Pinchazo: A Foray Into Guatemala

I just returned from 9 days in Guatemala and thought I’d jot down some observations and impressions of the vicinity. Having no earlier information, I had few expectancies, although I will admit that I had a few biases based totally on its vicinity nestled beside Mexico.

I now apprehend why Central America commonly and that Guatemala is so popular with Americans and retirees. First, the climate is outstanding and actually more accommodating than Florida. Its elevation above sea level gives an extra temperate climate and less humidity, at least through its dry season. Second, humans are pleasant and hard-operating. Third, the price of residing is less high. Fourth, inside the case of friends Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, English has spoken anywhere (now not proper in Guatemala).

Among my largest surprises (even though I knew Guatemala become a terrible u . S . A .) turned into the fact that the roads are horrendous, and the riding is even worse. Between the mind-blowing topography (due to mountains fashioned eons in the past by earthquakes and volcanoes) and the truth that the vast majority of roads are either cobblestone or dirt, tour across us of a ain’t clean.

And there is no railroad or mass transit of any type, probably due to the topography until you matter the lots of “chicken buses” the locals take to get around. (Chicken buses are yellow college buses from America that have been artistically and uniquely painted and used to move people and all sorts of cargo, consisting of livestock, for this reason, the name.) It turned into now not sudden to research that Guatemala ranks 116 in paved roads with an insignificant 4,700 kilometers (less than 3,000 miles) of paved roads, at the back of Western Sahara and earlier than Tunisia.


Another big surprise, which I found out by using inquiring approximately sending postcards, changed into the reality that years ago, u. S. A. Abolished its countrywide postal machine, so please send mail, you need both a personal courier or DHL. Tooling around small villages, I noticed most haven’t any road symptoms, so you ought to marvel how the mail every were given delivered even when the publish workplace existed. No street signs inform me that each hobby in most of the usa may be very nearby wherein anybody is aware of everybody else.

Probably my largest marvel becomes to study that there’s no system of public training in Guatemala, which means youngsters can best attend schools if their parents pay to ship them privately. The most interesting bit of history I learned become approximately the connection between Belize (previously British Honduras) and Guatemala. According to our manual, centuries in the past, England was granted permission to harvest lumber (Mahogany) from Guatemala to promise to construct roads in Guatemala.

Still, apparently, not simplest didn’t construct roads but occupied greater land than their permission allowed and saved it, which later became known as British Honduras. To avoid a disagreement, England granted that occupied territory its independence, and it has become called Belize. Today, Guatemala intends to enchant the United Nations to recover that territory or, as a minimum, be compensated for its improper appropriation via England. Time will tell if they may be capable of succeeding.

If you decide to visit Guatemala, be conscious that the tour includes sizeable dangers, so your journey has to be supervised through a professional excursion manual, as a minimum in a collection format, or more preferably, a personal excursion manual (as we did). There isn’t any public transportation, there are few avenues and avenue signs, statistics approximately the whole lot is scarce, and YOU MUST SPEAK SPANISH to get anywhere or do anything!

We visited 4 regions: Guatemala City (the Capital City since the 1700s and where the main airport resides), Tikal (in which the maximum big settlement of the ancient Mayan civilization is living), Antigua (the nicely-preserved former capital of Guatemala returned within the 1500s when it was ruled by using Spain, later moved to Guatemala City after being decimated by an earthquake) and Lake Atitlan (a magnificent venue shaped within the valley of numerous volcanoes).

These regions provide you with a blend of Spanish (and Catholic) history inside u. S. A ., the history of the Mayan civilization, and some staggering websites of natural splendor. If you’ve got time, visit Chichicastenango (no, that isn’t always Pinky Tuscadero’s child sister) whilst you are within Lake Atitlan’s vicinity touted as the oldest and biggest outside marketplace in Central America.

Additionally, we enjoyed traveling to a coffee plantation near Antigua. I turned into surprised to analyze that Guatemalan espresso is considered the sector’s 1/3 high-quality pleasant, behind Ethiopian and Kenyan, even though you’ll in no way are aware of it as they produce it in fairly small quantities. By the way, the locals aren’t espresso drinkers. Their chocolate is also considered very high first-rate, even though chocolate’s starting place is seemingly Brazil. By the manner, the meals pretty much anywhere we visited turned into flavorful and freshly prepared. Lots of fresh fruit, including papaya, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, veggies, and avocados, are served nearly at every meal. The staples of the Guatemalan eating regimen consist of corn, rice, and beans.

My advice is to recognize your visit to Antigua’s two important areas (for tradition and history) and Lake Atitlan (for herbal beauty). Tikal is billed as a prime attraction given its historical importance because the middle of the ancient Mayan civilization and its to be had websites are surprising. However, be conscious that handiest about 20% of those artifacts and tombs had been disinterred as of this writing so that you may not see a maximum of what archeologists consider lies buried underneath the surface. That changed into a piece of unhappiness. Besides, journeying there’ll require a short flight or a long bus journey as Tikal is positioned well north and east of the other two essential sights noted. You will likely want to fly into Guatemala City, but understand that it offers little enchantment, and my advice would be to spend as little time there as viable.


Whenever I leave America, I constantly go back with an outstanding appreciation of many stuff we take for granted here: words like management, company, performance, transparency, disclosure, conversation all convey greater meaning for me now. The Guatemalans are difficult-running, professional, and gifted human beings; however, given the dire state of its roadways and communications infrastructure and the truth that they have no public or loose schooling machine, suffice it to mention they face a hard future.


In case you wonder about the identity of this essay, you need to recognize that “Pinchazo” is a Spanish phrase that has many meanings, which include flat (as in tire) and sharp ache (as in the type one experiences after many hours of traveling on cobblestone roads). It seemed that each mile or so, touring on the important highways, we noticed signs and symptoms reading “Pinchazo.” Not sudden for the reason that roads are so horrific. Our manual instructed us that now not handiest do they wash their motors daily there. However, they have their breaks checked each couple of weeks!

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