Tuesday, June 30, 2009


June 30th is the day of the Armed Forces in Guatemala, unfortunately the armed forces are viewed like the US armed forces in Vietnam times were. It is a controversial holiday, not that everyone is not happy to take the day off, but there are mixed feelings about 'el ejercito'.

There are those who were abused by the military in the time of the civil war, there are those who were abused by the guerillas and protected by the military and there are those who were abused by both.

What I can say is that our family does celebrate the good men and women in the military and are thankful for the opportunities that institution provided our family. 

My dad after having lost both his parents at age 19 joined the Air Force. A series of events, good people and God's will led him on a path sponsored by the military to become a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language with various specialization, most of them acquired at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. The military gave him a profession he is proud of and that gave him the means to support his family, change the lives of his students, share the knowledge with pears and even give employment to many.

In this June 3oth I join the celebration in honor of Andony Citalan, whose story reminds me of my dad's in the sense of how many things had to happen at the right place, time and with the right people, depending on your beliefs you can call it providence or universal law of attraction.

Andony was born in a small town in Quetzaltenango where finishing 6th grade is considered the standard expected level of education. He and his mom came to Guatemala city when he was in 5th grade. He went on to finishing elementary and with the help of a whole support group, he and his mom had won over with their kindness, hard work and true friendship,  he  joined the Instituto Adolfo V. Hall Central, a military academy for young men, graduated last year and won a scholarship to study at the Military Academy Aghulas Negras, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, were he is currently in his first year. We are extremely proud of Andony's and Flora's (his mom) accomplishments -Flora came with only a 6th grade education and is now enrolled in the University studying  accounting-. Andony will be, and in fact is, another great man forged by the military, bearing fruits of glory for Guatemala!   

At pico Das Aghulas Negras Brazil. Andony is in a week long military exercise, the only Guatemalan at the school. When he returns to Guatemala aside from his University degree and military rank, he will have learned, additional to the Spanish and English he went with, Portuguese and French.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Canche is a coloquial expression meaning 'blond', but even fair skin burnetts could be canches in Guatemala.  peroles is used to rhyme with frijoles (beans). The expression wants to convey that even if you are blond or fair you are still a bean eater. My mom's friend Florecita still to date calls me Canche Peroles. (and yes I still eat beans as often as possible)

"Canche Peroles" is the name of the last book written by my friend Ruben Chaven. The book is the survival story of  el canche peroles, a boy from the city dumpster, who manages to survive and even transcend with the help of two friends. It is a fiction story based on true story written in such a way to entertain you with the story but more importantly persuade you to become aware of reality.
The presentation and book signing took place  at Sophos in plaza Fontabella. The mayor of San Jose Pinula, Tono Coro, who wrote the prologue, commented an presented the book. (on the left in the brown jacket). 

I met Ruben in the late 90's when he owned and was the Principal of the school Jose Cecilio del Valle. He had one of our English programs and I gladly was the project manger of it since every visit was a great opportunity to have philosophical conversations with Ruben. Ruben was born in Argentina, lived in the US during his 20's and later move to Guatemala where he has become a hard core Guatemalan, participating actively in education and politics. He calls me madrina since I invited him to be part of the Rotary Club, where we have been  fellow Rotarians for the last 10 years and even more our families have grown cherished bonds of friendship.

Other books written by Ruben Chaven are Soñadores, Tattoo, la imprompta blanca, Miguel el tiempo no tiempo, Puta  Cara Mia, Nariz de Frijoles


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


For those of you following the ABC Series you might have noticed I skipped the I. I am still working on the pictures so I will get back to it later....

J is for Jocote Marañon. This particular fruit has two uses. One of them comes from its seed, by the shape you might have already recognized it: the cashew! It has always amazed me how many jocotes are needed to fill one of those jars of cashews we buy at Sam´s.

