Christmas in Beautiful Guatemala

Christmas in Guatemala

December in Guatemala is a special time of year, many traditional and cultural experiences happen depending on what part of Guatemala you visit. In the larger cities you will experience many of the same things we do here in America like Christmas trees, wreaths, and with Guatemala being such fertile soil Poinsettias are a big hit.

 A big event that happens on December 21st is 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.

Christmas time is special and when you can spend it with friends and family it even makes it a more special time of year. Make it a priority to reach out and touch someone this special time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you.

Latin American Coffee Exports Rose 5.7% in November

Latin American Coffee Exports Rose 5.7% in November

Coffee exports from Mexico and eight other Latin American countries climbed 5.7 percent in November from a year earlier, an industry group said. Total shipments rose to 1.73 million bags from 1.64 million bags, Guatemala’s National Coffee Association, or Anacafe, said in a report e-mailed yesterday.

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(Reuters) - A landslide in northern Guatemala on Tuesday killed three children and another 12 people buried in the disaster are believed dead, a local official said.

Heavy predawn rains caused the disaster that buried four homes while families slept.

"They have been trapped under heavy mud. It's unlikely that anyone is still alive," Sergio Cabanas, director of civil defense, told Reuters.

Rain and unstable terrain prevented rescue teams from reaching the landslide on foot and crews have been removing dirt with heavy machinery. Rescuers will continue to search for victims through Thursday, Cabanas said.

Authorities by Tuesday evening had removed from the rubble the bodies of two young boys - four and six years old - and a seven-year-old girl.

(Reporting by Mike McDonald; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Guatemalan Coffee Ranks Right Up Among the Great Coffees Of the World

Guatemalan Coffee Ranks Right Up Among the Great Coffees Of the World
By Greg Parsons

The top three coffee producers in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. But in terms of producing quality coffee, Colombia dwarfs its close competitors. And what country comes next after Colombia in high-grade coffee production? The traditional coffee powerhouse Brazil? No. It is Guatemala, a small Central American nation that has just been recovering from the ravages of a 36-year civil war.

It is not, however, not surprising that Guatemala to produces such quality coffee. Guatemalans have known coffee for centuries. The first plant was brought to Guatemala by Jesuit priests in the 1750s, who thought that it would make a great ornamental tree. Widespread coffee cultivation would follow half a century later.
Today, connoisseurs consider Guatemalan coffee as one of the finest in the world. As a testament to its greatness, Guatemala is a regular participant of the Cup of Excellence (COE), the most premiere annual coffee competition in the world that is organized in order to determine the best coffee in each registered coffee-producing country. Just think of the COE as coffee's Super Bowl. The finest and most expensive coffee in Guatemala that has been auctioned through the COE came from Huehuetenango, one of the main growing regions in the Central American nation. Its price? Well, it was bought for a whooping US$ 80.20 per pound.

And it is a well-deserved price. For Guatemalan coffee indeed offers an unforgettable experience to anyone. Ask any coffee enthusiast who has wide knowledge of different brands and you would probably hear from them that coffee from Guatemala is included in their top 5 best coffee lists.

How does Guatemalan coffee acquire its unique and rich flavor? Obviously, one huge factor is the climate. Guatemalan weather, not too wet and not too humid, is perfect for growing. Plant coffee in an arid area and you will get beans that are too acidic. Cultivate them in a place where rainfall is constant and you will get coffee that tastes dull. Guatemala's mild climate is just the coffee tree wants.

Amiable climate alone would not make good coffee. The substrate must also be in optimum condition. Coffee wants soil that is not all rich in nutrients and minerals but also has mild Ph levels. And that is exactly what Guatemalan soil offers. Because it is located in a region where volcanic activity is rather high, soil in Guatemala is mostly volcanic in origin. What makes volcanic soil good for coffee is the fact that it contains huge amounts of minerals and is not acidic in nature.

But the main factor that accounts for the goodness of Guatemalan coffee is the way it is cultivated. Almost all trees in Guatemala are shade grown. Farmers do not expose coffee trees to the sun. Rather, they cultivate them amidst the shade of larger trees like macadamia. The result is that the beans develop slower. How does that make coffee taste great? Well, when a bean matures slowly it becomes harder and develop richer flavors.

Greg has been writing articles for over 4 years. Please visit his latest website about gourmet coffee at Coffee Bean Reviews, with information on finding the best Guatemalan Coffee, with ideas and discussions that any coffee lover would be interested in.
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Iconic Birds to Look Out For On Your Latin America Vacation

Iconic Birds to Look Out For On Your Latin America VacationBy Karen Ward

From the high Andes to the Amazon jungle, Latin America is a birdwatchers' paradise. Among the huge range of birds in Latin America are a few that have become emblematic of the continent. The Condors, hummingbird, Quetzal and macaw are birds to look out for on your Latin America vacation.

