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

Friday, September 17, 2010


El Hombre Tecnológico, is the name of this sculpture by Guatemalan/Swiss sculptor Walter Peter Brunner

One day reading Luisfi´s blog I saw a picture of this sculpture and immediately  knew I had seen this somewhere. Well sure enough it is in the lobby of a building I visit because I do some business with people who have offices there. I thought, next time I go I will have to stop, admire and share. So here it is. 

The description of the sculpture in Walter Peter´s website reads:

Technological Man 
The Technological Man is personified by a human figure front, high-relief and partly in 
medium relief, holding in one hand the light of reason, of creative imagination, illuminating 
the world, humanity, symbolized by a crystal sphere, expressing the importance and power of 
technological development in the practical application of science. The Technological Man is 
going through a surface in a grid technology; upright with a look at the sky, expressing how 
the man manages to break barriers and paradigms through the unrestricted use of reason, in 
order to achieve great challenges: "Technology is not limits. " The finishing of the human 
figure is pure graphite, giving even more metallic look and technology. 
Resin and powder marble, graphite, fiberglass, steel and iron, Total height: 2.6m, sculpture: 1.50m, back 
surface: 2 m. It is located in the lobby of Technology Campus Building at Cuatro Grados Norte in Guatemala 
“Technology is an applied science, i.e., it translates the discoveries of theoretical science into 
practical application to man’s life. As such, technology is not the first step in the development 
of a given body of knowledge, but the last; it is not the most difficult step, but it is the 
ultimate step, the implicit purpose, of man’s quest for knowledge.” 
[“Apolo 11,”TO, Sept. 1969,9.] 

"Technology finds no barriers for man´s progress, when reason illuminates humanity."

If you know spanish you might enjoy the description written in Siglo XXI Newspaper by Karen Cancinos.

PS. I remember Walter Peter´s dad, Walter Peter K, with deep appreciation. He was my swimming teacher at the RITZ hotel 30 years ago! Legend has it he was so fit because he ran up the Pacaya volcano everyday for his daily training.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Ni mucho que queme al santo ni tan poco que no lo alumbre literal translation is: Not so much that it could burn the Saint and not so little that it won´t illuminate it.

A saying one would use to say everything needs to be in the right amount. Example: Rain is good for the crops but the amount of rain that has fallen in Guatemala lately is too much!

In the picture: The Virgin of La Merced. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Two weeks ago we were driving to a meeting with the people of Compassion. It was raining outside and from our car window we saw this little girl watching the trash flow on a stream of water,  no shoes, no mom to tell her to come in from the rain, cars zooming by on the way to work. It has taken a while to wrap my head around this image, unfortunately not a rare image in Guatemala.

At the language school I work we have an in company program with the Guatemala Compassion Chapter and it then happened that a reader asked me permission to post a compassion fundraiser in the Guatemalan Genes Facebook. I realized it was the same organization we were talking about and it sparked my interest, we are figuring out ways that we can provide scholarships to children through Compassion. I am thrilled about being introduced to this ministry and I am happy to endorse it.

Below are some links to the blogging trip made to Guatemala you can find a lot of information there and perhaps decide to sponsor a child in Guatemala!