Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CURTIDO - Guatemalan Enchiladas-

This is the dinner my mom welcomed us with: Curtido and Frijoles

When people in the US think of Enchiladas they think of the rolls of tortillas with chicken smothered in sauce. When Guatemalans think of enchiladas we think of a construction of tostadas, sauce, meat, curtido, egg, dry cheese and parsley.

Recipe for Curtido:

Diced peeled carrots
Diced peeled beats
Shredded cabbage
pickles onions
Diced bell pepper
Slivers onions
Sliced sauteed garlic

Cook the carrots, beats and peas all separately. Pour boiling water on top of cabbage and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine all ingredients, cooked, pickled and raw.


Olive oil, vinegar, dry ground mustard, thyme, bay leaves let it at room temperature for at least 4 hours. After that enjoy on tostadas. 

In my house my husband and I are Vegan, my kids are vegetarians in training and my parents eat everything so to enjoy this dish:

Spread fresh tomato sauce on a tostada and the pile up the curtido and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy with a side of beans.

Spread fresh tomato sauce on a tostada and pile up the curtido, put a slice of boiled egg and sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Enjoy with a side of beans.

Spread fresh tomato sauce on a tostada, minced meat and pile up the curtido, put a slice of boiled egg and sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Enjoy with a side of beans.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I made it to Guatemala and I thought my first post was going to be about the delicious dinner Mom prepared for us but something more exciting happened...

This past week I  checked out from the library the book Journey for Peace: The Story of Rigoberta Menchú thinking I was going to read it to the girls and then write about it in the blog. Unfortunately, getting ready for the trip left us with no time. Have we had read it the girls would have been in complete awe tonight when we met Mrs. Rigoberta Menchú at the airport!

Nevertheless, I still approached her, expressed  her how much of an  honor was to meet her and asked  to take a picture. She was very kind and sweet to  the girls and thanked us for our interest in her work.  

The girls then asked me all sorts of questions about Mrs. Menchú and were amazed at the fact that now they have a picture with such a famous person.  There are various children's books written about her that we will now read and as we do we shall blog about them.

Mrs. Rigoberta Menchú Tum was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in  1992. Her foundation works on various fields particularly  education.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


The girls and I are flying to Guatemala tomorrow and I have mixed emotions. I am excited about the projects I am involved in but sad because Alex and Tom are staying. I also must confess I am scared to go with the political climate as it is in Guatemala, but then again the more reason I feel committed to keep on contributing to my country through my work. I am of course always happy and blessed to be with my parents but worried about my mother in law who just went through the loss of my father in law and also her mom, I feel I need to be with her right now. We are, as you might recall, homeschooling this has allowed the flexibility to travel and cherish our culture but is preventing the girls from consistently being with their friends.
Of course it is all give and take. What I do know is that time will fly and that I plan to make it a big blogging opportunity, so please keep in touch.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ARROZ EN LECHE - Rice Pudding- Our son's favorite.

Our son, Alex, loves arroz en leche. I learned to make it exclusively for him, it's his comfort food.

We met with Alex when he was four (that was when, in my heart, he became my son) and he came to live with us when he was eight (that was when he officially became our son). During his early childhood he used to eat a lot of "atoles" (porridge): Atol de Elote, INCAPARINA, Arroz en Leche, Mosh, manjar, Atol de Platano, Atol de Masa, etc. These are staples of a Guatemalan diet, they are cheap and hearty.

Myself, I didn't grow up with atoles. My mom says she had to eat so many of them growing up that she did not want to make them anymore plus they also reminded her of struggling economic times. Hence, I didn't acquire the taste or the skill to make them just right.

Arroz en leche is the only one that I learned how to make for Alex, the others I asked friends to once in a while make them for him. I do have to say now I regret it. He is now 19 with a mind of his own and I should have given him all the comfort I could when I could. (Well, I guess there is still time... I will learn how to make more of these atoles!)

Alex is now living on his own and I am going to visit him today so I will take some Arroz en Leche for him. 

I am using a recipe from the book Recetas de Oro de Olga Perez Guisasola de Cáceres.

1 cup of rice.
4 cups of water.
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp salt
1 pinch of lime zest (the peel)
1 liter of milk to make ir like a drink, 1/2 liter of milk to make it a pudding
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of grounded cinnamon

Bring the water to boil, add the rice, cinnamon stick, salt, lime zest. Let it cook at low heat, stirring occasionally. If needed you can add more water.

