Friday, January 23, 2009

Quetzaltenengo II

Here's Rolene and Marco Antonio playing music together. It was such a nice family feeling to have everyone sitting around, more or less doing their own thing but doing it together.

Marco Antonio and Sandra, the parents of the Rivera family. They have three kids--Jonathan, Shesnarda, y Pedro Pablo. I miss them already.

Here's a shot from the road in Chiapas, on our way to Guatemala. I don't have any photos of Guatemala near the border because we hid our cameras and money in case we were robbed. It was unlikely that we would be since we followed advice to cross before 2pm, when it's safer.

This is Maria, my friend from Las Palmas, which is a little island in the middle of the mangrove swamp. She walked around with us and was completely charming. I like talking to kids because they don't ask me complicated questions.

Here's a shot from the shore of Las Palmas. It was so amazing to be there because there were no cars! Not even one and there probably had never been a car here ever. We met a archeologist from UCSB, Barbara, who was leading a group (one from Texas and two from Chile) of archaelogists who were studying the mounds of discarded shells in the swamps. They have found evidence of human civilization as far back as 7.5 thousand years ago.

Mangroves. Amazing. We could hear lots of birds, but they were in the canopy above us so I didn't see many. We went on a boat taxi through the swamp and out to Las Palmas.

The beach we camped at in Perto Arista, Mexico. Right after taking this picture I saw at least 4 dolphins swimming really close to shore. It was magical and I was the only one out on the beach as far as I could see so I got/had to enjoy it all by myself.

The baby sea turtles at the reserve we went to near Puerta Arista. These tortugas had just been born and were to be released that night at 9pm. I hope they made it! Each one was about half as big as my palm.

There were a couple things I forgot to say last night. One is that I love it when I hear sentences that I've never heard before. When Rolene and I were walking into Quetzaltenengo yesterday, the shoulder came to an end and Rolene exclaimed, "Oooh, a ditch! Great!" I've never heard anyone so excited to see a ditch by the side of the road, but when one has been walking through Mexico and Guatemala for 10 months as she has, one's priorities change. Sidewalks are rare here, and very nice to have when they exist. Cars, trucks and buses go really fast and when there's not even a shoulder to walk on it can be dangerous, so we won't do that unless we have no other options.

The other thing I meant to say is that I think it's so cool that cities have nicknames here. We use acronyms, but not nicknames as much...Well, I guess we have The Big Apple and The City of Angels. The nicknames here are different. Quetzaltenengo is called Xela, and Retalhuleu is Reu. I just learned, as I was writing this, that when the Spanish conquerors came here they brought soldiers from the north (what is now Mexico) of the Nahuatl people. Quetzaltenengo and Retalhuleu are Nahuatl names and Xela and Reu are the Mayan names. One place we went today is called San Antonio Xecul, which is a combo of the Spanish name and the Mayan name.

I'm having a really hard time uploading the photos onto this post. I was going to end here and then do a new one with photos and stories from today. But, I think I'll tell you about today and hope to get some photos up too.

We walked along the highway for a while until the shoulder disappeared and then asked where we could safely walk. We were directed to go through some farmland and up through a tiny puebla I mentioned above, San Antonio Xecul. We saw the school so Rolene went to go see if there were kids to talk to, but school wasn't in session today. The teachers were there though so we hung out with them and talked about the walk and they shared what they were doing with their students. They're doing a reforestation project with the kids, which was exciting to hear. When we were leaving they told us to go see a man in the town nearby, Salcaja, because he runs the local TV station and might want to broacast something about the walk. When we got there he took us up to his studio above his house and we talked about the walk (well, Rolene did most of the talking) and then found out that he'd been broadcasting live. I was on TV! I'm gonna be famous! What a funny day.
We also heard that the oldest Catholic church in Guatemala, built in 1524, is in Salcaja so we went to go see it. It's always impressive to see such old bulidings, but it mostly made me sad. Churches like this one are a symbol of the conversion of a people from their native, earth-based religions...and were mostly likely built with slave labor. So, it was interesting, but not joyful to visit there.
It's now Saturday morning. I tried to post the above last night and it failed, so I'm trying again now. We're headed out and will park the truck in some town between here and Guatemala City and do some walking. Not sure when I'll have internet again, but I'm sure it won't be long. Until then...


  1. as if there was any doubt that you would - one day - be famous. the pictures are beautiful. it's amazing that all of that happened in only a few days!

  2. Darcy you're flipping amazing. I love you and hope all is well. Keep up the awesome writing! You should write travel books!