A Trip to: Guatemala

guatemala

Editor’s note: I mentioned the other day that I received a really sweet email requesting that I show some love to other Central American countries, in particular, Guatemala. The young man who emailed me wishes to remain anonymous so I’ll just refer to him affectionately as mi “hermanito guatemalteco.” His passion for Guatemala touched me, and the photos he shared with me were really beautiful so I asked if he wanted to share them here – he agreed. Here are his photos and his words. Come along for a trip to Guatemala!

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Landing in Guatemala City is unlike landing in most other cities. The airplane trembles and shakes, making a rough descent. As it dips below the clouds, you may see the volcanoes Agua, Fuego, Pacaya, and on a clear day, maybe Acatenango. The thick smog from Central America’s northernmost capital makes the landscape look gray and somewhat bleak, but the view is breathtaking nonetheless. As the airplane shakily lands onto the hot asphalt, the passengers cheer and applaud the safe landing.

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This is the arch of Santa Catalina. It is the most well-known symbol of La Antigua, Guatemala. Along the streets of Calle del Arco are vendors selling colorful Mayan cloths and rubber balls made of pig skin. The buildings alongside the street are colonial, built during the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. The original convent building still exists, now remodeled into Hotel El Convento Santa Catalina. There is a fountain in the courtyard in the hotel. According to legend, Pedro de Alvarado, conqueror of Guatemala, Yucatan and El Salvador, drank from the fountain during his travels.

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These are some patojos (kids) we saw in Santiago Atitlan. Right before this picture was taken, they had been playing fútbol near the lakeshore, while their parents washed their clothes in the shallow waters of Lake Atitlan. The children were happy to have their picture taken, excited to be able to be seen in Los Estados Unidos, like all the celebrities, they say.

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This is the cross atop Cerro de la Cruz, which overlooks the colonial town of Antigua Guatemala. A easy hike to the top of the hill rewards one with majestic views of the whole Panchoy Valley. When I took this picture, I was with my cousins, we had just gone to the mercado and bought some mango con chile, and we brought it up here with us to enjoy it. Although the day was cloudy, it was still a comfortably warm temperature.

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Like most of the roofs in La Antigua, this one was made during the time of the Spanish conquest of Central America. Of course, it has been remodeled, but much of it is original. Climbing up on the roofs can be a fun experience to have in La Antigua, where most of the roofs are connected and one can easily walk across an entire street block without jumping from roof to roof.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have roots in a country in Latin America and some nice photos you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me. I’d love to make this a special Hispanic Heritage Month series!

El Festival Salvadoreño Americano

wheaton

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

Me di cuenta de que no he compartido mis fotos del Festival Salvadoreño Americano que fuimos el mes pasado en Wheaton, Maryland y hoy es un buen día para compartirlas, ya que viene el Día de la Independencia de El Salvador este fin de semana.

I realized that I haven’t shared my photos from the Salvadoran American Festival we went to last month in Wheaton, Maryland and today is a good day to share them since El Salvador’s Independence Day is this weekend.

crowd

El Festival fue muy bien organizado por Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities y el Condado de Montgomery. Había suficiente estacionamiento a poca distancia y estaba cerca de la estación de METRO si uno no viene en carro.

Salvadoreños caminaban en grupos grandes por las aceras hacia el sonido de la cumbia y el olor de las pupusas. Cruzamos las calles juntos, esquivamos el tráfico, intercambiamos miradas y nos reímos. “Todos vamos a ser atropellados”, alguien bromeó. Éramos como niños tras el flautista de Hamelín.

The Festival was very well organized by Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities and Montgomery County. There was sufficient parking nearby and it was close to a METRO station for those that did not come by car.

Salvadorans walked down the sidewalks in large groups toward the sound of cumbia and the smell of pupusas. We crossed streets together, dodged traffic, exchanged looks and laughed. “We’re all going to get run over,” someone joked. We were like children following the Pied Piper.

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Por supuesto, la primera cosa que hicimos fue caminar alrededor para ver qué comidas queríamos comer.

Of course, the first thing we did was walk around to see which foods we wanted to eat.

bebidas

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(La camisa de este hombre me hizo reír: “La salsa que te hara llorar puro bichito.”)

(This guy’s shirt made me laugh: “The salsa will make you cry like a little kid.”)

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Decidimos empezar con agua de coco. No sé por qué mi hijito siempre lo prueba cuando bien sabe que no le gusta. Después de que nos bebimos el agua de coco el hombre lo abrió y nosotros comimos la carne.

We decided to start with coconut water. I don’t know why my younger son always tries it when he knows very well that he doesn’t like it. After we drank the coconut water, the man cut it open and we ate the coconut meat.

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El hombre que cortó los cocos con un machete fue muy gracioso. Todo el mundo estaba tomando su foto y se reía diciendo: “Yo voy a ser famoso!”

