Sunday, December 26, 2010


A tree house deluxe is where we will stay. A full bathroom in the bottom and a nice room with balcony, hammock and all!
Ixobel is 10 minute from Poptun Peten. This Finca, ranch, was owned by a Frenchman killed during the civil war. His wife and daughter now welcome tourists making it a backpacker haven.
Our first time here was in 1997 and it is always exciting to come back. You can stay here starting at Q3.00 which gets you hammock and if you want to splurge for Q3.00 extra you get a blanket.

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Atop the bridge "Puente Rio Dulce" we took these pictures of the river and the marina. I don't have that many stories of this area. I have driven across the bridge about 6 times in my life going and coming to Peten and have only stayed in the Rio Dulce area twice. Rio Dulce is in the department of Izabal. Puerto Barrios and Livingston are the other two mains destinations, likewise I have been to them two or three times.
The last trip to Rio Dulce was sometime in the nineties. I have never been a water person, my element is earth, so I cannot tell exactly what was the 'wind vessel' my friend had and made me get on, all I know is that I was all cool sitting when all of a sudden the wind came. I think I was supposed to pull something or other but I was so frightened I became paralyzed with a scared face my friend has never let me live down!
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Teculutan, Zacapa km 127 on the road towards the Atlantic Coast is the official and necessary stop to eat Dobladas or Tortillas con Loroco. They are stuffed with cheese (ricotta type) and loroco (a green bud). I have been known to drive the 'extra mile' for this treat.
Comedores that sell dobladas con loroco on the side of the road and family hotels, with big pools are what there is in Teculutan/Rio Hondo.
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Friday, December 24, 2010


I know you might be scratching your head as to how this whole prison topic goes with Guatemalan Genes. 

First let me say that even though at many times (now is one of them) I feel like God is making no sense, by faith or probably more so by hope somehow I cling to his promise "Everything, that is all things that appear good and appear bad, will become known to you in My timing that they were all indeed good for those who love Me and that I have called to Myself, according to my plan, which is the bearing of His likeness in those whom I knew from the beginning." Romans 8.28-29

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write my CV focusing on my service interest and I was shocked to discover how there was a conductive thread on at risk youth and rehabilitation of offenders, starting with our graduating High School project which I proposed: "Correctional facilities in Guatemala". Now, sadly, the issue is closer to home than I would ever imagine and has led me to make more conscientious life and career choices to work on how to better the success rates of offenders re-entry to society. I cannot do much in the US, where I am finding out the system is light years from being successful and has no serious attempt to provide with rehabilitation, reentry programs and where the few services are outsourced to people just interested in collecting the service fee. On the other hand I am in a position to influence change in Guatemala.

In Guatemala the whole penitentiary system is a shame and re-entry programs are basically non existent. As the whole world knows Guatemala's crime rate and impunity situation is only worsen by the fact that jails and prison have become "universities of crime". 

Today, Christmas,  may I ask for you to say  this prayer (source)


Dear Lord, you have always shown yourself as friend of the small ones, the poor and the excluded to the point that you had wanted to go through the experience of being incarcerate: you were denounced, detained and imprisoned in the darkness of the night, led to prison and sent to questioning, insults, tortures, judged with no legal process, condemned and executed (as many through out history and still today).

Your love has taken you to identify yourself with them and to remain present in them: I was in prison and you came to visit me. At this puzzling sign we dare to ask you for all of todays inmates so that they:

Don't think that because society condemns them, you reject them.
Don't renounce for a moment to their dignity as people and children of God.
Don't ever loose their liberty within.
Don't despair nor fall to depression.
Don't give up on fighting against any type of oppression, repression or injustice.
Be eager to change their conduct.
Work for their life and re-entry.
Don't abandon their families and friends, nor be abandon by them.
Get close to you and their situation inspires them to along with you be saviors of the world.We also want to ask for us, society and the Church so that

We don't reject inmates for the sake of their situation.
We respect them as the people they are.
We see you in them and serve them accordingly.
We accompany and help them in their reentry process.
Our love may, in fact, help them discover who YOU are.



Señor Jesús, Tú siempre te mostraste amigo de los pequeños, de los pobres y de los excluidos: hasta el punto de querer pasar por la experiencia del preso: fuiste denunciado, detenido y apresado en la oscuridad de la noche, conducido a la cárcel y sometido a interrogatorios, insultos, burlas, malos tratos y torturas, juzgado sin las debidas garantías, condenado y ejecutado (como muchos a lo largo de la historia y también hoy).