When the rice is cooked add the milk and sugar and let it cook longer. Let it cook as long as you want to get the consistency desired. (some like it runnier, others thicker).

To serve sprinkle cinnamon on top.


This is a  grown up movie/documentary. Below its plot  as described by IMDb:

"Set in Guatemala, 1954, at the time a U.S. funded government overthrow of left-wing president Jacob Arbenz, it chronicles the struggles of a pre-adolescent boy to grow up in a tumultuous time. Neto, at the funeral of his uncle Ernesto is suddenly visited by his uncle's ghost. Their conversation becomes a flashback of six months earlier. The memory follows the changes wrought by the intervention of U.S. military and local troops as the coup begins. Neto's family's life is profoundly affected by the military action. Neto's father, a teacher, loses his job to military personnel. His classmates and their families begin to disappear. Neto and his family must flee their city. There is also conflict between his father and uncle, His father has always put his responsibility to his family ahead of all else and his uncle has wandered the world attempting to find himself. Neto has asthma and the women in his family smother him with concern".

I watched it with my Mom and Dad who were teenagers during the time the movie takes place. During the whole moving they kept saying "justo así era"  (that was exactly right). Undoubtedly it won't arise the same passion to somebody that knows less about Guatemala but  on the other hand it is a good way to know where Guatemala is coming from.

My mom vividly remembers the air attacks. Guatemalans, we have a way to turning tragic into something to laugh about, they would refer to the bombarding planes "sulfato" (sulfate) because they scared you so much they made you go to the bathroom. She says when they heard them someone would yell "El Sulfato" and they all ran to take cover under the beds, after that they came out and kept on playing or going about their business! 

El Silencio de Neto can be rented in Netflix with English subtitles, or bought in Amazon.

Awards and Recognitions
OFFICIAL SELECTION 1995 of the Sundance Film Festival
QUIJOTE AWARD  - Huelva Film Festival, Spain; 
SPECIAL JURY AWARD -Biarritz Film Festival, France; 
BEST FILM - New York Latino Film Festival; 
BEST OPERA PRIMA - New England Film Festival; 
SPECIAL MENTION - Puerto Rico International Film Festival.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Here are some pictures of piñatas. There are piñatas of all sizes and every character in vogue. In Guatemala they start with a wire structure, then newspaper is used to cover the wire and finally tissue paper. In the US I have been able to buy them at the Mexican stores or panaderías but they don´t have wire as a structure. My guess is that for US standards that is prohibited, so they are shaped with hard cardboard which makes them very hard to break!


1. The piñata is hang on a lasso and another one is tied to it so as to be able to move it back and forth.
2. All kids get in a circle around the piñata.
2. The children will have a turn from the youngest to the oldest.
 The babies come with their parents
3. The younger kids and not blindfolded, the older ones are.
4. The children get twirled how many time their age is, using the following rhyme:
      una a la una
       dos al arroz
        tres al frances
        cuatro al cuarto
        cinco al brinco
        seis al reves
        siete al machete
        ocho al biscocho
        nueve a la nieve
        diez a los pies.
5. The child then hits the piñata (you can determine a number of hits per child). The piñata is being moved while the child tries to hit it. For the ones that are blindfolded people yell directions: right, left, in front, behind!
6. When the candy start falling children start picking it up an that is usually the sign for the other child to stop. This is of course the fun yet up nerving part. That is why in a piñata I went to the use someone chose to have everyone in a line, then at the end she gave equal amount of candy to everyone. That was a lot more civilized yet not fun at all compared to our organized chaos. Other than some scraped knees and kids crying because they didn't get too many candy I have not seen of heard about any accident. I usually have an extra bag of candy that way I can always give more to those that picked few.

Here are pictures of some of our past piñatas.










Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guatemalan TV Channel on line.

If you are interested in watching Guatemalan TV there is a way.

Guatevisión is a fairly new TV Channel, created in 2004.  It's programs include  national and international talk shows, news, soap operas, music shows, and my mom's favorite the morning show 'Viva La Mañana' broadcasted every weekday morning from 6.00 GT to 10.00 GT.

