Holidays in and from old Guatemala by Xela way. Me and the CB500T are down here taking a cat nap, brushing up on our espanol. Things are different down here and it’s clear that this isn’t the states and it’s not even Mexico. If old Mexico is the Bizarro version of America then Guatemala is the Bizarro version of Mexico. It’s all simple logic. A begets M begets G.
My first central American border crossing and it’s all chaos but everything goes smoothly and the CB and me slide into old Guatemala through La Mesilla leaving Ciudad Cuahtemoc and old Mexico behind us with no tears shed and no blood spilled. First stop would be the cultural mecca that is Huehuetenango up in the Guatemalan Western highlands, a couple hours or so from the border. Hace frio at night said the nice man with the shotgun guarding the border aduana. A fair warning because you’re in the highlands now and far from the loving shores of the Pacific and the tropical heat. It done gets cold up in the mountains and Huehuetenango is a nice introduction to old Guatemala and the third world that awaits one south of old Mexico. It looks like a Mexican city, but different in that way that Mexican cities are different than US cities, but even more so now.
Speed up the pace because we’re in old Xela now, Quetzaltenango for sure, learning Spanish and taking it easy for a spell, checking out the sights and drinking in all that is old Guatemala. Xela is weird and it doesn’t really strike one at first like a 3rd world central American city, even though it is. There are quaint cobblestone streets and ancient buildings done up in that attractive colonial style. But there are mangy stray dogs everywhere knawing bones like in a cartoon and sometimes the cobblestones will dissapear and you’ll be riding on a bumpy dirt road for a spell in the middle of the city until they start up again. The buildings all have the look of decay, like some European city rebuilding itself after the war and the bomb, but constantly and forever. There are little earthquakes all the time, too. They’re caled sismos in spanish, an adorable title to say the least and the name that I would give to my first born robot son. Sismo 1 will begat Sismo Jr., who we’ll build together in my parents garage, bonding the whole time, both learning how to love, and how to cry robotic tears of joy and pain. Never before had I experienced an earthquake but now they’re just old hat.
The Camioneta: Or Chicken Bus is Guatemala’s answer to mass transport. Olden school busses from America in the 3rd world are gussied up like 10 peso hookers and crazy Mayan dreams; 3 to a seat not including livestock and all decorated according to the whims of their masters. A pretty tits way to travel. Chrome and handpainted murals of Jesus and kittens rule the roost now and the search is on to find the mother of all chicken busses. Similar to the quest for the holy grail. Does either exist? There can be only one you know.
Look, one of the few things that can be missed about old America, besides the majestic purple mountains, vast fields of wavering grain, heated homes and readily availble hot and/or potable water, is the beer. And in times of need a manchild often pines for his Gorra de Magico all the way at the end of the civilized world, shivering naked in the snow with a gun in one hand…and a liter of Cabro in the other.
Brahva: typical mass-production pilsner tasting like something akin to the Shlitz Milwaukee’s Best Genesee bargain bin type of beer. Good for exploding against a wall like a rifle shot or with some pyrotechnicas stuffed en el dentro.
Brahva Extra: I never held any high hopes for Guatemalan beers and the Brahva family is no surprise. Tastes exactly like Brahva regular. Gross.
Gallo: Guatemaltecan answer to old Mexico’s Tecate franchise. A cheap brew perro passable and methinks just a tad bit better than its Mexican rival. Or maybe it tastes exactly the same. Enjoy under the waxing moon and plastic Christmas tree in the heart of Guatemala’s old Xela town.
Cabro: Supposedly the choice of all expats and foreigners, it fails to impress. Tastes pretty similar to Gallo, maybe even a little better, but lacks its panache. I’ll take it rather than leave it. Cheers
Dorada Draft: Tipped off by my estilista, I picked up a Dorada regular with somewhat higher hopes, which were then promptly dashed by this unsurprisngly bland and somewhat awful brew. Kind of reminds me of Bud Ice and my salad days back in old Levittville. I wonder what Dorada Ice tastes like?
Dorada Ice: It doesn’t take a millionare genius manchild from the streets of old New York to know that any beer from Guatemala with Ice in its name is going to be fucking horrible. Dorada Ice is a terrible beer that again tastes exactly like Dorada Draft.
Moza Cerveza Obscura – Bock beer: Muy interesante! A Strong and somewhat delicious beer that is somewhat out of place here with its dark complexion and fruity undertones. Although, if you drink it with your eyes closed you won’t know it’s a dark beer. Cheers!
Monte-Carlo: Tastes exactly like it looks, like an old Peroni or slightly skunked Heineken.
Quetzalteca Aguardiente: Strange traditional brew of the Xela highlands, a tiny little bottle of aguardiente will get you smashed and leave you with a horrible hangover, or “goma”. Take care not to drink too much, lest you drift off to Riverworld naked, bloated and alone, the water overflowing the tub in your $3 hotel room in Guatemala City.