Tu amor te llevó a identificarte con ellos y a permanecer presente en ellos: estuve en la cárcel y viniste a verme. Ante este gesto tan desconcertante nos atrevemos a pedirte por las presas y presos de hoy para que:

•No piensen que porque la sociedad los condena, Tú los rechazas.
•No renuncien ni un solo momento a su dignidad de personas e hijos de Dios.
•No pierdan nunca su libertad interior.
•No se desesperen ni caigan en depresión.
•No renuncien a esforzarse contra todo tipo de opresión, represión e injusticia.
•Se afanen en cambiar de conducta.
•Hagan por su vida y por su reinserción.
•No abandonen a sus familias y amigos, ni sean abandonados por ellos.
•Su situación los acerque más a Ti y sean cosalvadores del mundo.

También queremos pedirte por nosotros, la sociedad y la Iglesia para que:

•No rechacen a las presas y presos por el hecho de serlo.
•Les respetemos como personas que son.
•Te veamos y sirvamos a Ti en ellos.
•Los acojamos con cariño y comprensión cuando recobren la libertad.
•Les acompañemos y ayudemos a reinsertarse.
•Nuestro amor, en definitiva, les ayude a descubrir que Tú les quieres.

Te lo pedimos por María, tu Madre y nuestra Madre.


Book suggestions:

Jóvenes en la cárcel


This is a translation of the article: Navidad en Prisión

There is no doubt that there is nothing more sad than Christmas in prison. These holidays who serve to bond families, to celebrate around a manger, to reminisce the better times of our lives or hold each other in mourn of unconquered sufferings, take another dimension when in prison, denied from the most important asset after life: freedom.

The drama of prison affects equally he who is incarcerated, his family and those who battle for his freedom. It can only be understood by those who have walked or are walking that dim labyrinth.  

Days pass by slowly in prison. For the inmate hope dilutes amongst dreams of liberty and the reality of a process with no end whose sole law is that one of deferral, leaving with no sense codes, verbatim, doctrines that serve only to illustrate long speeches by lawyers whose language has nothing to do with reality. 

In prison the fight is survival with some dignity, sending optimism to loved ones, who are battered by skepticism and impotency. The prison environment is hard and hostile; distrust reigns;  bonds of friendship that can trespass the bars and walls of the inhospitable prisons; violence strides threateningly though dark intricacies.

Uncertainty the most serious of feelings. That is why, spiritual help fills the emptiness of prison to make it bearable the way of imprisonment.

When there is no sentence, one waits in vain the realization of the audiences that never happen on the expected dates. When the time is given the 'benefits' become the fuel of the fight; and when there is no hope whatsoever of liberty because of how strong the crime of the wicked impositions of justice, the only thing left is to make an interior world that is lived by the strength of faith and the entirety of a family that helps to carry the burden.

In this Christmas day  we shall think of our prisoners: those who strayed away from the right path and can have the chance to amend; those who never had another choice and where pushed to crime; those who were weak and succumbed  to bad influences because of an environment prone to all sorts of social deviations; and to those; who simply are there because they suffer unjust persecution from those in power who exercise control in their own benefit, with the deprivation of freedom of its political adversaries.

Let´s remember then our prisoners, raise a prayer for them, let´s vow for the cease of this penitentiary embarrassment, unmitigated condemnation for any government who treats cruelly and inhumanely a portion of the citizens that live in the marginality of the penitentiary sub-world.

I was in prison and you visited me. Mathew 25:36

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Amongst platano leaves to wrap tamales and pineapples for the christmas ponche, boy sleeping in the back of the truck, while visions of sugar plums danced in his head...
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hechando el lustre

Hechando el lustre is the expression for getting a shoe polish.

At the airport getting my red boots polished for Q5.00 about 80 us cents. Seems too little. I will be sure to tip him well.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Here I am staring at my 'unupdated' blog...

One month and 12 days is how long it has been since my last update! I miss you dear reader.

I almost want to write about all the great things I been up to but it would involve a lot of pictures of seminars, computer screenshots, traffic, meetings, bags under my eyes, etc.

