Guatemala by Headline: 3 Quick Vignettes of the Month Gone--Earthquakes, College Football, and Independence Day in September
Whole Lot of Quaking Going On
“You feel that?” The question kind of hangs in the air, everyone twisting their heads a little as if switching on the sensors, faces growing blank with concentration. Then, the whole damned building starts wiggling, continues wiggling, completely nullifying the need for the head-twisting and focusing: When shit is rattling all around you, there’s not much question as to what’s happening.
Earthquakes have been making a comeback round these parts, and this past Friday (6 September) a six-point-five eye-opener shook the tattoo shop for a good thirty seconds while we resisted the urge to run flailing to safety. It just kept going. I’ve probably experience a dozen earthquakes here, ones that registered on my fairly dull internal Richter meter, but I’ve never felt one go on so long.
For those of you unfamiliar with this Guatemalan pastime, earthquakes, along with volcanic eruptions, a regular occurrence here, are part of what makes the Antigueño/Chapin lifestyle so exciting. In fact, quakes are the very reason that Antigua Guatemala (“Old Guatemala”) is not still the Guatemalan capital. In 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes laid waste to Antigua, then known as La Cuidad de los Caballeros de Santiago de Guatemala (the Second—the first was destroyed by mudslides coming down from Volcan Agua).
Hey, in some ways, we should be thankful. These days, we get to this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the temperamental earth below it. Otherwise, Antigua might have been lost to industrialization and stoplights.
Mono Loco Displays Impressive Clout
The LSU Fighting Tigers have been a regular feature on Mono Loco’s gargantuan flat screen TVs for three weeks running. Hey, I’m a shameless college football fan. Shameless? Hell, I’m a ridiculously proud college football fan, and praise be to Boudreaux for whatever satellite connection Billy Burns has mustard up over at Mono Loco. I talked to him in early August about the possibilities of getting the games with lesser opponents. He assured me, with IPA-infused confidence, that I’d at most miss one game. I was impressed if not a little doubtful.
Sure enough, though, come game time in week two, there it was: LSU vs. UAB. UA-who? Emma had asked, as we watched the Tigers commence to delivering a lethal romping. Week three, the stakes went even a little higher (or lower, depending on how you are gauging things) when LSU took on Kent St. Where are they from? Emma had asked. I couldn’t even answer her. Kent St.? But, Mono Loco had it and, not just that, broadcast that puppy on one of the prime screens for me.
In return, it’s time to deliver a heartfelt shout-out to my hosts at the Funky Monkey, “where everyone knows your name”. Thanks for understanding the demands of college football fans abroad. Not everyone graduates to the NFL. It has been a delightful start to the year, both because of LSU’s rockin’ offense and because, unlike years past, I’m not constantly reloading my live feed on a weak internet connection that causes me to miss half the game.
Independence Day—Not Just a US Tradition
Growing up, I never really thought of the fact that other countries couldn’t give two smoked sausages about the 4th of July or that, in fact, they had their own Independence Day, like say September 15th. This past weekend, Guatemala and Central America at large set off even more fireworks than normal in celebration of the expulsion of the Spanish so many years ago. And, a lot of us—foreign and local alike—got a couple extra days off.
I’m perhaps a little remised to say that we largely skipped the holiday. Emma grew up in England, where there is no Independence Day because…umm…it was the British half the countries were winning Independence from. She never got to experience M80s in toilet bowls or disposable patriotic picnic-ware. For me, I don’t know: Aside from a day off, what is an expat supposed to say about the independence of the nation you’re not from.
Penning this on the 16th of September, having spent the 15th indoors watching “Sunday” movies with Emma, I feel a bit like I’ve signed onto Facebook and discovered I missed an old friend’s birthday (Sorry, Ellen). It’s a guilty feeling but one I (and Ellen) have learned to live with over the years. Regardless, just as on Facebook, happy belated birthday wishes are due. Guatemala, you may be getting old, but you’re still looking good.
Until next week…
In 2013, I took a year to work part-time and pursue a travel writing career on the side. Part of my mission was to explore the depths of one Central America's great tourist attractions and take from it what I could. These are thoughts on Antigua Guatemala.