To view live on line streaming simply go to Guatevision's webpage, click on 'En Vivo', create an account (it is safe and free) and voilà.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Growing up, on the day of my  birthday the day started with firecrackers announcing the whole neighborhood at  6 am that somebody was having a birthday. Following the meter long "ametralladora" (string of firecrackers) was  my family and sometimes friends singing Las Mañanitas. 

During my teenage years the group of friends from the neighborhood followed this tradition. Our moms would then prepare breakfast for the gang. Since my birthday was on vacation time I always got the serenade and a whole morning breakfast feast.  (I am making a note to do this for Nicole´s birthday that we will spend in Guatemala next April).
Here is the song of Las Mañanitas sang by Topo Gigio, an icon of childhood memories for those of us who are now in our 30s and 40s. 

The Lyricis are:

Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David,
hoy por ser dia de tu Santo te las cantamos a ti.
(we used to sing in the last verse: A las muchachas bonitas se las cantamos asi, or jokingly a las muchachas bonitas y a las feitas también!)

This is the morning serenade that King David sang,
today since it is your birthday we are singing it to you.
(variation: to the pretty girls we sing them this way or jokingly to the pretty girls and the ugly ones too!)

Despierta mi bien despierta mira que ya amaneció
ya los pajarillos cantan la luna ya se metió.

Wake up, my dear, wake up, look  morning has broken.
the birds are already singing and the moon has set.

Que linda esta la mañana en que vengo a saludarte
venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

How beautiful is the morning when I come to greet you,
we all come with joy and pleasure to congratulate you.

El dia en que tu naciste, nacieron todas las flores
en la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores.

The day you were born, all the flowers sprouted,
On the baptismal font  the nightingales sang.
As I was writing this post Megan, my December girl, said that we couldn't  sing this for her since she was born in December when there are no flowers. I said, -Well, remember you were born in Guatemala and there it is always spring!-

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del dia nos dió
levantate de manañana, mira que ya amaneció.

The sun is coming out, the morning light has shone on us,
get up early in the morning, look it morning has broken.

Volaron cuatro palomas por toditas las ciudades,
hoy por ser día de tu Santo te deseamos felicidades.

Four doves flew all around the cities
today since it is your Saint's day we wish you happiness.

De las estrellas del cielo tengo que bajarte dos,
una es para saludarte y otra de para decirte adiós.

From the stars in the sky I have to pull down two,
one to greet you and one to say farewell.

Con racimos de  flores hoy te vengo a saludar,
hoy por ser día de tu santo te venimos a cantar.

With bundles of flowers today I come to greet you,
since today is your Saint's day we come to serenade you.

The other verses I know is:

Quisieras ser solecito para entrar por tu ventana,
y darte los buenos dias acostadita en tu cama.

I wish I could be the sun so I could come in through your window,
and say good morning while you are lying your bed.
Quisiera ser un San Juan, quisiera ser un San Pedro
Pa' venirte a saludar con la música del cielo.

I would like to be a Saint John, I would like to be a Saint Peter.
To come and greet you with the music from heaven.

Here is the Mariachi version. Although  Mariachis originated in Mexican, they are present at many Guatemalan parties. You call them or find them at the Plaza de los Mariachis and have them come to your house for a certain amount of time or for a
'tanda',  a round of songs, starting at around $80.00.

Note: This is not what we sing with the cake, to know about that see this other post. 
Also see Pinatas.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Cuando la perica quiere 
que el perico vaya a misa,
 se levanta muy temprano
 y le plancha la camisa.

(When Mom parakeet wants
Dad parakeet to go to mass,
she wakes up very early
and irons his shirt.)

I did a google search and found verses that I never have sang, so I won´t sing them but I am including them here:

Cuando la perica quiere
que el perico vaya al teatro,
se levanta muy temprano
y le lustra los zapatos.

(When Mom parakeet wants
Dad parakeet to go to the theater,
she wakes up very early
and polishes his shoes)

Cuando la perica quiere
que el perico se enamore,
se quita las plumas viejas
y se viste de colores.

(When Mom parakeet wants
Dad parakeet to fall in love,
she takes off the old feathers
and dresses her self in colors.)

I like the last one!

PS. The text is interpreted not translated, also sorry about my voice!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This I wrote my first winter in the US 2003-2004:

My husband, three kids, a dog and I moved from Guatemala to Baldwin City last December.  My husband is American and I was born and raised in Guatemala and had lived there all my life.  I had been in the US and Europe on vacation in winter time so I thought I new what winters were like.