The Andean condor is the big daddy of the bird kingdom is an important symbol in the Andes. Watching the huge condors soar overhead is an unforgettable moment in any vacation in the Andes. At 10 feet (3 meters), condors have the largest wingspan of any land based bird. Their wingspan combined with a hefty weight of 33 pounds (15 kilos) makes getting off the ground a tough task for condors. To compensate, condors live in mountainous areas where they can cruise along on the thermals and wind currents. Although condors do live along the coast and desert areas, they prefer the open spaces of the Andes.

Colca Canyon in Peru is arguabley the deepest canyon in the world, a beautiful landscape and also the location of 'the Cross of the Condors', At this scenic spot above Colca Canyon, you are guaranteed to spot condors who gather here daily. The magnificent Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile, is also a good spot for seeing Condors.

From the largest bird to the smallest. Hummingbirds are tiny birds measuring just 3-5 inches (7.5-13cm). The smallest bird in the world is the Bee Hummingbird at 5cm long. Hummingbirds characteristically hover around flowers and use their long bills to drink the nectar. In order to hover, hummingbirds flap their wings in incredible 12-90 times per second. Hummingbirds are found throughout Central and South America, from lowlands to heights of 5,200m in the Andean highlands.

Ecuador is species rich with 130 types of hummingbirds. Good places to spot Hummingbirds include cloud forest around Zaruma in the south east of the country. The best and most developed area for seeing Hummingbirds though is Mindo. A range of reserves in the Mindo area are dedicated to protecting and observing Hummingbirds.

The Quetzal was sacred to Mesoamerican people, and is still revered today in Guatemala where the Quetzal is the unit of currency. Quetzals are brilliantly coloured and are generally regarded as the most beautiful bird in the world. In the mating season between March and June, the male can grow an amazing train measuring up to 3 feet (1 meter) long.

Parts of Costa Rica and Panama are considered the best places to spot quetzals. Panamas national parks of Volcan Baru and La Amistad are ideal places to travel to spot quetzals. The aptly named Quetzal Trail through Volcan Baru National Park near Boquete offers excellent opportunities to spot the Resplendant Quetzal.

Many of the 17 species of macaw, are very rare or endangered. These incredibly beautiful and colourful birds are perfectly suited to the bright greens and colourful fruit of the Amazon rain forest. Macaws are social birds and congregate in flocks of 10-30 individuals. When together, they make a terrific noise as they chat to each other and mark their territory. Macaws are romantic birds who mate with the same partner for life and even share food and groom each other. On the eastern sides of the Andes, macaws congregate at river banks to lick the clay soil. At these clay licks, visitors can see the fabulous spectacle of hundreds of macaws all congregating together early in the morning.

An excellent place to see macaws in the wild is a clay lick in the Tambopata Reserve near Cusco, Peru; home of the Tambopata Macaw Project.

South and Central America are wonderful places to spot wildlife from the Amazon to the could forests of Panama and of course the Galapagos islands; making a Latin American vacation perfect for families of all ages.

Karen Ward uses her years of experience of living and travelling in Latin America to plan customized, private and combination tours at Into Latin America. Visit Tambopata, Colca Canyon, Panama and Mindo on our great tour packages.

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Backstrap Weaving - Ancient Craft Still Practiced by the Mayan Women of Guatemala

Backstrap Weaving - Ancient Craft Still Practiced by the Mayan Women of GuatemalaBy Karen Pickett

Backstrap weaving is an ancient art practiced for centuries in many parts of the world - Peru, Guatemala, China, Japan, Bolivia, Mexico and Native Americans. Today it is still used on a daily basis in many parts of Guatemala to weave fabrics to make clothing and other household cloth needs. Many of the women also weave a variety of items to help earn a living by selling to tourists.

The looms are simple, typically 6 sticks, usually handmade by the weaver. A backstrap loom is easily portable because it can simply be rolled up and laid aside when not in use. The back rod is tied to a tree or post while weaving and the other end has a strap that encircles the waist and the weaver can move back or forward to produce the needed tension. The weaver usually sits on the ground but as the person ages that is more difficult and they may use a small stool.