The man who cut the coconuts with a machete was hilarious. Everyone was taking his photo and he laughed, saying “I’m going to be famous!”

fruta

Siguiente compramos fruta fresca.

Next we bought fresh fruit.

mamones

Yo prefiero la piña pero quería probar algo nuevo, así que elegí mamones. Me encanta el sabor pero la textura de mamones es algo raro.

I prefer pineapple but I wanted to try something new so I chose mamones. I love the flavor but the texture of mamones is kind of yucky.

tostados

Las tostadas de plátano preperadas con curtido y salsa fueron deliciosas.

The tostadas de platano prepared with curtido and salsa were delicious.

pupusas

¿Cómo podíamos resistir pupusas?

How could we resist pupusas?

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A pesar de que estabamos llenos, hacía mucho calor, así que necesitábamos minutas para refrescarnos. El cartel tenía los nombres de las minutas en diferentes países. Fue muy interesante!

Snowcones – Los Estados Unidos
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – México
Raspadillas – SurAmerica
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Rep. Dominicana

Mi hijito y yo decidimos que el nombre “frio-frio” es lo mejor.

Even though we were full, it was hot, so we needed Salvadoran snowcones to cool off. The sign had the name of snowcones in different countries. It was really interesting!

Snowcones – USA
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – Mexico
Raspadillas – South America
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Dominican Republic

My younger son and I decided that the name “frío-frío” was the best.

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Pedí leche condensada azucarada en mi minuta.

I asked for sweetened condensed milk on my snowcone.

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Carlos pidió tamarindo en su minuta.

Carlos asked for tamarind on his snowcone.

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Después de comer demasiado, nos fijamos en todo lo que tenían por venta.

After eating too much, we looked around at all the things they had for sale.

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Fue un excelente festival. Si vives en la zona, te recomiendo que vayas el próximo verano. (Y ven con hambre!)

It’s an excellent festival. If you live in the area, I recommend you go next summer. (And come hungry!)

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Feliz Día de la Independencia a El Salvador y a todos mis amigos de Centroamérica y México!

Happy Independence Day to El Salvador and to all of my Central American and Mexican friends!

Chocobananos

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After Carlos’s accident I was really shaken up and dealing with some post traumatic stress. As is my habit, I researched to see how I could “fix” things and get back to normal, (or as normal as I get, anyway.) One piece of advice I read: If the event keeps replaying in the mind, do something to distract yourself — My something to distract myself all last week became cooking Salvadoran food and practicing my food photography skills. It served the dual purpose of showing my love for Carlos while taking care of him, as well as keeping my mind busy. I’m happy to say that this week Carlos is back to work, and I’m feeling better, too.

The reason I mention any of this is to prepare you for the onslaught of recipes I’ll be sharing. First up we have chocobananos, which are basically frozen bananas on a stick dipped in chocolate.

The first chocobanano I had was in El Salvador. It was my first day there on my first trip, and our one year old son had cried on and off the entire flight. (Apologies to our fellow passengers.) Carlos and I took a walk around Soyapango, leaving our colicky baby with suegra. As we walked around the neighborhood we passed all the little stores people had on their enclosed porches. Carlos bought a chocobanano for me from a neighbor and I fell instantly in love, (with the chocobanano, not with Carlos, because Carlos and I were already well-acquainted.)

Back in the United States it isn’t always as easy to find fresh chocobananos. Some Latino markets have them in the ice cream case but there’s no guarantee they were made the same day, or even the same week. Making your own chocobananos is easy, ensures freshness and also allows you to add whatever toppings you so desire.

Chocobananos

What you need:

• 6 ripe bananas (I prefer them yellow with no spots)
• melting chocolate (I use the Chocomelher brand which you can find at Latino markets)
• popsicle sticks (I prefer the bag of “Palillo Para Chocobanano” made by Melher because they have a square shape that works well for this, but any type will do)

Optional topping ideas:
• crushed nuts (I used a mix of peanuts, pistachios & other nuts)
• shredded coconut
• sprinkles

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or "palillos" for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or “palillos” for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Directions:

1. Peel bananas and cut in half width-wise. Insert sticks into banana halves, about halfway through.

2. Place bananas in the freezer for about 1 hour. I put mine in a metal baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick.

3. Melt chocolate as directions indicate for whichever brand you’re using. For the Chocomleher, I cut open the package and break the chocolate into large pieces. Put the chocolate into a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until melted. (This will provide more than enough for a dozen chocobananos.) Remove from heat.

4. Dip the frozen bananas into chocolate, trying to cover them as much as possible. You can use a spoon to spoon the chocolate onto spots you missed.

5. If adding a topping, immediately roll the chocobanano in the topping or spoon the topping over the chocobanano. You must move quickly because the chocolate hardens within seconds.