 Well needless to say it’s not the same to vacation than to live in it.  The first two weeks it was interesting and winter had a charm to it, plus we were busy finding a house, etc.

We also went through our share of culture shock; I had never had to pay so much attention to weather in my life.  I was used to just be out and about and had no such thing as winter clothes and summer clothes I just had clothes to use year round.  On our second here we were going outside for a walk to have the girls, Nicole 4 and Megan 2, experience the weather. 

We bundle them up but they refused to put hats and mittens on. In their mind, that was the most ridiculous and unnecessary thing to do.  They ran out took four steps and ran back and agreed to do it and from then on all through the winter. Our son Alex 14, started going to school right away. 

The second week we were here Tom, my husband, had to go out of town and by then we only had one car. On Tuesday night it snowed quite a bit and the next morning I got my son up and waited for the bus. The bus didn’t come so I assumed we have missed it and sent Alex to school walking on the snow.  Forty minutes later he comes back freezing letting me know there was no school. We had no idea about this school cancellations or how to know about them,  I still feel terrible about it to this day.

My parents then came and visit for Christmas and we were out and about trying not to mind to much the weather  but my mom did say that this was the coldest she had ever been “When I go out no matter all the coats I have on I feel as cold as if I were on shorts, the cold goes all the way into the bones!”

Then came January and the warmth of Christmas and my parents was gone. It was terrible I think I got cottage fever.  I couldn’t get warm enough in the house, just thinking about going to bed made be even colder, I couldn’t get warm enough in bed and the thought of having to get up in the middle of the night to bring milk to the girls or go to the bathroom was horrifying. I had a picture in my mind of me freezing  on the way.  I had a terrible time getting going in the morning and through the day, it seemed like the sun was never really up. Then the sun went away so early and I felt like I wanted to sit down and cry. I was suffering. I tried and look for activities or places to go and everything seemed to be closed until spring. It was to cold to go outside and play.  We did join story time at the library and took the girls to a music program but even the girls then started saying “Mom I think we can go back now to the house with the big yard and the flowers”.  Every morning when I woke up  I still had in my mind the ever green panorama of Guatemala and was confronted with the brown and gray leafless trees. I told Tom that if I hadn’t been in the summer  before I didn’t think I’d believe there was one. By March I was hopeless I couldn’t imagine ever again being warm and cheery. I started thinking this was the one year summer wasn’t going to come…… and that is when it started happening:

Spring started coming…  Guatemala is called land of eternal Spring so I had lived all my life in spring but I had never seen it coming.

First came the white flower on the pear trees I was this wonderful sign of life! All around I could see white flowers everywhere. I thought it was the most interesting thing because it almost seemed like snow again but it wasn’t,  I was so excited. Then the flowers were gone and green leaves were left behind, at the same time the yellow bushes started growing leaves so we had touches of green and yellow around, the red bushed followed. It seemed to me as if we had a painting with all the empty sticks and everyday we added a new color.

I started to feel a  desire to get out of bed every morning and see what was next. Then for the first time I was introduced to Tulips.  It was amazing seemed like from on day to the next Tulips were out. Then and now as I reminisce I hear music in the air it was like they were playing this grand overture for this opera of color. I actually stopped at a curb and got out to see if they were really coming from out of the ground. I was in complete awe by this spectacle.

The weather was now warmer so we started going to the playground. The trees were showing little green dots were leaves were going to come out. The girls were laughing going down the slides and the leaves seemed to be peeping out to see them play. Everyday we came and ran and played seemed like the listening of the children’s voices and happiness made leaves want to come out more. Then birds joined us  and so did other animals and more sounds and smell came into play. Miracles were happening every day in front of our eyes.  Going out was a banquet for the senses, we could see, hear, touch, smell and taste life!  The job was done, the most wonderful landscape was created: It had big trees full of leaves, flowers on the ground,  a deer on the range  a raccoon crossing the road, men riding their mowers, children playing, women out visiting and shopping, even fireworks in the sky.


And that is how winter and spring made me live and understand the full meaning of the word HOPE.

As I write this is, fall is in the air and is telling me winter is on the way, but now I now spring WILL come and I am so hopeful I just finished planting my own Tulip bulbs in my yard.

HELADOS, HELADOS, Dingling, dingling.