In Guatemala the women have typically used cotton yarn for their weavings and used natural plants from their area to dye the yarn various colors. They still tint yarn by hand but also buy cotton yarn that has already been chemically dyed. The natural tints are softer colors than chemical dyes. These natural tints come from plants and bark such as:
  • sacatinta -a blue color
  • coconut shell -brown
  • carrots -orange
  • achote -soft orange/peach
  • hibiscus flower -rosy pink
  • chilca -soft yellow
  • bark of the avocado tree -beige
The backstrap loom also known as the belt loom can make different widths of fabric depending of the width of the rods. Guatemalan artisan weavers can weave as narrow as a belt or as large as 24 -26 inch width and perhaps more. If a cloth needs to be wider, the two pieces are joined together with heavy embroidery stitches. An example of this would be the corte (the skirt) of the Mayan women, which if hand-woven would have the pieces joined with embroidery stitches.

A great book about weaving with the backstrap was written by Barbara Taber and Marilyn Anderson in 1975 - "Backstrap Weaving, step by step techniques on one of the oldest and most versatile looms". Another book with some information is "The Weaving Primer, A Complete Guide to Inkle, Backstrap, and Frame Looms" by Nina Holland, 1978.

Education And More, a Christian Fair Trade organization, works with artisan weavers in Guatemala and helps them earn a Fair Trade income with their backstrap weavings. Visit our website and our Education And More blog to learn more about Fair Trade, backstrap weaving, and our Women's Artisan Groups. There are many photographs of the backstrap loom and of women weaving in Guatemala!

Karen Pickett, Director
Education And More
A Christian Fair Trade organization working to educate children and reduce poverty in Guatemala.
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Volcano Hunting In Guatemala - Hot Stuff

Volcano Hunting In Guatemala - Hot Stuff

Author: Gary Sargent

If geography classes never used to excite you, Guatemala will change all that. Sitting on the boundary between two tectonic plates, the country is host to over 30 volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and states of activity. If you ever wanted to see what the inside of our planet is like and what happens when it decides to make an appearence, Guatemala is for you. From the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies that want to stand next to flowing lava to those wanting to see the lush tree-covered volcanic slopes rising above the gorgeous Lake Atitlan, there's something for everyone.

Active volcanoes - Bubbling Hot

If you want to feel like you're inside a National Geographic Channel episode, you couldn't go wrong with a visit to the following active volcanoes.

1) Pacaya

Pacaya is an active volcano located within easy reach, just 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Guatemala City. A short hike brings visitors to the summit, where they can observe eruptions of ash and lava at close range. Some even return with stories of how walking over the upper slopes melted the soles of their shoes...

2) Fuego

Constantly spewing small ash clouds, this monstrous volcano's last major eruption occurred in 1974. To hike up barren slope is grueling, and most visitors will be content to admire Fuego's beauty from the safety of Antigua's cobblestone streets.

3) Santiaguito

The most dangerous volcano in Central America, Santiaguito first erupted on Volcano Santa Maria's southern flank in 1922. It constantly spews spectacular ash clouds and lava, and may be safely observed from nearby Santa Maria's summit. The hike to the top of Santa Maria takes about 4 hours and camping on the summit is recommended, to witness a spectacular nighttime lava show from Santiaguito below.
Dormant volcanoes - Keeping Us Guessing

They can't promise booming gas eruptions or spewing lava, but these volcanoes are just as impressive to visit.

1) Acatenango

Acatenango's last eruption was in 1972, so you can climb all the way to the summit without dodging lava flows. One of the most beautiful and varied hikes availble, you'll pass through entirely different ecosystems on the way to the summit. First farmland, then cloud forest followed by high alpine forest and finally the volcanic zone to the very summit.

2) Agua

Looming over the pretty colonial town of Antigua, a climb up this volcano is recommended for spectacular views. Hiking time is about 5 hours from Santa Maria de Jesus, or 2 hours from the end of road that climbs partway to the top.

3) Atitlan

The tallest of the three volcanoes dominating the stunning lake with which it shares its name, Atitlan's summit takes about 8 hours to reach; the reward is a breathtaking view of the world's most beautiful lake and Guatemala's Pacific coast.

Extinct volcanoes - Just Big Hills

Their glory days as unstoppable forces of nature may be gone, but the volcanoes left by ancient activity still have plenty to offer the visitor, especially in the way of flora and fauna left undisturbed by any activity.

1) San Pedro

Perhaps the most frequently photographed of all Guatemala's volcanoes, San Pedro's beautiful cone seems to rise from the waters of Lake Atitlan. The hike to the top takes about 4 hours, and while visitors will not get great views due heavy vegetation on the summit, the crater serves as refuge for rarely encountered species of plants and animals.

2) Toliman
One of the three volcanoes, along with Atitlan and San Pedro, that forms the natural dam holding in Lake Atitlan, Toliman has its own delights to offer. A small group of rare Horned Guans survives in the forest near the summit and hikers should plan on camping out for a good chance of sighting the birds.