Thanks to those of you who have asked of my whereabouts. Please don't 'unbookmark' me just yet I will be back soon. Vacation is three days away!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


A couple of weekends ago we went to the Pedro Cofiño Speedway to watch a friend race in the  Super Street category. 

I went back to when I was the age of my daughters and went with my dad to the speedway which was then located on the road to El Salvador.  

This new speedway is located in the department of Escuintla with the view of the Agua, Fuego y Acatenango Volcanoes. 
Parking lot

My dear friend Jose is the daredevil and single as he still is devotes his time and money to this sport while all of us mortals remain somewhat jelous of being able to experience the rejuvinating rush of speed.

The speedway has two areas with bleachers and a VIP area on the rooftop of the pits. We of course where more than VIP watching from the pit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


During the month of October catholics celebrate with great devotion the Our Lady of the Rosary visiting the temple of Santo Domingo where an image of our lady of the Rosary is venerated.  We were not the exception. Our visit involved buying fair candy for the girls, candles to leave with our prayers, and praying the rosary while standing in line to by the image. We stood in line about 45 minutes  but had to leave before reaching our goal because it was going to take at least another 30 minutes and I had a work commitment.

The  sculpture of Our Lady of the Rosary was ordered to be made in silver and wood by Fray Lope Montoya, circa 1592, but during the earthquake of 1773 it was damaged so it had to be restored and suffered some changes.

Thousands of people particularly from the city visit the church daily during the month of October. Our Lady of the Rosary was granted in 1992 the name of Perpetual Mayor of the City of Guatemala, commemorating  the IV Centenary of its veneration and  II Centenary of the foundation of the Convent of Santo Domingo.

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary has a rosary on her left hand and the right arm baby Jesus confidently sleeping. The story says that Our lady went for a stroll around America and when going through Guatemala her baby fell asleep and that was why she stayed here.
Replica that is processioned daily on around the atrium of the church during the month of October

The Convent of Santo Domingo was started in 1788 and finished in 1808. It is Located in Zone 1. 12th avenue between 10th and 11th streets.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010


LIFT is the name of this grapefruit soda bottled by the coca-cola company in Guatemala that can be found in Guatemala.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

US pulls out of Guatemala´s Adoption Pilot Program

The following is a translation of an article published last week in Prensa Libre:

The US government pull out its request to be part of the pilot program of Guatemalan adoptions since it considers there are not enough safeguards to protect from the fraud and corruption that prevailed until 2008 will not continue.

The US diplomacy expects that this decision will allow the government of Guatemala to focus on the 280 open cases out of 3,032 that remained pending after 2007 when the Guatemalan Congress approved the new adoption law.

The new law reformed a system that was until then controlled by corrupt lawyers who in many cases utilized fraud  and identity theft to adoptions of babies obtained through  payment of theft.

'We have no comments, the members of the counsel are meeting to define their  position' said Rudy Zapeta spokesperson about the decision announced by the US and published in the Department´s of State webpage.

The Department of State announced that the decision responds to the concern that the adoptions of the pilot program won´t abby to the regulations of the Hague Convention for International Adoption. Also the government of Guatemala has not given details as to how  the process will be conducted under the new law.

The US said they will reconsider rejoining once there is trust that the system meets the requirements set forth  by the Hague.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Apparently in English there is also such a saying. "A caballo regalado no se le mira colmillo" = "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth". Comes from the fact that often horses´ teeth are used to estimate the animal´s age.

What just happened to me. I posted about Foto Kids an their need for cameras but unfortunately they are not taking film cameras anymore. I absolutely understand it is a budget issue but I feel like saying "A caballo regalado no se le mira colmillo". 

Picture taken at Finca Filadelfia Antigua Guatemala, in a beautiful day we spent with a Guatemaln Genes friend and her family.

PS. Still if you can do make a digital camera donation. :-)

Monday, October 4, 2010


On the right the town hall, a bank next to it, in front the police station ans the green building on the left a public school.
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Nuetra Señora de la Merced, Our Lady of Ransom, Mary of Mercy, is celebrated september 24th. That day we went as a family to this museum/church in Zone one to finish the Novena we had been following.

The construction of the church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced started in 1780 and was blessed in 1813.

