Karate Kids in Church

People go to church for many reasons: to worship, to study scripture, to sing hymns, to seek healing, to earn a black belt in karate. Wait a minute—to earn a black belt? Now you have heard it all. Churches do some unchurchy things to help bring in money, like holding aerobics classes, bake sales and bingo nights. But karate? First […]

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50 Years of Divine Comedy in Guatemala

One summer in my adolescence, I went to the library and checked out Dante Alighieri’s voyage to the other side of the world, a trip that preceded that of Columbus by nearly two centuries. It was Dante’s imagination, rather than prevailing winds, that took him (and me) there. The trip, whose itinerary included Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, was a long […]

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“Mad Dog Writer” seeks that one special person. Is it you?

Sorry girls, but this is not a thousand-word personal ad dressed up as a column. That is bad news for all you babes who cannot resist hairless middle-aged nerds with mismatched socks and a history of unmedicated bipolarity. Instead, I am seeking one special person, not for romantic companionship but to satisfy my curiosity. This individual is not marked by […]

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Panajachel to Host the 18th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships

The following cities all have something in common: Sydney, Berlin, London, Toronto, New York, Barcelona, Zurich, San Francisco, Tokyo and Panajachel. Wait a minute—Panajachel? The commonality is that all of them, whether world-class metropolis or funky tourist burgs, have hosted, or will host, the prestigious Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC). This month, the event comes to Central America for the […]

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Dr. Lee Valenti 1928-2010

Dr. Lee Valenti

Dr. Lee Valenti, who like Huckleberry Finn fled from American consumerism’s attempts to “sivilize” her, has died in Panajachel. She was 82. 
The former literature professor left her job at New York’s Hoffstra University in 1975, after long involvement in anti-war, civil rights, and environmental movements. With her divorce complete and her children grown, she arrived in San Miguel Allende, […]

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Heart of the Forest

Corazón del Bosque (Heart of the Forest)

Showcases Mushrooms and Temescales If snack wrappers blemishing the Guatemalan countryside dishearten you, take heart. There are places you can go where litter is not only unseen, its demise is being plotted. They are snapshots of Guatemala’s glory before the modern container revolution. And, primero Dios, they are foretastes of the coming restoration of that glory. The revolution in question […]

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How I Got Gelded and Respected

We all recall that Rodney Dangerfield’s one-liner, “I get no respect,” became his middle name. His fans (including me) suspected that before turning pro, Rodney worked countless, tedious day jobs. But there was (and still is) something that any man can do to summon for himself beaucoup respect, one that will knock him on his back— somewhat literally. I refer […]

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Moulin Rouge — The Musical Comes to Panajachel

May 28 and 29 Vermonters Andy Hauty and Joby Dan’Sy, who brought A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Producers and West Side Story to Panajachel, are bringing this month their rendition of Moulin Rouge. The couple have pleased audiences of locals and weekenders for more than four years with their troupe, Atitlán Youth Theatre. Their productions blend modern dance and music […]

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The Objective Virtues of Guatemalan Coffee

One criticism of columnists is that too often, we cover old ground. When we run out of real ideas, we attempt to build bridges to Readerland on rainy, or writer’s-blocked, days with off-the-shelf topics. I have read more than one column about coffee, for instance. Everyone has experience with coffee, so it is as safe a topic as you can […]

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A Walking Tour of “Old” Panajachel

Panajachel is firstly a walking city. If you drive in it, you soon tire of the paucity of two-way streets. And every rocky contour of those streets registers on the pant-seat of every chicken-bus rider. Tuktuks look fun, until you actually ride in one. And much of Pana is not overly bike-friendly. So, unless pogo sticks catch on, feet remain the preferred vehicle.