3) Cerro de Oro

A smaller volcano on the south side of Lake Atitlan provides an interesting mix of geography and history, having once contained a Mayan fortress in its crater.

Getting to know the varied and spectacular geography of Guatemala will undoubtedly be an adventure, but that doesn't mean you should take unneccessary risks. If the lure of the active volcanoes should take your fancy, ensure that you book a tour with a reputable and responsible agency that provides you with a professional guide. This way you'll make sure that you will have nothing but incredible memories and photos of some of the most incredible and unique experiences that Latin America has to offer.

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About the Author

Gary Sargent is the Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Peru and Escaped to Latin America and has lived in South America for over 10 years. Gary is passionate about life here, the people, customs and places. Visit his website to learn more information about Guatemala or to look at tours in Guatemala

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Tikal Place and Culture in Guatemala

Tikal Place and Culture in Guatemala

Author: Benedicto
Tikal Place and Culture in Guatemala

  1. 1. Tikal Grew and Decline
The Maya city of Tikal, located in a dense subtropical forest in the center of the state of Petén in northern Guatemala, was one of the most important cities in the Mayan lowlands.
Its first permanent inhabitant settled in the area around the year 900 B.C. It saw its greatest growth between A.D. 700-800. Many of the structures you will explore today were constructed during that time.
The hot a humid climate throughout most of the year made the forest ideal habitat for an abundance of animal and plants species which provided food, medicine and construction material. The city was built on elevates areas, which were surrounded by "bajos", or slight depressions that flood during the rainy season.
The center of Tikal, with an area of 16 km2, has approximately 4,000 structures, including plazas, temples, palaces, ball courts, causeways and pyramids. Its population has been estimated at 90,000 people, including the living areas around the city.
Tikal was continuously inhabited for almost 1,800 years. Its history includes powerful rulers, great alliances, victorious battles, defeats, economic power and the monumental architecture that secured its legacy for centuries.
  1. 2. Tikal's vegetation associations:
When you Travel in Guatemala and walk in Tikal you will be walking through a subtropical forest of the rolling limestone hills of marine origin.

Several vegetation associations are found in Tikal, that include tall forest, botan bajo forest and tinto bajo forest, among others. The bajos are the areas that flooding during the rainy seasons forming forested swamps. The plant composition differs between associations.

The city of Tikal is located in tall forest, with species such as Ramón, Mahogany and Cedar that can be over 40 meters tall (131 feet). The bromeliads, orchids and vines are also common in this type of forest.
Different types of bajos can be observed to the east of the hotel area. There trees have an average height between 15 – 20 meters (49 to 66 feet). Trees such as Santa Maria, Tinto and Pije, with very hard wood resistant to humidity are common. There is an abundance of palms such as the escobo.

The bajos have many species of thorny bushes and plants with lance-shaped leaves that can easily cut through skin. Many animal species find cover against predators in this forest type due to the forbidden conditions of the place.

The forest of Tikal National Park sustains a large variety of animal species. During your Guatemala Vacations in Tikal you may encounter ocellated turkeys, parrots and spider monkeys.

If you have the opportunity, take time to observe and listen to the howler monkeys, the collared peccary, toucans, hummingbirds and hawks. Unfortunately for many, it is improbable that you will come face to face with the jaguar. Once this feline senses your presence, he will walk away quietly without being observed.

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About the Author
MCM. Benedicto Grijalva
Marketing Director
Martsam Tour & Travel
PH: (502) 4009-5674

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Guatemala - Things to Do
By Rich C. Smith

People ask me all the time what are the top things to see and do in Guatemala. I have made a list and limited myself to the top 10 things to see and do, and sorted them by distance from Guatemala City. To maximize, your travel time pick a must see destination and start branching out to destinations around your chosen area. There's plenty to keep one busy for a long time, these are my top 10 things to do in Guatemala (family friendly) and plan your vacation around:

1. Visit Zoologico Nacional La Aurora. Surprisingly good zoo in Guatemala City, great if you're traveling with kids. Driving time: 5-20 minutes from within the city depending on your location.

2. Visit Antigua Guatemala. View colonial architecture and walk the cobblestone streets. Even better if you can make it for Easter Week processions (book hotel early). Driving time: 45 minutes from the capital.

3. Climb the Pacaya Volcano. As close as you can get to a live, lava-spewing volcano. Driving time: 45 minutes from the city.

4. Explore Lake Atitlan. Surrounded by volcanoes, thought to be the most beautiful lake in the world. I agree. Driving time: 2 - 2:30 hours from Guatemala City.

