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Guatemala: June 13

On the east coast of Guatemala is Livingston (note the English influence), a small waterfront town, accessable only by a boat ride down the Rio Dulce [photos: 1 2 3]. Livingston boasts one of the world´s few and most vibrant Garifuna communities. The Garifuna are a small ethnic group expelled by European invadors at the end of the eighteenth century from St. Vincent Island, and virtually the only black, Spanish-speaking Guatemalans in the country (they also speak their own language and quite a bit of English). One side of Livingston is dominated by the impoverished Garifuna, with their tiny wooden shacks, tin roofs, and no visible means of economic subsistence, and the other side by ladinos (people of mixed Spanish-indigenous decent) and a minority of Mayans. The main road is crawling with "tropical"-themed restaurants and small stores catering exclusively to tourists. After sipping mixed-fruit liquados (shakes) and eating your choice of sea life, you can be on the beach (what there is of one) within five minutes. The ladinos own the touristy stuff, and the Garifuna play the music and dominate the informal economy. For her part, Heather wanted to participate in that economy by having her hair braided on the street by a local woman. When the bill came 2 1/2 hours later it was three times what we were originally told. $33 lighter ($0.22/braid), we licked our wounds and bought another liquado. A really nice, unshaven, fifty year-old man in bare feet and baseball cap struck up a conversation with us about books. He told us about his band's U.S. tour last year (including a gig in Tucson), and was at pains to distance his much prided Garifuna culture from this fake-tropical ambiance. An hour later, he had walked us across town through his dilapidated neighborhood to a tiny, thatch-roofed cafe where he played his band's c.d. for us. We offered him $20 (a lot of money for this place) to burn a copy of his music for us and then naively left expecting him to drop it off at the hotel later in the day. He'll eat well this month, and we may never hear Punta Rock again. [Photos: 1 2 3 4 5] Another day of travel to the north brought us to tiny island town of Flores in the Peten [photos: 1 2], a region marked by its quickly disappearing rainforests and the classical Mayan ruins atTikal. Tikal National Park is a sprawling complex of pyramids, temples, and other structures dating from 3,000 bc to about 700 ad. We hired a very sharp guide who taught us as much about the flora and fauna of Tikal as he did about the ancient Mayans. The place was awe-inspiring to say the least, but for me the wildlife stole the show. Spider and Howler monkeys, toucans, rabbit-sized rodents, brightly colored turkeys, tarantulas, carpenter ants, woodpeckers, parrots, and other unknown colorful birds - some harder to photograph than others. By the end of the day clouds moved in to rescue us from the sweltering heat and we had the main plaza to ourselves and our photographic eye. [Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15]

“Guatemala: June 13”

  1. Anonymous joanna Says:

    GREAT photos. nice braids. great bird. great tarantula. yay ruins! you guys are really packing in some amazing stuff. jeff, you're lookin' thin. fashionably, of course. those fruit shakes sound gooooood.

  2. Anonymous Steven Says:

    fyi: The colorful bird you took that wonderful pic of is called a Collared Aracari, and it's a kind of toucan.

  3. Anonymous mom Says:

    Nice talking with you. Thanks for the birthday wishes. You know, you'll never be half my age again. Kind of thought provoking huh? Heather, love the braids. Keep the pictures coming, they're great.

  4. Blogger Jeff Says:

    The forest and wildlife at Tikal were more than we´d bargained for - really amazing stuff. I wish we could have captured more of it on film! We found it difficult to snap photos in the most interesting parts of Livingston where poverty dominates, so I don´t think that really comes across either, unfortunately.

  5. Anonymous mom Says:

    The Tikal park web site had a lot of interesting information and pictures. I've always wondered what different trees and birds,etc there are that we rarely hear much of locally.

  6. Anonymous and then joanna was like all Says:

    forget the birds, forget the culture, forget expanding those horizons, Porl's rejoining the band! (perry and roger got los boot).