6. Your chocobananos are now ready to eat, or you can place them back in the freezer. If everyone doesn’t eat them within the first day or two (not likely!) you can put each chocobanano into an individual plastic sandwich bag twisted closed around the stick to keep them fresh.

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10 Vídeos Inspiradores

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

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Ya saben que me encanta buscar vídeos interesantes y divertidos en YouTube, pero aquí hay unos vídeos que encontré recientemente que me inspiran y quiero compartir los con ustedes. Hay algo para todos. Disfruten!

You guys already know that I love finding interesting and amusing videos on YouTube, but here are some videos I found recently that inspire me and that I want to share with you. There’s something for everyone. Enjoy!

#1. Este video se llama “Neymar humillado por peruano” pero no creo que fue humillado Neymar. Es sólo diversión amigable, y “el peruano” es muy talentoso.

This video is called “Neymar humiliated by a Peruvian” but I don’t think he was humiliated. It’s all in good fun, and “the Peruvian” is very talented.

#2. “A Shop in El Salvador Feb. 2013″ – Qué lindo el sonido de estas flautas, tocadas por un tendero en El Salvador.

How beautiful the sound of these flutes, played by a shopkeeper in El Salvador.

#3. “El tortillero de San Marcos, El Salvador” – Me encanta esta video de un tortillero en El Salvador. (¡Sí! Un hombre que puede hacer tortillas – su historia es muy interesante.)

I love this video of a male tortilla maker in El Salvador. (Yes! A man who can make tortillas – his story is really interesting.)

#4. “The Two Sides of Playa El Tunco, El Salvador” – Este video muestra los dos lados de la Playa El Tunco – la vida de turistas que disfrutan de la playa y la vida de la gente humilde que vive allá.

This video shows the two sides of Playa El Tunco – the lives of tourists who enjoy the beach and the the lives of the humble people who live there.

#5. “Calle 13 – La Vuelta al Mundo” – Super linda canción, linda letra, lindo vídeo y lindo el mensaje. Me encanta Calle 13.

Super nice song, nice lyrics, nice video, nice message. I love Calle 13.

#6. “Niña de 6 años cocinando – Ana Victoria” – Me encanta que puede cocinar este niñita y que está practicando su español con su mami. (Gracias a Trisha Ruth por compartir el vídeo conmigo.)

I love that this little girl can cook and is practicing her Spanish with her mother. (Thanks to Trisha Ruth for sharing this video with me.)

#7. “Lazaro Arbos Auditions – American Idol Season 12″ – Este muchacho se llama Lazaro Arbos. Lazaro es un inmigrante Cubano y a pesar de que tiene un tartamudeo, no afecta su capacidad de cantar en American Idol.

This young man is named Lazaro Arbos. Lazaro is a Cuban immigrant and despite having a stutter, it does not affect his ability to sing on American Idol.

#8. “Corto Niños Vallenatos” – ¡Talentosos esos niños que tocan música en Colombia!

These kids who play music in Colombia are so talented!

#9. “El Cajero de la felicidad” – A veces las empresas grandes pueden tener un gran impacto en una forma significativa.

Sometimes big companies can make a big impact in a meaningful way.

#10. “Cumpleaños de una habitante de la calle en el centro de Bogotá” – La señora vive en la calle, pero no importa – es su cumpleaños y un joven insiste que lo celebre.

The woman lives on the street, but it doesn’t matter – it’s her birthday and a young man insists that she celebrates.

¿Cuál vídeo te gusto más? Por qué? … Which video did you like most? Why?

Street Sounds of Soyapango

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!

Como escritora, me baso en la memoria de los sonidos del ambiente para llevarme de vuelta a otro lugar y tiempo. Cuando trabajo en una de mis novelas que se lleva a cabo en El Salvador, cierro los ojos y recuerdo lo que he oído.

Puedo oír el tráfico, los carros al ralentí, los bocinazos de los carros, los autobuses que pasan, y el chirrido de los frenos cuando hacen sus paradas.

Puedo oír las campanas del paletero, la voz cantarina de la mujer que vende quesadillas temprano en la mañana, los loros que hablan en los árboles, y baten sus alas verdes.

Puedo oír un aguacatero ladrando, una mujer barriendo la acera, los niños placticando en su camino a la escuela, los murmullos de un borracho caminando por la calle.

Puedo oír la lluvia a media tarde comenzando a caer – las gotas de lluvia caen gordas y lentas al principio, pero después hay un aguacero ensordecedor que ahoga todos los otros sonidos.

— Tu turno! Piensa en un momento y lugar. ¿Qué sonidos oyes tú?—

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

As a writer, I rely on the memory of ambient sounds to take me back to a different place and time. When I work on one of my novels that takes place in El Salvador, I close my eyes and remember what I heard.

I can hear the traffic, cars idling, cars honking their horns, buses passing by, and the screech of their brakes when they make their stops.