Helado, Helados, hay Helado! (ice cream, ice cream, there is ice cream) yells the "heladero" ringing the little bell familiar to every child's sweet tooth  and pushing his cart through the streets of Guatemala.

I just read a post by Luis Figueroa that brought me back in time to this fond childhood memory. Post and picture here.

We used to live in a cul-de-sac, an official stop for the ice-cream man. It was the call that brought all children out to start an afternoon of play.  There were ice cream sandwiches nicely pronounced "sanguich", vasitos (little cup) and my favorite Olímpico (orange popsicle filled with cream). This was probably one of the few treats my parents would let me eat "en la calle" (on the street), later I deviated from the rule and fortunately never got sick.

The carts are still all over Guatemala, now a lot of them carry the same type of ice-cream bars and popsicle you can buy at a store, a very good thing, since I also apply the same rule  of "no comida de la calle" to my children!

One interesting thing I found out, from my aunt who lives in  the LA area, is that there is a community of heladeros that cross the border every summer to sell ice-cream from a cart. They all stay at a big werehouse at night and go out the next morning ringing their bells in the streets of LA. As crude as it still sounds to me they probably are extremely happy to do it. They might make 8 times more money and get to bring Guatemala closer to the immigrants. 

This is another story of an heladero. Here we were in Mixco Viejo an archeo-
logical site 60 kms from the city, I've written some about it in a past post.

This ice cream vendor had walked up the mountain, carrying as a cooler various layers of carton boxes and plastic bags, to sell ice cream to the scarce amount of visitors that Sunday of July.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Antigua is dear to most Guatemalans and a lot of people around the world, the international awardnaming it the TOP CITY 2009 proves it!

I can personally name a couple of events we celebrated in Antigua one of them my "Civil Wedding", in Guatemala you usually get married twice, once by the law and once by the church, legally the first one is the only one that counts and a requisite for the latter. We had a small reception at Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua Guatemala the 27th of November 1997. (Then we didn't have a digital camera so I need to scan  the pictures...) 

Anyways, here are some pictures of Antigua and a link to the award.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I recently learned a new children's nursery rhyme in English: 

My name is John Johnson I come from Wisconsin I work at the animal fair, all the people I meet when I walk down the street, say: What's your name?! and I say, My name is John Johnson....

That made think of a similar little rhyme we used to sing in the car on the many road trips we took in Guatemala. We recorded it with Nicole and Megan, I apologize for my lack of musical ability!  It goes "José se llamaba el padre, Josefa la mamá y al hijo que tuvieron le pusieron... José se llamaba el padre....." (Jose was the name of the father, Josephina the mother and the child they had they named.. Jose was the name of the father...)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


This is one Guatemalan (maybe other countries too) chant equivalent in purpose to  "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe..."

All the kids place their right foot touching the tip of the other kids feet. Someone goes touching each foot singing " Zapatito Cochinito, cambia de pie". The one whose foot was last to be touched chanting the rhyme has to change his or her foot to the left foot. You proceed the same way again. If someone had his or her foot be the last in the chant again then he or she is out, "saliste". You keep on going until only one is left. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where do babies come from?

Since this blog is targeted to adoptive parents I decided to share something I wrote about our adoption. Our soon is now 19 and in the process of finding himself (prayers needed and appreciated).

Where do babies come from?


That is a wonderful question!


To me the answer is from Heaven,  from God -Jeremiah 1:5

 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart-.


I am going this way  because of a question we have been asked several times:-“Knowing what you know now would you have adopted Alex?” I have ponder about it myself and  the answer has always been another question: -Was it really our decision or our prerogative?


Other friends, great people, have said –“I don’t know if I could adopt a child, if I could love him the same. And we say: Sure you would!


I have learned kids are not a request of parents to God but a request from God to us. He comes down (I don’t know why, certainly not because we are worthy) and says “Hey I got this creature made at my own image, and here is the deal: I want you to take care of him or her and bring him back to me. Oh, and by the way it won’t be easy”  So here you are and you will hopefully say: YES!!!


Now, how this comes to terms there are million of stories: maybe a beautiful couple year or two in their marriage all excited planning every detail, or perhaps an older couple that thought they were done with having kids and all of a sudden a baby is on the way, or a couple of reckless teenagers, what about a one night stand deal,  or even a woman who got paid to have sex. But also what about a couple or a single person that somehow got a call in their heart to adopt.  Is any of them more natural than the other? Was any of them really a human decision or was it really a Divine petition for love?