Seeing a tree full of jocotes morañones is fascinating, the jocotes marañones come in bunches, the cashew part grows first then the fruit. The leaves are rubbery like, with a shiny green look. According to an article on Prensa Libre each tree gives about 2000 fruits per year at a price of Q1.00 each (12 cents of a dollar) but by bulk at Q0.40 each (o.05 cents of a dollar). See a photo gallery here.

In Guatemala the fruit itself is used frequently, mostly to make a drink out of it. Place the Jocote in the blender, add water and sugar. The taste of it is a little bit grainy and the acidity and tartness tends to crack the tongue but the taste makes it worthwhile, somewhat like pineapple that you can only eat a certain amount before your tongue resents it.

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I am not sure how interesting this might be to you my reader! Going through pictures Megan suggested to share a little bit about what we do: Other than blogging about Guatemala, we also teach English in Guatemala. The characters in the picture are the ones that appear in the Kids Vision Series, developed by Tom and I, targeted to children 4 to 1o years old.

In the picture Cynthia, Tom, Alex, Nicole an Megan (our family); Juanita, Anibal and Gorvi (my parents and their dog); Amanda and Clark (cousins, also in real life); Sam and Ranger (a best friend´s son and the name of his dog in real life); Miss Jo (inspired by JoRene Tom´s mom); Jimmy (the name inspired by Tom´s dad who used to work with the blind); Andy (a made up character with the name of our friend Andony).

The series includes, text books, work books, flashcards, puppets, song books, CD´s, DVD´s, exams, teacher guide´s, etc for 7 levels of English divided in 3 modules each.

Below some picture of students using our program in  Jutiapa, Peten and El Salvador, respectively.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

H is for HIGO

Higo is fig and although it is not necessarily a tropical, exotic fruit from Guatemala its shelf space in a "Venta de Dulces Tipicos" is prominent.

I just finished eating a fig pie made by our friend of Pasteles Finos and I took the opportunity to ask her if she knew how to make the Higos en Dulce (head picture), this is what she said:

With a knife scrape the outer layer of the uncooked fig. Make a cross cut on the bottom of the fig, boil them in plenty of water for about 30 minutes, rinse, place them in water with plenty of sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Talking about the letter G

G is also por Gauchitos. Los Gauchitos is a street cart type food that sells the infamous "Choripan", a sandwich with a chorizo patty, chimuchurri and a secret sauce.

The Choripan started in the 80's and made a big boom with funny TV ads of people asking for a Choripan, inmortilizing the expression with phrases that became part of colloquial speech like "Yo tambien quiero un choripan" "Como quieras, donde quieras y con quien quieras".

Recently I took Nicole to eat her first Choripan ever.

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

G is for GUANABA

Guanaba is soursop and apprently as I was reading the correct name is guanabana from the tahitian wanaban, and in Guatemala we have incorrectly perpetuated the name Guanaba. For practical reasons, to me, it will still be guanaba becuase I don´t think I will get to far asking for guanabana at the market!

The Guanaba is usually used to make fresco de guanaba or helado de guanaba. As you can see in the picture it has a squidish texture, which sounds bad but its flavor is really fantastic.

To prepare fresco de guanaba, add water and sugar to taste, place in the blender and ready!

The Guanaba ice cream always makes me think of my dad since he was the one who taught me to enjoy it. Below a picture of Helados Gloria in the Centro Comercial Miraflores. The guanaba ice cream is on the closest row the second from left to right, between mora and mandarina!

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Ruben Dario is not Guatemalan, he is Nicaraguan. I have known this name since I can remember  because it is part of the literature curriculum in Guatemalan elementary, junior high and high school education. The name and figure recently  came to mind because in our outing to Casa Yurrita, an autographed picture of Ruben Dario is making the walls talk.

Rubén Darío (Metapa, January 18, 1867 – Leon February 6, 1916) was a Nicaraguan poet who initiated Spanish-American literary movement known as Modernismo (modernism), flourishing at the end of the 19th century. Dario has had the greatest and most lasting influence into twentieth century Spanish literature, and journalism. He has been praised as The Prince of Castilian letters, and undisputed father of the modernismo literary movement. Dario is revered as Nicaragua's greatest diplomat and a leading voice of Central and South America.