5. Visit the beaches. You get a 2-for-1 here. Monterrico and its black sand beaches are to the west. Great place to relax. Playa Blanca in Izabal, and its traditional white-sand
beaches are to the East. If in Izabal, check out Castillo de San Felipe (San Felipe Castle), an old Spanish fort. Very scenic, on the water, and well-kept. Driving time for Monterrico: 2 - 2:30 hours from Guatemala City. Driving time to Izabal: 4 hours from Guatemala City.

6. Shop at Chichicastenango Market. Open Thursdays and Sundays, Chichi market is THE largest handicrafts market in the world. Haggling is accepted and encouraged. Buy your souvenirs here. Driving time: 3 - 3:30 hours from Guatemala City.

7. Visit IRTRA parks in Retalhuleu. Central America's Disney/Water Park destination. Kids will have a blast. Stay at the affordable IRTRA hostels and enjoy its spas, restaurants, tennis courts, pools, bowling alley and other grown-up amenities. The grounds are amazingly well-kept and you'll enjoy the peacocks strutting all throughout the hostel complex. Driving time: 3 - 3:30 hours from Guatemala City.

8. Take a stroll in Xela. A slice of Europe in Central America. Competes with Antigua for sheer beauty and as the destination to learn Spanish at its many schools. Safe to walk at night, its beautiful architecture (and international cuisine) can be enjoyed anytime. Driving time: 4 - 4:30 hours from Guatemala City.

9. Explore Semuc Champey. Enjoy peaceful rock pools filled with turquoise blue waters explore amazing caves by candlelight. You will not find a single picture online that will do it justice. It's that breathtaking in person. Driving time: About 5 hours from Guatemala City.

10. Visit Tikal National Park. Last, but in no way least. View the awe-inspiring Mayan temples, right in the middle of the jungle. Ponder if the end of the world starts here in 2012. Driving time: 8 hours from Guatemala City (flying to Flores' airport from Guatemala City is the often-chosen, time-saving route).
There's plenty more to mention. Eco-tourism is huge here, for example Hard to limit it to ten things, but these will get you started.

Rich Polanco, World Traveler

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Ex General Leads the Vote in Guatemala

A right-wing retired general promising a crackdown on rampant crime led Guatemala's Sunday presidential election, although he fell short of the votes needed to avoid a run-off in November.

Silver-haired Otto Perez, who promises to send troops into the streets to fight criminal gangs, won 36 per cent support with almost all the votes counted, far short of the more than 50 per cent needed for an outright first-round victory.

Centrist Manuel Baldizon, a wealthy hotel owner and former congressman with a populist message of supporting the elderly and the poor, had 24 per cent of the vote and seemed certain to face Perez in a Nov. 6 run-off.

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Guatemala Presidential Race

Otto Perez Molina, a conservative former general who promises to crack down on violent gangs and drug cartels, finished first in Guatemala's presidential election Sunday but lacked the votes to avoid a November runoff.
With 95 percent of the votes tallied Monday, Perez Molina, who played major roles both in Guatemala's bloody civil war and in negotiating the 1996 peace accords that ended it, had won 36 percent, short of the 50 percent plus one vote required for outright victory. Manuel Baldizon, a wealthy businessman running as a populist, had 24 percent of the vote and seemed destined for the Nov. 6 runoff. In third place with 16 percent was Eduardo Suger, a 72-year-old academic who built a network of private universities.

Perez Molina, 60, had been polling stronger before Election Day, and his failure to win outright suggested that concerns among voters about his military past and his "iron fist" plans for crime-fighting may have been greater than polls showed. Still, Perez Molina told reporters early Monday that with the 10-person field winnowed to two, he expected to win. "We are confident that in the next round," he said, "we will win again and win by a strong margin."

The election, the fourth since Guatemala ended a 36-year civil war that left 200,000 people dead, was less marred by violence than the last election in 2007.

Voters waiting to cast ballots from the capital, Guatemala City, to the countryside over the weekend said they were motivated mostly by the fear of violent crime, which has become epidemic, with as many or more killings per day than during the war. Those who voted for Perez Molina said they appreciated his strategic experience and his plan to put a better-equipped military on the streets to fight crime.

Baldizon, 41, has also pledged to fight crime and the Mexican cartels, which are strong in the northern border region where Baldizon has built a network of businesses. His campaign emphasized a plan that would require companies to give workers an extra paycheck, which Parliament would likely not support in a country long controlled by a powerful corporate sector.

But he has also said he would expand the Guatemalan National Guard and increase use of the death penalty, even if it meant pulling out of regional human rights agreements.
Experts say the get-tough approach of both candidates highlights how desperate Guatemalans have become.

