via Flickr

Both the pyramids and the palaces look like latter-day additions to Kiuic, built in the 9th century, just as Maya centers farther south were being abandoned. "The influx of wealth (at Kiuic) may spring from immigration," Bey says, as Maya headed north. One pyramid was built atop what was originally a palace, allowing the rulers of Kiuic to simultaneously celebrate their forebears and move to fancier digs in the hills.

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Guatemala Independance Day

On Sept. 15, 1821, the Central American colonies declared their independence from the Spanish crown.

Guatemala Independence Day History


From 1811 to 1818, Captain General José de Bustamante ruled the Kingdom of Guatemala. He suppressed all attempts toward independence thus preserving the region’s allegiance to Spain. King Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne after the French were defeated in Spain in 1814. However, a revolt ensued around 1820 in Spain thereby restoring the constitution of 1812. During this period local election campaigns followed in Central America and an intense political rivalry emerged between the liberal and the conservative factions of the elite.

Guatemala was fortunate to have gained independence from Spain without much blood being spilt compared to the wars that occurred to most countries of Latin America. On September 15, 1821, a council of distinquished personages in Guatemala City proclaimed independence from Spain and they formed a government with Gabino de Gainza, as the chief executive.

From 1898 to 1920, Guatemala was ruled by the dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera, whose access to the presidency was helped by the United Fruit Company. It was during his long presidency that the United Fruit Company became a major force in Guatemala.

Guatemala Independence Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 14, 2009

On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to extend my warm congratulations to the people of Guatemala as they celebrate the 188th anniversary of their Proclamation of Independence on September 15.

As school children parade through the streets and Guatemalans across the country and around the world join in the celebration of Independence Day, they can be proud of Guatemala’s accomplishments as a unique, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic nation. This is an opportunity to honor their rich cultural heritage and to reaffirm their commitment to democracy, equality, justice, and prosperity for all.

It will also be a day of celebration for Guatemalans in the United States, who are valued members of our own diverse nation and have contributed so much to our culture and our economy.

On this historic occasion, let me reaffirm the commitment of the United States to strengthen our partnership with Guatemala and work together to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for all our people.