Rompope: Not so much a beer as much as a delightful and traditional alcholic brew from the Western Guatemalan highland town of Salcaja, home to this delicious drink and also home to Central America’s oldest church. Tastes sort of like egg-nog, but with style. Rompope.
Caldo de Frutas: Girly mash also from Salcaja. It’s some sort of fortified fruit wine with pieces of fruit floating around in it, although mine had an olive in it, which is not a fruit, right? Right? Whatever, I ain’t no scientist. For chicas and maricas mostly.
Cerveceria Nacional: Only through sheer diligence was I able to score a tour of the old brewery here in old Xelatown. It took me a month to set it up with several trips back and forth, much pidgin spanish, and an official letter of intent from my escuela de espanol. Cool, no doubt, and one can become hypnotized by the endless procession of clanking bottles being filled with delicious and sudsy Gallo, only to be brought back to reality by the occasional sound of breaking glass. It should be noted that Cabro, fresh from the factory, tastes exactly like it does in the bar. There is no difference.
Tajamulco: This dormant volcan and highest point in Centro-America looms large over the surrounding land at just a shade under 14,000 feet. I would summit this pup in the wee hours of the morning awaiting the warmth and light of the rising and beautiful sun. Resplendent was the view to say the least, as the two distant volcans of Santiaguito and El Fuego decided to blow their stacks at the same time, providing a surreal scene all the way at the end and the very top of the world; the glow of the rising sun lighting them both up from beneath through a gauze of mist and clouds. Two exploding volcanoes showering their contents all over God and everyone. Just like my love for you, my fans. As an aside, let it be known that 14,000 feet is up there man, way high, and it’s not difficult to get sick from the altitude. This one chic had to descend right quick due to difficulty seeing, an intense headache, wobbly legs, and for showering the contents of her stomach all over the earth. That didn’t happen to me, but after chilling at the summit for an hour I was struck with the intense need to shit my pants and throw up at the same time. I also had to fart much much more than usual, possibly due to the compression and expansion of gasses within me. Those were my reactions to the altitude. No se porque. Tajamulco is similar to Everest in that there’s a tremendous amount of garbage at base camp, and plenty of human waste and toilet paper to trod upon. Beware the mountain of shit. I left some there too, as an offering to the Gods.
Banos Baracarel, Los Vahos, Fuentes Georginas: Steam dreams warm the cold heart of the estranjero in the third world. Look, if you can even call yourself a fanchild of the manchild you know that the he done digs his hot springs and shit. Fuentes Georginas is a developed hot spring up in the mountains near Zunil. A picturesque setting to say the least, as it is accessed by a one lane winding mountain road that is both terrible and great with succulent views of the surrounding countryside. It can be deemed the Central American equivalent of Liard Hotsprings and I can deem both to have seen their better days. We’re all approaching the end of cool anyways. I went there on New Years day and was the only white face for miles, lost in a littoral sea of brown skinned Guatemaltecos. This place is advertised everywhere and is in every guide book. Skip it. There’s 3 pools. One is dangerously hot, one somewhat hot, and the last tepid and full of mangy street children and stray dogs. The entrance price for foreigners is more than doubled and the seguros can’t read the english on your desolate loner discount card. Up in the hills of Xela lie the Los Vahos steam rooms. To reach them, one need walk about an hour from the city through fields of corn and packs of dangerous dogs (bring plenty of rocks). I like Los Vahos alot cause they’re heated naturally by vents coming out of the side of the hill that they lie on, which is also a volcano. I recommend the lower rooms, filthy and quaint and dark, same as the ones above, but better somehow. Lastly, I was tipped off to the Banos Baracarel by my spanish teacher. Top secret intel really, because they’re not in any guide book and they’re for locals really, who can’t afford hot water. Indeed, I would be worshipped there as some sort of God, the first paleface ever seen, wearing strange clothes and a beard, and confirming all the ancient legends. A huge wood burning boiler provides the aqua caliente for this weird and ancient place, over 132 years young. For Q18 you get a filthy private bathtub for an hour and all the hot water your heart desires.
Paches de Papa:
1/2 onza de ajonjoli
1/2 onza de pepitoria (sesame?)
1 rajita de canela (cinamon)
1 chile pasa
1 chile guaque
6 pimientas negras
2 dientes de ajo
1 cebolla cortada en gajos
6 tomates cortados a la mitad
Licuamos todo preriamente tostado.
6 piezas de pan viejo
1 libra de carne, pollo o cerdo (cocinada)
3 chucharadas de aceite
1/2 cucharada de sal
3 libras de papa (pelada, cocinada, y machacada)
15 hojas de mashan lavadas
Mesclamos la salsa con la papa machacada y agregamos la sal y el aceite. Ya todo mesclado ponemos una cucharada grande de mescla sobre la hoja de mashan y en el centro un pedazo de carne pequeno. Envolvemos el tamal similar a un regal. Ponemos a cocinar con un poco de agua caliente y sal por 20-30 minutos. Comemos con pan y cerveza.
See you in the promised land bitches