It´s Neoclasical design hosts inside 300 paintings, 17 retables barroc style and about 80 images one of the main ones being the image of Nuestra Señora de la Merced. A lot of them were before in the Church of La Merced  at Antigua Guatemala.
We walked in an I took this first picture. 

I hadn´t realized then that the main altar was a backdrop printed on vinyl...

Then I remember some news I had  read weeks ago about the US government donating $95,000.00 for the restoration of this church. So I guess the restoration is in progress. The backdrop idea I thought was brilliant and explains why the image of our Lady of Ransom is both at the altar and at the top of the retable were it belongs!

A former Rotarian from my club Arquitect Eduardo Andrade Abularach (a brilliant Curator of Architectural Heritage, studied in Rome, current University Professor, contributor to the book Contemplaciones, etc) has been involved in various restorations in Guatemala, and during the time I befriended him he was in charge of the nativity scene of this Church (famous for its beauty and taste). I wonder if he is involved in this restoration?

The picture below is the exterior of the church but it was taken during Holy Week thus the crowds. Here is a picture of the dome.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guatemala Star Wars Celebration

@ Museo Miraflores.

May the force be with you!
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Today October 2nd form  Vatican City came the announcement naming Monseñor Oscar Julio Vian Morales  the New Metropolitan Archbishop taking the place of Monseñor Quezada Toruño who had submitted his resignation to the Pope for the second time and was accepted this time.
Monseñor Vian was born in 1947, ordained into the Salesian congregation 1976.

Although you guessed it, I do now him and he has been to my parents house I don´t have a picture in hand so I offered these ones from Prensa Libre:

May God bless the work of our new Archbishop and give him wisdom.

Church series: Iglesia Maria Auxiliadora Zona 5.

Guatemala city is full of neighborhood churches some with more history than other ones, but each one with a story.
A 40 day memorial mass took me yesterday to this one.
My aunt who has lived around here for 60 years says the church was already here then. The facade, cupola and interior are fairly new, 15 years. Before it was a humble gable roof structure.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

FOTO KIDS - Guatemala

You know how it goes that I blog about stuff... I know somebody that... or I´ve been to... This post is no exception.
My cousin Flavio married Linda this young lady with and extraordinary spirit (here a post about their wedding). Linda works for FotoKids and was a Foto kid herself.

What is Foto Kids:

"Fotokids was founded in Guatemala in 1991 by ex-Reuters photojournalist, Nancy McGirr, and was originally calledOut of the Dump. The project began with a group of six children aged 5 - 12, who lived and worked in Guatemala City's vast garbage dump. The purpose of Fotokids is to help small groups of Central American young people from the poorest of barrios develop useful, employable skills as a means to self-exploration, expression, and discovery. Through intensive, long-term personal relationships with teachers and mentors, participating children learn to use photography, creative writing, and computers as tools to examine their lives, families, communities and environment. Over the years, the project grew to include children from other economically poor areas of the capital. Since 1996, Fotokids has expanded to include communities outside Guatemala City. Currently Fotokids involves over 80 young people, ages 7 to 21, in six distinct communities."

Linda is the first one from left to right
I recently went to the inauguration of the expo "Family Landscapes" . All the photographers/kids were there. It is uplifting   to see them proud about their work, enthusiastic about themselves and with a spark in their eyes.
All pictures, I think, are thought provoking and they arouse mixed emotions. On one hand one can focus on the composition, the angle, the light, the movement but on the other it reveals a cruel reality.
One of my favorites was a picture of various elements a guitar leaning on a wall on top of a sewing machine around the neck of the guitar a measuring tape an hanging form a peg a faded red plastic hanger. Next to it a picture of someone. Another one that called my attention was a girl crying over a dead body behind a yellow plastic line. On the latter one I was told by the photographer that it was a made up composition but she was bummed that she could´t find the real yellow and black police plastic line.  I was relieved but then disturbed because even it was made up the situation  sounded to familiar to her. 
There was another one of a boy laying on the street with just shorts on and  a big old smile playing with all the chocolate rain water coming down the street to the sewage. Pictures of quinceañeras all dressed up posing on poverty backdrops. Another one I liked was a woman standing at the doorway, no door just a fuscia curtain. The hut very colorful. She in humble clothes with a Glamour magazine in her hands.
I think their work has an impact in their lives, it helps them focus in so many ways,  picture their life in the full meaning of the word picture, giving  them a sense of being able to change their life. To the one admiring the pictures it does the same in a different prospective!

