Friends of Guatemala

Livingston, Guatemala
Livingston, Guatemala

Guatemala is quietly and unconventionally beautiful. She’s someone who wouldn’t strike your attention immediately when you walk into a room, but who you would only notice after absentmindedly scanning the room during a lull in the conversation. While everyone is busy drinking wine and cocktails and being charmed by France and Thailand, you tentatively approach Guatemala in the corner sipping on a cuba libre. She wears the brightest and most colorful clothes, hand stitched and adorned with flowers. She’s surprisingly witty and you find yourself enraptured in her company. It’s only when the music is switched off and the dim lights brighten that you realize you’ve stayed much longer than you intended to–it’s too easy to get caught up in Guatemala.

She introduces you to some of her friends. Antigua is an older lady aging gracefully with her partner Lorenzo. She has dark features inherited from her Spanish roots, and is wrapped up in multiple scarves that should all clash on your eyes, but somehow don’t. You can always hear her coming because all her bracelets jangle against each other on her wrists. Antigua is very sweet and demure, but possesses a quiet strength. Lorenzo is the opposite. He is big, loud and a complete firecracker. He calls himself an “unsung hero”, “robbed of the Nobel peace prize” and simultaneously, “the most dangerous man on earth” (for his knowledge of over 2,500 species of macadamia). Together in the 70s, they opened a Macadamia farm just outside of town known as Valhalla. It serves the fluffiest pancakes, slathered in creamy macadamia butter and homemade blueberry jam. They are truly, a one-of-a-kind couple, and some of the most interesting characters you’ll ever meet. Amongst weaving tall tales and cracking the dirtiest jokes, Lorenzo will look you dead in the eye and tell you seriously, “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala

San Marcos nods and adds, “Don’t live by anyone else’s rules. Just let go.” San Marcos has long flowing hair with dreads and a flower crown on top. He wears a long, loosefitting top and drawstring linen pants. Glow pois hang around his neck and you catch the crescent moon tattoo carved into his collarbone. He’s also talking to you from Eagle pose. He’s just returned from a life-changing cacau ceremony with Keith the resident Shaman, and offers you some psychic sourdough bread. Before you can answer, he politely excuses himself, as someone in need of some spiritual guidance is trying to FaceTime him.

Panajachel then jumps in to introduce himself and his friend Mike. They’re warm and friendly and love a good pun. Mike likes to crack the classic dad / Christmas cracker jokes that make you chuckle and cringe simultaneously. He owns the beloved Crossroads Cafe, and serves you a great cup of coffee from beans that he picked out himself. As you nurse your cup, you try to get a word out of San Juan, whose been standing with the group silently all along, nibbling on some cheese and wine, but who just smiles and nods politely to your questions.

You’re then gently pulled away and led by the elbow into a quiet room by Livingston. Livingston is very different from Guatemala’s other friends, with clear and deep Caribbean roots. She’s a large woman, jiggling slightly as she slowly sits you down in a chair that’s curiously in front of a large drum. There are lines of wear etched on her face, and you can tell she’s been through some rough times. But she stands proudly before you in her headscarf and you can also see she’s lived some wonderful and lively years. She announces to an empty room that she is a Garifuna artist, and begins beating the drums and crooning to you in your own private show. You’re surprised when other people emerge to join her, dancing to the rhythm of their own drum.

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