I do not believe we chose to adopt Alex the same way we didn’t really decide to have Nicole and Megan, if it were that simple there wouldn’t be couples that couldn’t conceive.


We know that Alex was our son since he was born, but God asked us to be his parents not in 1989 when he was conceived but in 1997 when we were in line to go into the Lion King Theater in the Magic Kingdom at DisneyWorld; and guess what? We said yes. The same way any of our friends, who have asked, said yes when that pregnancy test arrived positive. In reality, there is nothing different and “special” about us. Our first son just happened to be born through and adoption instead of a c-section.


But what about this “on hindsight” deal (not minding the fact that you would hardly ever get that question asked in the case of children not born from adoption), this is what we think:

Knowing what we know now, of course we would. We would also know how much we love him, how much we need him, how much he needs us and how our lives wouldn’t be complete without him.


Sure we sometimes say “We wish we could fast forward life to just take a peek and make sure everything is going to be ok.”, but we go back to Mother Theresa’s words: The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.”


Isn’t this what “real” parents do everyday? And we know for a fact that there is only one type of parents and one type of children: The ones that come from God.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

El Zoológico y la Mocosita (The Zoo)

The "Zoológico la Aurora" was inaugurated the 25th of December 1924 under the administration of José Maria Orellana, the president in the One Quetzal bill. During this time the animals saw better and worst times. In 1963 the Government turned the managment of the Zoo to the Guatemalan Association of Natural History and 1991 it underwent a major renovation. 
During my elementary years (before 1991) we had field trips to the zoo and I still remember the animals in cages of thick black iron bars. Today it is a different story, although still a modest size zoo, it is very well put together, animals are well taken care of, there are educational stations, there is a petting zoo,  there is a tea house that can be rented for events, etc. Most importantly it is an oasis of nature  in a city packed with cars an people. 

To be true to the spirit of my blog, this post couldn't be complete if I did not bring up "La Mocosita". La Mocosita was the indian elephant every kid from 1952 to 2008 grew up with. She got coverage every year of her birthday celebration plus other times, like when e a child threw a ball and the Mocosita swollowed it!  "Mocosita" by the ways means "little bugger". It could be despective if you call somebody mocoso or mocosa, but it can be sweet when you get called "mochocha pechoca" (something like my cute little bugger) like my mom would sometime  call me and how she does now with my kids: Alex is El Mococho Pechocho 1, Nicole is La Mococha Pechoca 2 and Megan is La Mococha Pechoca 3. 

Below is a picture of La Mocosita, the last time me saw her, she is with no doubt part of the Guatemalan culture.

The zoo is located near the airport is safe, inexpensive and accessible, learn more... Also Check out the  "Noche de Luna" at the Zoo (My parents took the girls and they loved it). The zoo is open for a nocturnal experience of the animal behavior, children are encouraged to bring flashlight cover with red  cellophane paper in order to not disturb the animals. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ni fu, ni fa!

After 11 years of marriage, 7 years of them living in Guatemala, I can still surprise my husband with a new Guatemalan expression.

Yesterday while in the jacuzzi a song popped to my mind and  I started teaching it to my daughter. The funny thing is I can picture my mom singing this to me at the pool in a little house we used to rent by the beach when growing up. The song  goes Caramba, carambito, carambiruli! Caramba, carambito, carambirula! Cariño de verano no me gusta a mi. Cariño de verano no es ni fu ni fa.   (Caramba, carambiruli! Caramba, carambito, carambirula! I don't like summer love, summer love is nothing). Tom was curious, "Ni fu, ni fa?"

I would translate Ni fu, ni fa as it does nothing for me, I don't care for it or I don't hate it but I don't love either. If you ask me if I like peanut butter cookies I would answer: Ni fu, ni fa!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guatemalan Rock

I just found another High School classmate in Facebook. It is fun to see what 20 years have done to us. This particular friend has followed his passion for music and is still doing gigs with rock bands (besides having a family and work life). --- I am updating this blog March 18th 2009 to say that I just saw my classmate playing with the opening band in the Concert of Santana last night in Guatemala--

That made think of writing a quick post with some of the most prominent rock bands of the last decade, many of which are still active, are touring and enjoy success.