I can hear the ringing bells of the man pushing his ice cream cart, the singsong voice of the woman selling quesadillas early in the morning, the parrots talking in the trees and flapping their green wings.

I can hear a stray dog barking, a woman sweeping the walk, children chatting on their way to school, the mumblings of a drunk walking down the street.

I can hear a mid-afternoon rain begin to fall, the fat rain drops slow at first, and then a deafening downpour that drowns out all other sounds.

—Your turn! Think of a time and place. What sounds do you hear?—

Colors of El Salvador

My friend, Zhu of Correr Es Mi Destino encouraged me to take part in this photography contest. Basically you share a photo that represents the colors blue, red, green, yellow and white. I decided to go through my photos from last year’s trip to El Salvador and see what I could find.

BLUE/AZUL

A sign on our way to Chalatenango to visit family.

RED/ROJO

This is my younger son eating a paleta while we wait for Carlos to finish paperwork at DUI Centro. In El Salvador, DUI doesn’t mean “Driving Under the Influence” – it means “Documento Único de Identidad” – it’s an ID card. Waiting at DUI Centro is kind of like waiting around the DMV, except family members aren’t allowed inside – possibly due to space limitations but the windows were tinted which made me think there might be other reasons. Also, before they give you your ID, you have to answer all kinds of questions, like whether you have tattoos. If they don’t believe you, they sometimes ask you to take off your shirt so they can check.

Anyhow, this paleta was really cheap – I can’t remember how much but I remember I bought a few paletas for my sons and our friends who had taken us to DUI Centro but it still didn’t add up to five dollars – and the smallest bill I had on me was a five dollar bill. The paleta man was very distraught and started asking random people if they had smaller bills so I could trade with them and so he could give me proper change. No one had change or at least no one wanted to get involved in the transaction. I told him it was no big deal and he could keep the change. Paleta man became even more distraught and when I refused extra popsicles, he ended up giving me tons of free napkins to make up for it.

Days later Carlos had a similar incident with a paleta man but this paleta man happily took the extra change, his eyes glistening with tears and said “God bless you” a half dozen times.

WHITE/BLANCO

This is Cine Libertad which is an old cinema that closed down.

YELLOW/AMARILLO

This is Teatro Nacional in San Salvador which is the oldest theater in Central America.

GREEN/VERDE

This is a “chucho aguacatero” (street dog) in San Salvador. He may have belonged to the owner of the food stall where he was hanging out or maybe he just found a good location for lunch.

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Here’s a bonus – in this music video by Salvadoran group Pescozada, you can see many San Salvador landmarks, including two places you see in my photographs above. Can you spot them?

Also, if you have more time, I encourage you to watch the beautiful short film, Cinema Libertad.

Want to post your own color-themed photos? Check out the original Capture the Colour Contest to find out how to participate. (August 29th, 2012 deadline.)

I’m supposed to tag five people to participate, (although anyone is welcome to play along!) Here are the five I’m choosing mostly based on who I think will have some awesome photos, (although if any of you don’t have time, no problem!)

1. Carrie of Bilingual in the Boonies
2. Ana and/or Roxana of SpanglishBaby
3. Aisha of Aisha Iqbal
4. Dariela of Mami Talks
5. Susan of Medina Adventures

Torta Estilo Parque Hula Hula

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!

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For today’s Spanish Friday I made a video in Spanish of a special sandwich I made. Since the video is in Spanish, I’ll explain here in English. Last year when we went to Parque Hula Hula in San Salvador, we stopped by some unnamed food stall and had a torta for lunch. Carlos and I have been unable to forget that delicious torta so this was my attempt to re-create it. Here’s the video and the recipe.

Torta Salvadoreña – Estilo Parque Hula Hula (Hula Hula Sandwich)

Ingredients:

bolillos or small French breads
butter
mayonnaise (I prefer lime-flavored mayo)
shredded cabbage (boiled until tender and drained)
shredded sandwich steak
mustard
ketchup
guacamol (recipe below)

#1. Cook meat in a frying pan. Add a little cooking oil if needed. Optional: Season with a little Worcestershire sauce & Goya Sazón Culantro y Achiote.

#2. Butter the bread and toast on both sides. Do this on a comal, griddle or frying pan.

#3. Spread mayonnaise on both open faces of the bread. Top with cooked sandwich steak.

#4. Top steak with shredded cabbage, then add ketchup, mustard and guacamol. Serve.

BONUS RECIPE (Fresh Guacamol for Sandwiches): To make guacamol, I put 1 avocado, a large spoonful of minced onion, a spoonful of mayonnaise, a few shakes of dried oregano, a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of fresh lime into a self-sealing plastic bag. Close the bag and massage the avocado until smooth and combined with other ingredients. Cut off the corner of the bag so the guacamol can be piped onto sandwiches.