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Charlie Brown in Santiago Atitlán

Or, How the Peanuts gang finds relief from the big northern syndicate this Christmas When I was a child, the holiday season’s shortest half-hour passed during the broadcast of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. That, and the other seasonal Peanuts specials, were always over too quickly. These cartoons enraptured everyone—even grownups who otherwise despised cartoons, like those vapid Flintstones. I might […]

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The Blooming of Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán by (photo by Harris & Goller)

Panajachel unites and digs with defiance In The Green Felt Jungle, the story is told of a dapper man in pinstripes who rides a Cadillac into Las Vegas one night, seeking the neonized excitement of that gilded city. But he finds little more than a dreary gas station. “Where is Las Vegas?” he asks the Navajo attendant. “Right here,” is […]

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The Guatemalan Hospitality Bug Bites All

In Guatemala, it is easier to “just drop in” on your friends than it would be in Minneapolis or Melbourne. One reason, I think (write me if you disagree) is that until the end of the previous century telephone calls were something you rarely tried at home. That was when Italy’s telecommunications monopoly brought Gua-temala’s system into the 20th and […]

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Why October 12 is Not “Colón Day”

I do not know how many of you in Readerland wonder why we say “Christopher Columbus” instead of Cristóbal Colón. But this time the wonderment comes from within this magazine. Our copy editor, Matt Bokor, has decided to flatter me by thinking I might be able to run with this question. OK, Matt — here goes. Maybe, among the group […]

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Would the Real Independence Day Please Stand Up?

Guatemala, El Salvador and their sisters did not win independence on Sept. 15 At our house in Panajachel, July 4 is Independence Day for two reasons. As citizens of the United States, my sons and I observe it in some fashion. But July 4 is also the day that my youngest, Aaron Donald Coop, marks his birthday. This was not […]

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Requisition-less Water

(l-r) Nutritionist, María Esmeralda Arriaga; Atitlán Rotary President, Fredy Lara; medical chief, Dr. Irene Quiejú; administrator, Victor García

Highland hospital slakes its thirst and reduces its paperwork—a need, discovered by accident, is met General Jack Ripper, the villain in Dr. Strangelove, uttered a single true statement during his long paranoiac rant. To Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, his hapless audience, Ripper rhetorically asked, “Did you know that 70 percent of you is water, Mandrake?” Consequently, the “purity of our […]

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Thomas Griffin

Thomas Griffin 1934 - 2009

Tom Griffin, Lake Atitlán’s resident Elvis impersonator and yodeler, has died.  The longtime resident of Santa Cruz la Laguna was 76.  He was born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas. Lake Atitlán expats called him “Mississippi Tom” to distinguish him from another Texan, also named Tom, and because he settled in Mississippi in the sixties after stints in harvesting wheat, […]

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Guatemala’s National Dish Revealed!

Twenty months after her first and, to date, sole visit to Guatemala, my niece Holly Myrick remains stricken by Guatemala. In March she did her seventh-grade country report, and she could have chosen any of Earth’s 197 sovereignties. Reader, you guessed it—she didn’t choose Djibouti. It helped to have a Guatemala expert (so reputed) in the family. Had I the […]

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6 Sky

6 Sky Art Exhibit

The Legacy of Mesoamerican Astronomical Knowledge Art Exhibit: July 22-28, The Galería, Panajachel, Lake Atitlán Astronomy, mythology, the calendar and the spirit world were all of extreme importance to the ancient Mesoamericans. Artist-scholar Dave Schaefer renders these themes in multiple sets of dimensions this month in Panajachel, Lake Atitlán. Some of his images are realized with acrylic on canvas; others […]

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Some Guatemalan Cultural Firsts

Guatemala is home to many surprising precedents, for better or worse. Guatemala is the oldest country in the Americas, though not the oldest republic. Civilization, kindled here some 43 centuries ago, is Guatemala’s loftiest precedent. Ancient Guatemalans were the first peoples in the Americas known to engineer a sophisticated water-pressure system. They may have been the first in the world […]

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Spectacular, Accessible Iximché Beckons

Iximché photo by Freddy Murphy/www.freddymurphy.com

From Kings to Conquerors, and Proconsuls to Presidents—all have trod here, leaving something and taking something. Most travelers whiz through Tecpán at white-knuckling speed on their way to Lake Atitlán or Quetzaltenango. Some slow down a bit to admire the towering thatches of the Katok and Kape Paulinos restaurants, which form a pastoral skyline. Still others stop for gas or […]

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