Below a documentary of Foto Kids

If you are interested in donating an old camera write me and I will send you a US address to send it to.

PS. Just in case Flavio reads the article: You also have an extraordinary spirit!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


First let me say this picture does zero justice to how exquisite this plate is.

If you have to associate a dish with Livingston and Puerto Barrios, Izabal it would have to be this: TAPADO.  Tapao is a Garifuna dish. Its main ingredients are, seafood, coconut milk and plantain. We had this Tapado at Restaurante Safari in Puerto Barrios while watching the World Cup 2010 Final (Spain-Netherlands)
Pier at Restaurante Safari, Puerto Barrios. You can see on the horizon a vessel coming into the Port.

Here is a recipe I found for this very traditional Guatemalan Garifuna dish. I would change banana for plantain and also add crab.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I am here with Miguel Ángel Álvarez Arévalo, official Chronicler of the City of Guatemala.  That means he is the one in charge of keeping all relevant account which will then be the history of Guatemala. Miguel Angel Alvarez Alvarado is an erudite historian. I have had the opportunity of interacting with him at social gatherings. He is humble, yet  the knowledge he has transpires immediately. He is a keen listener and observer, always willing to expand in any history subject he is questioned about.

I took this picture on during Easter Week 2009. I was waiting for my "turn" to bear the float (that is why I am with my mantilla over my head). Mr. Álvarez was another spectator of the Candelaria procession

I had so many posts for Easter that I left this one out but today that I went to the Railroad Museum I was reminded of it when I saw the name of the main exhibit hall was "Miguel Ángel Álvarez Arévalo".

Sunday, September 19, 2010


After finding the Technological Man, I decided I needed to pay more attention to the art that surrounds us in everyday places. During the 70's and 80's, with the war going on, people were taken out of Guatemala valuable  art pieces, mayan pieces, etc. It was not usual to see art in lobbies, plazas, museums, etc. Now art appreciation and budgets are back but we have lost the habit of stopping, perhaps we think it is a print, a replica or a museum shop decoration piece.

Two weekends ago I went to the Hospital Las Americas to welcome coworker's precious new born baby boy and saw this painting behind glass on the lobby. I only had my phone with me, so I will have to go back to take better pictures.

The panels are are called FIVE VIRTUES -  Education, Consolation, Creation, Assistance, Generosity -Technique: embossed plaster, water color, polyester resin.

Education        Consolation          Creation

Assistance      Generosity

Below is the description on the plaque:

"Nan Cuz was born in Senahú, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Her work incorporates her native´s land color and backdrops as well as her autochthonous past, making her paintings lively poems of color inhabited by a palpitating soul.

The remarkable self taught Guatemalan artist has represented her country in innumerable art showings and galleries around the world.

In the case of this particular piece, the panels have always formed a single unit. Between 1968 and 1976 the panels were shown at the Dominican Convent in Hamburg, Germany.

Today the "Five Virtues" panels are shown at Hospital Las Americas lobby as a live memorial of the artist's talent and sentiment as well as a constant reminder of the humanity that weakens what we are."

Writing the post I learned Nan Cuz is the artist name of Imgard Carmen Heinemann (German Mayan descent), the first wife of Georg Johannes Schäfer, a german painter. Schäfer who had traumas of German concentration camps, through experimenting with LSD and Mescaline came with the cosmic vision that he and Nan Cuz left in the "In the Kingdom of Mescal" an adult illustrated fairy tale. 

She was born in 1927 as Irmgard Cuz Heinemann in Guatemala. Her mother was Maya Kekchi, her father German. Her early childhood she spent in a simple hut on a finca near Senahú, Alta Verapaz. She was called Nan. For education her father took her to Germany. After the War, longing for her home country and helped by her early memories, she started to paint scenes of indigenous life and mythology. In 1971 having achieved international recognition she went back to Guatemala with her. Her paintings are on permanent exhibit in the Galería, Panajachel.

If interested in the book you can find it in Amazon following the links below:

IN THE KINGDOM OF MESCAL: An Indian Fairy-Tale for Adults
In the Kingdom of Mescal
In the Kingdom of Mescal
In the kingdom of Mescal: A fairy-tale for adults;
In the Kingdom of Mescal