Procession in La Antigua, Guatemala, celebrating the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Trumpeter waiting alongside instruments outside a church in La Antigua, Guatemala, on Easter Sunday.

Yesterday, I stumbled into the very cool Iglesia y convento de Santa Clara, founded in 1699 and later destroyed (a number of times) by earthquakes. Now it’s a tourist attraction, but it has another purpose as well: retreat for horny teenagers — I ran into three couples (like the one above) macking in hidden corners.

 

For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to climb a volcano. “Where else but Guatemala?” I thought. In that same spirit, I decided to climb not just to the top of volcano to ponder its awe-inspiring power, rivulets of flame snaking down the side of the hill, but to explore mere feet from cascading flows, the bottom of my sneakers even beginning to melt. We spent so long on the volcano that the sun set and the group (a motley crew of about 50 ne’er-do-wells, ranging from high school kids studying Spanish in Antigua to a BBC correspondent and a duo that was driving from North Carolina to Colombia) had to hike for two hours in the pitch dark, saved only by a few prescient souls who thought to bring flashlights or headlamps.

Stupid tourists! Get away from that lava!

No! I said away, not closer! Doh!

Or, pictures of people observing the Semana Santa processions in La Antigua, Guatemala:

(Above: Surf ad in Chichi.)

In addition to some great painted advertisements, I discovered a bit of graffiti in Chichicastenango, the market town about an hour from Antigua. I didn’t ask anyone for details about it, what it means, who the artists are, but I’d be interested to know more about local visual culture and artistic resistance, etc.

Girls hoist a float of the Virgin Mary on the Viernes procession in La Antigua, Guatemala.

Textiles at Chichicastenango’s Thursday market.

Tiny little cars, so bright!

Paintings galore!

Spotting of the day: Sarah Chalke from Scrubs in an advertisement for a pharmacy, shot at the market near the bus station in La Antigua, Guatemala. Trust her! She’s neurotic and quirky!

A father and his daughter, as well as several teenage girls, wait for the procession at La Merced to begin. More photos here!

Deterioration:

Rejuvenation:

Boobs!

T does Central America: currently WiFi-ing at the Black Cat Inn, a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala. I speak un poquito Espanol and am quickly realizing that that’s probably not enough.

Anyone in town for Semana Santa? I’d love to meet up with any like minds! Photos, etc., to come.

In honor of my upcoming trip, links to Guatemala information:
Mayan ruins!
Contemporary art by Mario Madriz
Oil paintings by Mayans at Arte Maya Tz’utuhil!

It’s strange to me that I’ve never been to Central America (not even Mexico) but have spent so much time in India. My Hindi is better than my Spanish, but a four-hour flight is much more appetizing than a ten-hour one. I’ll primarily be in Antigua, taking in the festivities surrounding Semana Santa. If you’d like to meet up, or have any great tips for me, fire away! Trip is somewhat inspired by Xeni Jardin.

“By the time I learned what I was really supposed to be afraid of in New York, I knew better—which isn’t to say that there was nothing to be afraid of, because, as all of us know, there are always dangers, everywhere.

But even now, at a much more wary and guarded age, what I feel when I am told that my neighborhood is dangerous is not fear but anger at the extent to which so many of us have agreed to live within a delusion—namely that we will be spared the dangers that others suffer only if we move within certain very restricted spheres, and that insularity is a fair price to pay for safety.

— Eula Biss, “No-Man’s-Land,” The Believer, Vol. 6, No. 2

This weekend, my mother brought up her discomfort with my plan to go to Guatemala alone for Easter. “Isn’t it dangerous there? And what are you going to do, anyway?”

I tried to placate her by talking about Antigua’s tourist police, and noted that I had hacked it alone in Delhi for quite some time — not to mention the fact that I’m navigating New York living with relative aplomb. But what I really wanted to do was launch into a tirade about American ideas of safety and danger, comfort and discomfort, abundance and want. Biss does so much more eloquently in this essay, which “expos[es] the delusions and hostility of the American fear of ‘bad’ neighborhoods, from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Chicago’s North Side.”

The Smithsonian gets in on the list game by presenting 28 must-see destinations, broken down by theme (for example, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” — wonders on the verge of extinction — and “In the Presence of God” — temples “so magnificent they could only have been built by divine inspiration”).

I’ve seen two: the Taj Mahal (which I don’t have any fond memories of) and Angkor Wat (which really did make me feel alive in some intangible way). I may happen upon http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/lifelist-tikal.html when I’m in Guatemala, but I imagine that I’ll be so absorbed in watching Holy Week unfold that I won’t go too far from Antigua.

So … can you beat my utterly inconsequential score?

In preparation for my trip, I’ve been poking around the Interwebs for information about street culture in Guatemala. I love the idea of public art, sanctioned or unsanctioned, and it appears that there’s an active graffiti community in the country. Mi Mundo offers a vivid glimpse of this, as well as interesting commentary to contextualize the images. Wire Tap also has a story and interview on HIJOS (Hijos e Hijas por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio (Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence), the group responsible for the graffiti.

(For kicks, a Flickr set of public art in India.)

(Photo from Xeni on Flickr)

Or, how I ended up buying a ticket to travel to Antigua, Guatemala, for Easter.

I’ve been obsessively looking at travel sites and last-minute-deal hawkers, feeling very uncool for having only traveled to Oregon since I’ve been back in the states. I wanted to go somewhere that’s relatively cheap, that has a culture I’ve not yet been exposed to (which would be pretty much any culture that is not Indic or American), and that has something going on when I’ll be there.

I’m going by myself (unless anyone wants to join me!) and I have yet to figure out where I’ll stay (a pressing concern, as Easter is probably Antigua’s busiest time, what with its Holy Week traditions), but I’m feeling oddly … excited about dipping my toe in the waters of Central America. I have no idea what to expect and a lot of preparing to do, but it’s about time for me to do something wacky and wild again.