Jenny August 5, 2014

Guatemala City

Westin, Radisson, The Continental. A mother with her kid in a thick scarf, wrapped across her chest, fastened with a know between her shoulders.

The guy on the street directing the cars, nice cars, new cars, wears a torn sweatshirt.

Tap-tap-tap. The sound of making tortillas.

Guate! Guate! The guy in the door holds on to the bus with one hand, the driver looks at the road and looks at him and looks at the road.

Fumes.

Early in the mornings, the smell of maize and of lime.

The sun, beyond the mountains (which you can’t see, but still).

Knitted cardigans, worn over hand-woven blouses.

There’s a bar here where Che used to drink, and a guesthouse where he used to stay. They’ve kept the room. There’s a courtyard, surrounded by wooden doors. They’re clearing it from plants now. The other rooms, with yellow walls, smell of fresh paint.

Outside the central mercado, where they sell more vegetables, one of the families eat their lunch from a plastic stool. Everything deep-fried, in red and yellow paper boxes.

Four in ten kids, at least, in Guatemala are malnourished.

You can exit this city on long highways.

Taco Bell, Pollo Campero, Wendy’s, Chili’s, Shell.

Sometimes, when waiting for the bus, women take out their weavings and stick them to a tree.

The kids who work with shining shoes, the kids who come down to the city from the mountains, have black hands.

Other kids, whose mothers sell things in the mercados, bring their toys and play. They eat pieces of fried platano, or mango from plastic bags.

The kids in the malls hold on to their parents, cross from one side to the other, under the roof, not the sky.

The word “paz” is written on a wall in Zona 1.

Our friend is documenting the genocide (there’s also the word “genocide” written on walls in Zona 1). He drove six hours one evening last week, to take pictures of a family burying someone who was killed during the war.

Another friend, her father has a small farm just outside the city. His son, the brother of our friend, drives down to the coast to collect sea water for the soil. In the sea, my friend’s father says, you can find more biomass than anywhere else. “Did you know there’s no sickness in the seas? Have you ever seen sharks grow old, lose their teeth?” They smile a lot, my friend’s parents.

We’re in a land of mountains, even here, in the city.

Cine Tikal, Teatro Variedades, Cine Lux; the facades still bear their names, but no more zombie movies, no matinees. There are big cinema complexes now, and kids sell pirated movies in the streets.

And breakdance, on the pavement outside the old Cine Lux.

The reflection of the Spanish flag, next to Guatemala’s blue-and-white, in a window on the second floor.

Tap-tap-tap.

Humans, the Mayans believed, were created from maize.