Here we go with the latest edition of my popular series (!) 10 Everyday Sights. Don’t forget to check out El Salvador and Honduras, for my fascinating insights (or not) into Central American countries.
For some reason cemeteries are often way more colourful than houses here. Tomb stones range from deluxe multi occupancy mini houses to a simple cross in the ground. Whilst taking photos in this cemetery in Chichi a funeral procession passed me. It seemed like the entire village had turned out, with ice cream and peanut sellers working the tail end of the mourners. Clearly it’s acceptable to attend a burial whilst enjoying a vanilla cone.
Aguadiente (sugarcane liqueur)
A hip flask sized bottle of Quetzalteca is the same price as a can of beer when bought from the supermarket, but at 36% proof it’ll go a lot further. It used to be a poor mans drink, but it’s undergone a fashionista transformation with flavoured versions being released as well as premixed single serve bottles. My favourite was lemon, a bit like limoncello, and hibiscus. Pretty nice on its own, or mixed with lemonade.
Elote Loco (Crazy Corn)
Definitely my favourite street snack in Guatemala. Corn on the cob brushed with mayonnaise, then squirted with ketchup, spicy green sauce and mustard and covered with powdered cheese. And did you know there are four colours of corn in Guatemala? – black, red, white and yellow.
Every other vehicle that goes past is a pickup, usually crammed full of Guatemalans standing in the flatbed, on their way to work. Or piled high with corn husks, sacks of coffee, tables, cages of chickens, some goats…
I forgot to get a photo of a cevicheria probably because I was too busy munching, but for some reason raw seafood is really popular in Guatemala. Ceviche is thinly sliced prawns, octopus, crab sticks and sometimes snails, covered in lime juice, chopped coriander, tomato and onion, with added salsa, hot sauce and salsa negro, and a couple of tostadas if you wish. Cevicherias are stalls or small cafes serving this treat.
These bright orange deep fried tortillas are on every street corner. Just look for a small table with lots of little plastic jars and a basket wrapped up in a brightly coloured scarf. Toppings include guacamole, cheese, refried beans, diced tomato, diced onion, coriander and salsa. From this particular Tostada Lady I also bought these rellenitos dulces (mashed and fried bananas filled with sweet bean paste) and a slice of baked cheesecake. It was a feast!
There’s a panaderia on most streets. Some of the more deluxe ones have little baskets and tongs that you use to serve yourself, then you take it to the counter to be added up. There’s always a selection of sweet and savoury white bread rolls, very occasionally brown rolls and always various muffins and giant cookies. In Santiago on Lake Atitlan, I got very excited when I found pineapple turnovers. Pineapple chunks are boiled down with loads of sugar to make a kind of chunky jam for the filling. You can also get a cup of pineapple tea at market stalls.
Super expensive traveller shuttle buses
‘Ooh, you’re not taking a chicken bus, are you?’ usually accompanied with a sharp intake of breath from other travellers. I’m not sure why chicken buses seem to have a bad reputation among Guatemalan backpackers, with many preferring to take door to door shuttle buses. I’m not against shuttle buses (it doesn’t matter how you travel, as you as you go travelling!) but I’m far too stingy to pay shuttle bus prices when there’s a perfectly good chicken bus available.
The vast majority of women wear the traje (suit) of wraparound woven skirt, embroidered blouse and sash or belt of their region. I often see four (female) generations of the same family wearing near identical outfits and wonder if the girls whine at their mum about having to wear the same outfit everyday while their brothers get to wear jeans and t shirts.
Tortillas los tres tiempos
Tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or so the saying goes. I saw so many signs for Tortillas de los Tres Tiempos. Often you can hear them before you see them, as tortillas are made by hand from masa or cornmeal dough, and are slap-slap-slapped from palm to palm several times before being thrown on a hot clay griddle over coals to cook. I even saw blue tortillas in Chichicastenango, made from black corn. And just so you know, only women make tortillas, never men.
Hope you enjoyed this small slice of everyday Guatemala life! It’s quite fun trying to identify small but distinct differences between the countries.