Guatemala's first lady files for divorce

GUATEMALA CITY, March 22 (UPI) -- Guatemala's first lady filed for divorce from her husband three days after she announced her candidacy for the presidency, court records indicate.
Sandra Torres de Colon submitted a divorce petition to the Second Family Court in Guatemala City on March 11 in a civil enforcement proceeding, The Guatemala Times reported Tuesday.
Guatemala's constitution prohibits relatives of the nation's chief executive from running for president.
Constitutional attorney Carlos Molina Mencos said once the divorce has been finalized Sandra Torres will be able to legally seek the presidency.
However, he called the divorce a "mockery" and "immoral."
Zury Rios, a member of the Guatemalan Republican Front Party, told Guatemala's La Hora newspaper "it is sad that for the love of power she left the love of her life."
"One can divorce for many reasons, but for the love of power, is unthinkable,." Rios said.
Former Gen. Otto Perez charged the first couple is using the law to do something illegal, Prensa Libre reported.

Guatemalan Judge Shot Dead

GUATEMALA CITY – A civil court judge died Tuesday at a hospital in Peten, a province in northern Guatemala, after being shot by unidentified assailants, firefighters and police said.

Judge Eddy Caceres Rodriguez was shot at least four times, including twice in the head, fire department spokesmen said.

The 48-year-old judge was attacked near his residence in El Porvenir, a neighborhood in the city of San Benito.

The attack was carried out by three unidentified men who shot the judge from a vehicle, National Civilian Police, or PNC, spokesmen told Guatemalan radio, citing eyewitnesses.

The motive for the attack on Caceres, who worked in San Benito, is not known, the PNC said. EFE

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune - Guatemalan Judge Shot Dead

Guatemalan fishing trip filled with excitement

The Pacific coast of Guatemala is well known for the fantastic fishing found in what is commonly called the Iztapa region.

Billfish, particularly Pacific sailfish, blue and striped marlin are easily accessible to anglers within a short distance from shore.

Also available are dorado (Mahi-mahi), jack crevalle and yellow fin tuna.
Recently, I visited this area with two friends from Wyoming.

We left in a snow storm and were really looking forward to trading winter clothes for those designed for tropical climates.

Besides looking forward to hooking plenty of billfish with a fly, we were also looking forward to basking in temperatures that were almost 100 degrees warmer than what we had been experiencing in the Cowboy state.

We flew to Guatemala City, where we quickly went through customs, grabbed our luggage and took a shuttle to Porto San Jose, where we would be base-camped for six days and fishing out of Marina Pez Vellato on a 38 foot Billy Knowles custom express with a captain and two mates while pursuing billfish using fly fishing tackle.

Fly fishing for trout is fun and the reason Cody is home.
Bill fishing with a fly, however, is an exponential step up in every regard.
Fly rods are 12-16 weights and designed to land fish that can weigh as little as 60 pounds, or exceed the weight of an NFL lineman.
Reels have super heavy duty drags and carry a minimum of 500 yards of 50 pound backing, plus fly line.
Fly lines have 70 pound monofilament cores and weigh four times as much as a typical floating 5-weight trout fly line.

Leaders are not tapered, but designed using a series of knots called "Biminis," with 15-18 inches of 16-22 pound test IGFA class tippet knotted to 100-pound mono that is called a bite tippet.
Far different than a typical tapered trout leader, but necessary to take the abuse a billfish can dole out during the fight back to the boat.

Flies are six inches long, or longer, and are designed to imitate squid, sardines or dorado, a billfish's preferred diet.

Due to the La Nina (little girl in Spanish) cycle impacting the Pacific Ocean, we didn't have to travel far to find fish.
Almost as soon as our hook less teaser baits were dropped into the water each morning, sailfish (no marlin this trip) would be in the teaser rigs slashing at them with their bills.
Our boat's crew would pull the teasers away from the sailfish, increasing their desire to eat the escaping meal as they teased the fish ever closer to our boat.
When the sailfish came within 40 feet in back of the boat, the teasers would come out of the water.
Immediately, the captain would put the boat into neutral and the angler would cast his fly as a replacement for the missing bait.

Within seconds after the fly hit the water, the sailfish would attack the fly as if it were the only edible thing in the Pacific.

Words cannot describe the adrenaline rush when the fish turns and literally attacks the fly.
Nor can words describe the battle that takes place after the hook is set.
Bill fish can swim almost 60 mph. They are also acrobatic and can perform incredible leaps and greyhounding runs that can burn 300 yards of backing in an amazingly short time.

Can you imagine having your fly firmly hooked into something that fast?

Fortunately for us, this wasn't our first billfish rodeo, so we had our drags cranked down to within the breaking point of our leaders and often had our fish to the boat within 12 minutes, or less, after setting the hook.