Malacates Trebol Shop has toured Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Mexico and the US.

IN THE PICTURE: Viento en Contra  or Viento en Contra, an interesting fact is that one the band's members is the son of the current president. Now, to be fair it is important to say they achieved fame before that. (I am editing to say now there has been controversy on the funding for their new record :( )

All the previous ones are on the radio now but if you ask me the quintessential Guatemalan band is Alux Nahual.  They really were the ones that paved the road to Guatemalan rock and to the realization that our music can break our boundaries. They were revolutionary in many ways, they sang during the end of the war when young people had a lot say about the new Guatemala they wanted. I was lucky to be at a couple of their concerts, they were fabulous!

A few of their many hits are:

Alto al Fuego
Hombres de Maiz
Aqui esta mi tierra

Listen to them here

My personal favorite, is this "Dime que has olvidado", although it might not be the most representative of their style. It just reminds me of being a teenager in love with love! This video is a slideshow of the Alux Nahual song, sang by Viento en Contra.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fully and Safely Experience Guatemala.

Today I got an email from one of my best friends from High School, Wendy Lou.  Amongst other things, she sent me a link to her webpage. Wendy is a trilingual (Spanish, English, German) certified tour guide and tour operator, her curriculum is impressive. I highly recommend her!

++She can help you find the way.

Guatemala has and abundance of places to visit but as my husband would say there are no signs to take you there . When Tom first came to Guatemala there were certain things that jumped out at him one of them being that there are no signs on the road. We went everywhere in Guatemala and his question was -
How do you know where to go? I said -I just do because my dad once took me and he knew because his dad, Don Roman, as a side job used to organize excursions back in the 40's and 50's.  

++She knows the secret hand shake.

People will tell you "Guatemala es un pueblón" or "Guatemala es un pañuelo" meaning that in Guatemala we are all probably connected to only 3 degrees of separation. You always know somebody that knows somebody. Being "conected" or with someone who is makes a difference when you are traveling. I know Wendy knows her way around because at age 16 we rode up and down every street of Guatemala City in our scooters, hers was a blue Honda Lead and mine a black Sanyang! 

If you do come to Guatemala seriously consider getting a tour guide it will make your trip a lot more enjoyable, safe and educational.

Here is a picture of us in High School. We are both in the first row, Wendy is the second one from left to right, I'm the fifth one. 


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How to sing the Happy Birthday.

When the kids have birthdays we follow the American style of inviting to the party from and exact hour to another exact hour (two hours after in Kansas and three hours in Colorado). During those hours we program activities back to back in a very scheduled fashion. We spice it up with a real Piñata (not the Party America kind), some craft or activity in Spanish and at the end the Happy Birthday sung the Guatemalan way. The first party my parents were here with us they had a blast watching the dynamic. At five minutes before the starting time I said "Watch all the guests will arrive in the next five minute" and sure enough. Five minutes before the party ended I said now watch how they all we'll all be gone in 10 minutes, and sure enough!! It is not what we are used to, in Guatemala if the party is at home people will come around the hour you invited (plus 30 to 45 minutes) and you just plan to have some people stay until
dinner and for dinner. All your extended family is invited even if the kids aren't the age of the birthday girl/boy, and you expect all the family members to come. Even as we get more Americanized and have birthday parties at a party place, people will end up at your house later.

In order to satisfy our multicultural household we do the American Birthday party and then the party keeps on going with our closest friends and their kids until whenever, with no agenda other than continuous amount of food and conversation.

When the adults have birthdays we organize our own parties (this is what my mother in law finds the funniest, she has told me that adults don´t celebrate themselves). We make a come around "x" hour to whenever type of party, bring your kids or any guests you might have at home they are all welcome. The Guatemalan spirit truly is "the more the merrier" or as we would say "le hechamos mas agua al caldo" (we will just add more water to the soup).

Various of my children's birthdays we have spent in the US so I had to teach the girls' classmates how to sing the Guatemalan version of the Happy Birthday. When we celebrate either one the kids birthdays or ours, the guests know they are undoubtedly going to be asked to follow something in Spanish.

