Central America Archives

November 10, 2006


I spent last week (October 30 - November 5) in Guatemala for work. Mainly in Guatemala City, but also in a tiny little place called Panabajal (municipalidad de Comalapa, departamento de Chimaltenango) and in Antigua. In Panabajal we visited the site of one of our projects and it was a humbling experience. The kind of travel I do for work now is so different from what I did when I was a student, or a volunteer, or had a different job. I used to be more in touch with people and now I am seen as a representative from a powerful organization. Of course people wonder why their local school can't get funds for repairs, maintenance, and materials, but these large international organizations unfortunately do not work like that... It takes years of planning and of course negotiations with the government before anything reaches the little towns. Maybe it is time I go back to more grassroots stuff!!

Anyway, the people were so nice and welcomed us with open arms. The course session (part of a course on participatory planning and involvement in local decision making processes) was held in the local school, where the desks were falling apart and the lone lightbulb was held up by an extension cord coming from somewhere outside the room. I was very impressed with the tutors, both from Comalapa, who did a great job with their "students" - mostly men, all farm workers who came to the two-hour class after a day's work in the fields. All were Kaqchikel Mayans and between them they all spoke Kaqchikel, although they all seemed to understand Spanish well. They got a total kick out of the few phrases I had learned before the session started! Oh, and they brought us the best tamales I have ever tried...

I doubt that any of them use the computer, but in any case - a big "Matiosh!" to all of them...

November 16, 2006


Only one more day to go... On Saturday my boyfriend and I head to Nicaragua. It's his first time, and my seventh! I spent a few summers volunteering at an orphanage there and pretty much left my heart. I try to go back twice a year (last time was in March) and I go mainly to see my beautiful little goddaughter, Linda. She is five and a half now and I can't believe I have known here since she was 10 months old! We will be hanging out with her and the other kids at the orphanage but we will also do other fun stuff, most of it related to beach, sun, or nature. A canopy tour, some kayaking in Laguna de Apoyo (or Chicken Lake, as my boyfriend likes to say.) We are staying at three different places, all very different! For the first time in Nicaragua I will have air condition and a private bath every night - sweet! It's funny but I have NEVER slept in in Nicaragua, life has always followed the rythm of the sun - get up early, nap in the afternoon, go to bed early to avoid the bugs and save electricty (if there is power, that is. "Se fue la luz" has to be on the top ten list of Nicaraguan phrases.)

Can't wait. I am so excited that I am nervous. I really need to adjust my expectations a little...

November 21, 2006

I Love Nicaragua

I feel so bad about not having written anything about my trip to Nicaragua yet... We had a great week and as always I just felt at home as soon as we touched down. Having a rental car made everything a lot easier and allowed me to see a lot of new stuff. I loved showing my favorite country to my boyfriend and he enjoyed it as well.

I'll post again as soon as I finish my trip report for Slow Travel!!

January 4, 2007

Photo from Nicaragua


Another photo from Nicaragua


October 21, 2007

Trip Report from Nicaragua

I finally finished my trip report from last year's trip to Nicaragua. You can access it by clicking here.

Slow Travel publishes lots of trip reports and it is always fun to read them! I just finished reading a report written by a woman who hiked the Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Pichu. It was wonderful to read about her experience! You can read more trip reports if you go to the main Slow Travel trip report page:


February 6, 2008

Nicaragua forever

I have not been in Nicaragua for over 14 months. This is the longest I have gone without visiting since I started traveling there in May of 2002. I have already written about Nicaragua a few times before - they are all here in the Central America category - but I am always ready to write more! I am thinking it would be cool to post about Nicaragua on a regular basis, with a new tidbit of information each time, maybe once a week or so. Today I want to introduce you to some Nicaraguan music. (It is impossible to talk about Nicaraguan music without being political - so consider yourself warned! :)

Nicaraguan music is naturally very influenced by the Sandinista revolution of 1979 - or should I say that the revolution was influenced by the music? Many musicians (as well as other artists; Nicaragua had and has a particularly active poet community) were important figures in the Sandinista movement.

I wanted to post this video of Carlos Mejía Godoy singing the famous song he and his brother Luis Enrique wrote, Nicaragua Nicaraguita. This video is from 1983. To many, this is the song of the revolution.

The Mejía Godoy brothers are probably the most famous Nicaraguan musicians and have written some of the most famous and beloved songs, both before, during, and after the Nicaraguan revolution. Julio Valle-Castillo said it beautifully:

Carlos Mejía Godoy no le canta al pueblo. El pueblo canta en él y por él y con él. La voz popular. Voz y canto del pueblo.
Carlos Mejía Godoy doesn't sing to the people. The people sing in him and for him and with him. The popular voice. Voice and song of the people.