The three of us landed a plenty of sailfish last week.
We also had just as many throw our flies, cut our leaders during the fight or ignore our flies when presented, but that is fishing, whether in Park County or Iztapa.

While the temperatures are in the single digits in Wyoming, I highly recommend a billfish trip to Guatemala to chase away the winter doldrums and soak up some much welcomed warmth and sunshine.


Mayan Children

Mayan Children

Here are a few photo's that are hard to come by and you will probably not see on many blogs. One of the reasons is that these photo's were taken in the highlands of Guatemala. Not many people travel to these places to visit with or offer humanitarian help to these people. We are talking about the Mayan farmers in the Chimaltenango department of Guatemala, most of these pictures were taken in Chuchucá a small little village outside of Patzun.

Map of Chuchuca
This photo I love. the vibrant colors of the huipil on the women and 
children which are all handmade. As you can see in the background
farming is what keeps these people alive.

.No body is afraid of a camera at this age. These children seem so
happy and they just love getting their picture taken. Again see all the 
hard work this little girls mother went through to make this huipil.

Look at these big bright eyes on this innocent little girl. We were sitting
in a daily church service when I got this picture. 

This poor little Mayan girl was tired and just wanted to go home 
and go to sleep. Again this photo was taken at a church service 
in Chuchuca.

Guatemala Tamales

Now this is not a picture that you will see in most sites from Guatemala. This was taken in the highlands of Guatemala, not many travel to these high remote villages like I do. I love going up and visiting the people that live in these areas of the country. When I take teams up to do humanitarian work in these villages we are always welcomed to a delicious meal. Every time we are greeted with home made tamales. Tamales can be plain or filled with vegetables, cheese, chilies or meats; chicken and pork are the most common. Most of the time these tamales are made of masa (corn dough) and wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Most of the time tamales are served to us with either Guatemala Pepián or Subanik.  These two dishes are very special to the Mayans that live in the highland areas of the country. Another traditions that you do not see on other web sites or blogs is the laying on pine needles on the mud floors for their guest. This is very special and means a lot to the locals. You see in these areas of the country the local villagers do not have cement floors and most of the homes are made of mud. So when guest come it is tradition to pick bushels of fresh green pine needles and lay them on the floor like carpet. This also brings a fresh aroma to the room.

4th Avenida Sur

This here is a vary familiar scene in Guatemala. This is a very popular color also. I have spent much time painting this color on the schools and churches that I have worked on. Sometimes I wonder if this is the only color this country knows. But just take a look around and yes this is a color used frequently but there is a such a vast color pallet used in Guatemala. 

This picture was taken about a block from Parque Central in Antigua Guatemala.

Related Blog Parque Central


Today we are going to look again at a blog page that I had done several months back on the Quetzal. The Quetzal stands not only for the beautiful bird of Central America but it also stands for the money in Guatemala.
The quetzal was introduced in 1925 during the term of President José María Orellana, whose image appears on the obverse of the one-quetzal bill. It replaced the peso. 
Today the exchange rate for teh Quetzal is:
Monday, January 24, 2011
1 US Dollar = 7.95600 Guatemalan Quetzal
1 Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) = 0.12569 US Dollar (USD)

The National Bird for Guatemala is also the Quetzal. This beautiful bird is also on the currency for the country of Guatemala.Unfortunately, these striking birds are threatened in Guatemala and elsewhere throughout their range. They are sometimes trapped for captivity or killed, but their primary threat is the disappearance of their tropical forest homes. In some areas, most notably Costa Rica's cloud forests, protected lands preserve habitat for the birds and provide opportunities for ecotourists and eager bird watchers from around the globe.

Today the Quetzal has become the nation symbol of Guatemala. Images of the Quetzal are everywhere, including the basic unit of currency. None the less, as a result of habitat degradation Quetzals themselves are becoming increasingly scarce. The Quetzal resides within the misty depths of high altitude cloud forest and is known to shy away from the prying presence of visitors.

Subanik, Guatemalan Stew

Subanik Stew

Subanik Stew a beef, pork and chicken dish that has been vapor-cooked with a spicy sauce,  is traditional Kaqchiquel Mayan Indian ceremonial dish. This is a great dish that I just love to eat when I am in Guatemala. This dish is favorite around the time of Semana Santa or Holy Week. Farther down this post I will share one of the recipes that I came across while researching this meal to share. I personally have had this Kaqchiquel ceremonial dish several times on my trips to Guatemala. There are many ways to prepare this dish but for some reason it always taste the same to me. Subanik stew is just one of many variates of stews prepared in Guatemala. This recipe I am sharing is done in English so people in the U.S. can try and make it for themselves.