This is how it goes. The firts part is sung in English with a beautiful Guatemalan accent. Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Alex, Happy Birthday to you. Then comes the second part to the same tune (usually clapping to the rythm) Y ya queremos pastel, y ya queremos pastel, aunque sea un pedacito pero queremos pastel. (And we want some cake, and we want some cake, even if it's a small piece, but we want some cake). Some my go on to Que te bendiga el Señor, que te bendiga el Señor, que te bendiga por siempre, que te bendiga el Señor. (May the Lord bless you, May the Lord bless you, May he bless you forever, May the Lord bless you).


PS. Also see: Piñatas and Las Mañanitas

PS2! I just found this website with a funny and very realistic description of a difference between an anglo and a latino birthday party. Click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Legend of the Quetzal.

This is the legend  I was taught in elementary, I hope they still do, I believe mythology and legends are part of a proud civilization.

The quetzal, as you might know, is the national bird of Guatemala. It is illegal to have it in captivity and actually virtually impossible since it would die if not free.(Although I have seen a variety at the Denver Zoo - the Golden Headed Quetzal-)

Legend has it that the Quetzal used to be all green. It proudly gave its long green feathers to adorn the head pieces of the Mayan rulers and warriors. 

When the Spanish came, with Pedro de Alvarado as the conquistador they took by force or deceit the land from the Mayans. The Mayans although brave and strong could not stand to the gunpowder and the magical men in horses. Tecún Umán a Mayan warrior, the strongest of them all, was the last one to fall. In a battle in the valley of Olintepeque (in the department of Quetzaltenango) he fought to the end. When Tecún Umán was lying dead on the ground the Quetzal came down and rested on his chest and its chest got tinted forever with the blood of Tecún Umán. Tecún Umán epitomizes the verse on the Guatemalan anthem that says "Antes muerto que esclavo será" (rather chose death than slavery).

Tecún Umán is believed to have died on February 20th, 1524, was declared Guatemala´s official national hero on March 22nd, 1960 and is commemorated every year on February 20.

The most famous poem about Tecún Umán is that written by Miguel Angel Asturias, Nobel Prize Winner Literature 1967. You can find the poem here.

You can see through out Guatemala monuments in honor of Tecún Umán, the two most depicted are the one in Quetzaltenango and the one in the Capital city at the overpass towards the airport. It has become a landmark of daily use by the people in  the city to indicate were in traffic are you stuck. "I am past Tecún Umán, I am not yet at Tecún Umán".

I promise to take a picture of it on my next trip!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bocado de Reina (a cake) and a lot more.

We had a long discussion around the table with Tom, my mom (Juanita) and dad (Anibal) trying to guess the origins of this cake's name. 

The Bocado de Reina is a cake made with leftover bread. It is not bread pudding because the consistency is that of a cake. The literally translation Bocado de Reina is "Bite of a Queen" now to really carry the meaning I suggested "Food fit for a queen", although I couldn't figure out why a cake made of left overs would be fit for a queen. 

My mom suggested a more sinister meaning: Poison for a Queen. I have to explain another meaning for the term "bocado". If you been to Guatemala you probably seen a lot of stray dogs and cats, people used and probably still in marginal areas take this matter into their hands and poison the animal giving them "bocado" a piece of bread with poison in it. (I do not sponsor this practice or have ever done it).

Wherever the term came from it is a treat that is definitely part of the Guatemalan culture. The Bocado de Reina takes my dad back to his  grammar school days. He used to live in Zone 6 and walked to school to El Asilo Santa Maria. My dad now a recognized successful entrepreneur in Guatemala, grew up around a lot of love but not a lot of money.  On his way to school they had a couple of options for a snack, basically what they could afford with 1 cent. One of the options was to stop at the "banana deposit" there they would give them 4-6 very ripe bananas for 1 cent. Their first option, though, was to stop by the Espiga de Oro Bakery. When they got there they quickly stuck their heads in to ask "Hay Bocado de Reina?" Not every day they had it and when they did it went fast for it was the right price, 1 cent! 

A couple of days ago we went to a function and there was a lot of left over bread so I was given a big bag of rolls to take home . In this time of frugality and growing up with the idea that it is a sin to throw away food (with my parents visiting to remind me of it) I came up with the idea of making Bocado de Reina. The cake turned out great and more so all the conversations that were derived from it. 

RECIPE (Kids approved)

2 cups of crumbled bread
1 can of condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp of cinammon
2 bananas 
Raisins (optional)

Mix all ingredients. Bake it at 350F for 45 minutes. Makes one 8inch round cake.