I am posting a second video here, with probably my favorite song of theirs, Cristo de Palacaguina. It is a Christmas song where Mary and Joseph are poor Nicaraguans living in countryside; Joseph is a day laborer and Mary works for the rich landowner's wife. Instead of three kings bringing gold, incense and myrra, there are Indians bringing local treats and handicrafts. And in good revolutionary spirit, little baby Jesus wants to be a guerrillero when he grows up. (Katia Cardenal also does a beautiful version of this song on her album "Ven a mi casa esta navidad.")

Cristo De Palacagüina

Por el cerro de la iguana, montaña adentro
De la cegobia,
Se oyo un resplandor extraño
Como una aurora de media noche.
Los maizales se prendieron,
Los quiebraplatas se estremecieron,
Llovio luz por muyugalpa, por telpaneca,
Por chichigalpa.

Cristo ya nació en palacaguina,
De chepe pavón (pavon, pavon) y una tal maría,
Ella va a planchar muy humildemente,
La ropa que goza la mujer hermosa del terrateniente.

La gente para mirarlo se rejuntaron en molote,
Y el indio joaquin le trajo quesillo en trenza de nagarote,
En vez de oro, incienso y mirra,
Le regalaron segun yo supe,
Cajetita de diriomo y hasta buñuelos de guadalupe.

José pobre jornalero se mecateya todito el dia,
Lo tiene con reumatismo el tequio de la carpinteria,
Maria sueña que el hijo, igual que el taita sea carpintero,
Pero el zipotillo piensa mañana quiero ser guerrillero.

February 19, 2008

Nicaragua again

I am pleasantly surprised that several of my fellow February bloggers have expressed an interest in my posts about Nicaragua. I don't have much time today so I will just post some basic facts and interesting observations.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and borders Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north. It is less densely populated than its neighbours and has 5.5 million people. The capital is the city of Managua, which has over a million people. It is the poorest country in Central America (although Honduras is close) and the third poorest in the Americas (after Haiti and Bolivia.) It also has a very high percentage of the population that is younger than 14, signalizing a dramatic population increase. It does, however, have a lot going for it - less overcrowding than some of its neighbours, foreign investments are up, and tourism is booming. One of my favorite things is that it is still a little rough and less touristy than for instance Costa Rica, while providing many of the same experiences - forests, mountains, beaches, rivers, lakes and volcanoes. It also produces an excellent rum, Flor de Caña, which many would call the best in Latin America. Recommended!

I will write more another day but I have to go to bed! I leave you with a couple of shots.



June 21, 2008

Guatemala handicrafts

I feel bad that I haven't written more about Suriname, but honestly, I don't have that much to say! I also didn't take a lot of photos. So I figured I'd post a couple of photos of some things I bought in Guatemala back in April.

I love this couple! The photo doesn't do them justice but they look really great in real life.

These are some place mats woven in beautiful colors:

July 14, 2008

Beautiful Guatemala stuff

I have a blog friend with a very cool blog: Jesus Was Not A Republican. I very much enjoy her writings, but she also has another very cool thing going for her: she makes the most beautiful and innovative arts and crafts with Guatemalan textiles and materials. She has been living in Guatemala since spring 2007 and has done a wonderful job at immersing herself in the culture and has a wealth of knowledge on traditional Guatemalan clothing, for instance. She can identify huipiles (the beautiful blouses that Guatemalan indigenous women wear) from different regions, towns, and villages. She has become fluent in Spanish and has also done some great work helping migrant farm worker communities.

Erin has a crafts blog where you can see her art and also learn more about Guatemalan handicrafts, La Chapina Huipil Crafts. (Guatemalans often refer to themselves as chapines (plural), or chapin for a man and chapina for a woman.)

The best part, however, is that you can buy her beautiful products at her Etsy shop. (Etsy is a marketplace for hand made arts and crafts, where you buy directly from the seller.) Some of you commented that you really liked the couple I posted about earlier, so here is your chance to look at some really great art from Guatemala. In addition, if you yourself like to create, Erin also sells very unique materials, such as pieces of huipiles, that can be made into beautiful pieces. Enjoy!

(And sorry for not writing lately - my arms are hurting so I am trying to stay away from the computer!)

March 1, 2009

The Gospel in Solentiname - and Obama


Yesterday, I wrote my last post for February Blogging. It was fun to write about Norway but I have other things to catch up on! Mexico, for instance. However, today I felt like writing about a wonderful book called The Gospel in Solentiname, by Ernesto Cardenal. I hadn't picked up the book in a while, but today I was reminded of it. I had book club today, and we were reading President Obama's book "Dreams from my Father." I had been very disorganized this month (maybe blogging was taking too much time!) and just bought the book on Friday. By noon today I had read only 140 pages, but it was still nice to discuss it. (And it was from his book that I got the idea for yesterday's post as well. He doesn't actually use the words "white privilege" but that was what it made me think of, which again made me think of white privilege among foreigners living in the US.)

Continue reading "The Gospel in Solentiname - and Obama" »

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