Serve with white rice or tamales.
8 servings
For the sauce
  • 5 medium red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, then stemmed and seeded
  • 12 roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 white onion, cut into quarters
  • 5 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 dried ancho chili pepper, washed inside and out, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 dried red chili pepper, such as chili de arbol
  • 1 to 2 Thai red chili peppers
For the beef and chicken
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat, then cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
For assembly
  • 6 to 8 banana or plantain leaves, for presentation (optional)


For the sauce: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the red bell peppers on a baking sheet (no foil or oil); roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning them once or twice, until their skins are blistered with black spots all around.

Lightly grease a separate baking sheet, preferably nonstick, with nonstick cooking oil spray. Place the tomatoes and onion cut side down on the sheet, along with the whole tomatillos, dried chili peppers and Thai red chili pepper(s). Roast for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are quite tender, with blistered skins.
(Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on a hot griddle.)

Working in several batches, transfer the roasted peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and Thai red chili pepper(s) to a blender; pulse for 1 to 2 minutes for each batch, until a fairly smooth sauce forms. (Do not use a food processor, which can overprocess the mixture). Break off pieces of the dried chili peppers and add them through the top of the blender while the motor is running. Stop to taste, and add more of the dried chili peppers to achieve the desired level of spiciness.

Meanwhile, cook the beef and chicken: Have a large bowl ready.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.

Working in 2 batches, add the beef and start to brown it; season each batch with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Sear the meat for about 2 minutes; it will not be cooked through. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the meat to the bowl as you work.

Add the water to deglaze the skillet, using a spatula to scrape up the browned bits, then pour the contents of the skillet over the meat.

Use paper towels to lightly wipe out the skillet, then return it to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil. When it is hot enough to shimmer, add the chicken in 2 batches, seasoning each with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Sear for about 1 minute on one side, then turn the chicken over and sear for about 1 minute; the chicken will not be cooked through. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the chicken to the bowl with the beef as you work.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium to medium-low heat. Add the bay leaves and thyme; cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, to flavor the oil. Add the pureed sauce, then the sugar, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste; cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, then discard the bay leaves and thyme.

Add the beef and chicken. Increase the heat to medium or medium-high to slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have blended and the beef and chicken are quite tender.

To assemble: When ready to serve, line a large serving dish with the banana or plantain leaves. Transfer the subanik from the Dutch oven to the dish and place at the table. (At this point, subanik cooked the traditional way, in a bundle of mashan leaves, is brought to the table in the pot, untied and served.)

Ladle the subanik from the dish into individual bowls, making sure to include equal amounts of chicken and beef. Serve hot.

Recipe Source:

Adapted from a recipe of the Antigua Cooking School in Antigua, Guatemala.


Guatemala Pepián

Having spent time in the Guatmemala highlands and staying with many Mayan people I have had the opportunity to enjoy one of the most famous dishes in Guatemala called Pepián. Pepián has been a traditional meal for many many years in this extreme poor country. Pepián is served like a American tradtional Thanks Giving meal here in the U.S.

No one  should come to Guatemala without trying Pepián, one of its most typical dishes.I have had the opportunity to savor many of the ways that Pepián is cooked while being in the highlands. The most economical method of preparing Pepián is by using Chicken and beans or guisquil and served with a side of rice.

In the highlands Pepián is prepared in a large pot filled with water and brought to a boil over a open fire. Cut up chicken and the vegetables are then put in the pot and left to boil (cook) for hours. After it has cooked for many hours on a roaring fire then it is served like a stew along with homemade tamalitos. Another Guatemala specialty.

RECIPE for Guatemala Pepián using pork and beef

  • 3 pounds of tomatoes
  • 8 red bell peppers
  • 1 pound green beans
  • güisquil (chayote)
  • 4 chiles
  • 8 chiles
  • 2 onions
  • 1 garlic
  • 4 ounces squash seeds
  • 4 ounces sesame seeds
  • 1 pound ribs
  • 3 pounds pork leg, ham, and beef fillet
  • 2 pounds of potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 pounds of rice
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 tortillas burnt
  1. Cut potatoes, carrots, green beans, and güisquil
  2. Cook the meats in a clay pot with a little water, 1 quartered onion, 4 cloves of garlic. Let simmer until the water is reduced by half. Add carrots, potatoes, green beans, and güisquil
  3. Grill tomatoes, peppers, remaining garlic, onion, chile , squash seeds, sesame seeds, and tortillas until burnt. Blend ingredients and add to pot and simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Cook white rice. Serve pepian with white rice and tamalitos.