Dario visited and lived in Guatemala three times from 1890 to 1891, in 1892 and 1915.  In the latter is when he dedicated Don Felipe Yurrita the picture that opens the post, the dedication read "To Mr. Don Felipe Yurrita, reminisces of our 'Spains' and mutually beloved, Ruben Dario, Guatemala 1915"

I dream of being a person that can quote at the right time and the right place famous people in history, but all I could come up with, as we saw Dario's picture, was the name of his most famous work: AZUL

Yesterday, going trough my adored books, I found 'Seleccion Poética de Ruben Dario', when I opened it all sorts of familiar word started jumping at me: 'Juventud divino tesoro' (youth precious treasure), were three of them. I could hear it with my mom´s voice being quoted nostalgically  all the time, not necessarily knowing it came from Ruben Dario. 

Because of my middle age, now I can start relating to the cadence it needs to be quoted with. My kids will start hearing it from me often:

Fragmento de "Canción de Otoño en Primavera"

Juventud, divino tesoro,
¡ya te vas para no volver!
Cuando quiero llorar, no lloro...
y a veces lloro sin querer.

Mas a pesar del tiempo terco,
mi sed de amor no tiene fin;
con el cabello gris me acerco
a los rosales del jardín...

I found the following poetical translation:

Song of Autumn in the Springtime.

Youth, treasure only gods may keep,
Fleeting from me forever now!
I cannot, when I wish to, weep,
And often cry I know not how…

And yet despite the season drear,
My thirst of love no slaking knows;
Gray-haired am I, yet still draw near
The roses of the garden-close….

I do have to say that the interpretation of the first verse is not the one I took (I am sure I was wrong all the time) My interpretations was Youth as a superlative treasure, I guess part of the mastery of words is that if you beyond my narrow minded interpretation eternal youth in fact is reserved only to the gods!

If you are interested here are some books I found in Amazon.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Flor de Izote is Yucca (not to be confused with yuca). I have seen it a lot through out Kansas and Colorado. Because of the winter it does not grow to be a big tree like it can in Guatemala. My in laws have one at their house in Kansas, we tried to persuade them to let us prepare it, we had no success. They were too leery about it.

The flor de izote is an easy to maintain plant, many people have a tree they can consume from, if that is not the case you can buy it at the market or if you are lucky, like us, someone will bring you a bunch: Doña Delfina, the lady who helps us with the house chores, has a Flor de Izote tree at her house and brought us some!


You can eat the flower and the pistil, but separately!

Eating the flowers:

Cook them in water for about 4 minutes.
Mix them with egg, bread crumbs and salt
Make patties

Eating the pistils:

Cook them in water for about 10 minutes
Put them in a jar with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
Leave in the refrigerator to pickle

Interesting fact: the Flor de Izote is the national flower of El Salvador.

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


You can´t get more typical than ELOTE ASADO, grilled corn. Sold at every market, along the highways, fairs and street corners, elote asado is the quintessential street food. It is grilled and sold with salt an lemon rubbed on it.

You might be thinking I thought corn was maiz, and it is. When you refer to the grain it is maiz but corn on the cub is ELOTE. (corn ear is mazorca, husk is tusa and olote is the cub whithout the corn).

Much can be said about corn and its relevance in Guatemala and for Guatemalans. Its intimate and sacred relationship can better be understood when you learn about the creation as narrated in the Popol Vuh:


"En vista de que los ensayos anteriores habían fracasado, una vez mas los creadores Tepeu y Gucumatz hablaron. Discutieron y se consultaron entre sí sobre cómo formarían al hombre y que sustancia utilizarían para hacer su carne.

Entonce el gato de monte, el coyote, la guacamaya y el cuerco led dijeron:

-Vengan a Paxil y Cayalá, lugares de abundancia. Allí hay mucho maíz amraillo y maíz blanco. Las anonas, los nances, los zapotes, los matasanos y los jocotes son incontables en ese lugar y todo esta lleno de miel y cacao.

Los creadores se dirigieron a Pazil Cayalá guiados por los animales. Cortaron las mazorcas de maíz amarillo y de maíz blanco y se las entregaron a Ixmucané para que prepara la masa con la que formaron cuatro hombres, a quienes les pusieron los nombres de Balam Quitzé, Balam Ak'ab, Majucutaj e Iquí Balam.

Lo primero que Tepeu y Gucumatz les preguntaron, fue:

-Hombres de maíz, ¿Qué ven? ¡Hablen!
-Vemos lo que hay en el mundo, hasta los cuatro rincones de la Tierra, respondieron.

Al oir esto, los creadores se preocuparon, pues consideraban que no era beno que sus criaturas supieran tanto como ellos, y les soplaron caho en los ojos para empañarles la vista.

En seguida les dieron sus mujeres para que, al despertar se alegraran sus corazones.

Cajá Paluná fue a mujer de Balam Quitzé; a la mujer de Balam Ak'ab la llamaron Chomijá; Tzununijá, a la de Majucutaj, y a la de Iquí Balam le pusieron por nombre K'aquixajá.

Estos cuatro hombres y estas cuatro mujeres fueron los primeros padres y madres de la gente del pueblo quiché."


In leu of the previous trials and failures more time the creators Tepeu and Gucumatz talked. They discussed and consulted amongst them about how would they form men and about what substance they shall use to form his flesh.

-Come to Paxil and Cayalá, places of plenty. There you can find yellow corn and white corn in abundace. The 'anonas', 'nances', 'zapotes', 'matasanos' y 'jocotes' are uncountable in that place, and everything is filled with honey and cacao.

The creator went to Paxil and Cayalá guided by the animals. Riped the yellow and white corn ears and gave them to Ixmucané for her to prepare the dough from which they formed four men, whom they named: Balam Quitzé, Balam Ak'ab, Majucutaj e Iquí Balam.

The first thing Tepeu and Gucumatz inquired was:

-Men of corn, What do you see? Speak up!

- We see what there is in the world all the way to the four corners of the world, they answered.

When they heard this, the creators got worried, since they considered that it was not good that their creatures knew as much as they did, they blew smoke in their eyes to blur their vision.

They proceeded to give them women so that when they wake up their hearts would rejoice.

Cajá Paluná was the woman of Balam Quitzé; Balam Ak'ab womand was named Chomijá; Tzununijá Majucutaj's, and Iquí Balam´s was named K'aquixajá.

These four men and four women were the first fathers and mothers of the Quiché people.

The previous excerpt was taken from the book POPOL VUH para niños, editorial Piedra Santa.

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Durazno is apricot.

In the town of San Lucas Sacatepequez, right where you turn to go to Antigua, Tathiana's family has a weekend farm. Tathiana and I grew up next door neighbors since I was born (I am the younger one) until we got married in 1997, both to Americans!

Growing up, I frequently went along with them to the farm which had a small cabin and tons of fruit trees. I distinctly remember helping pick black berries, pears, duraznos and ocationally membrillos. The berries we picked went straight to our mouths, the pears and apricots we collected in bins. Carmencita, Tathiana's mom, would use some for her consumptions, give some away and sell the rest. It was often that our bell rang and when we opened the door Carmencita was there with a bag of fruit for us.

The duraznos on the picture were bought at the San Lucas market as well as the cerezas (cherries) both used in the following dish:


In Guatemala eating the fruit in syrup is very common and it is still so in many families. We decided to reminisce with this dish. I was excited I probably had not eaten it for more than 20 years yet it was so familiar.

1. Peel the duraznos
2. Put water and sugar and cinammon to boil, enough to cover all the duraznos.
3. When the water is boiling add the duraznos and cerezas
4. Let it boil until the duraznos are easily pricked with a fork (about

The syrup turn red becuase of the cerezas

Posts part of the series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.