Refugio del Quetzal

A birder’s delight, this Highlands sanctuary is home to an avian roster of more than 70 species A hidden gem of the Western Highlands, the Refugio del Quetzal (Quetzal Refuge) is an 8,000-square-kilometer sea of green that’s one of the few remaining habitats for Guatemala’s national symbol. Owned and managed by the nearby municipality of San Rafael Pie de la […]

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Shake Your Booty: Carnival in Mazatenango

There is the children’s parade in the morning, the parade of carnival floats, a horse parade and the wild nocturnal adult parade.

There are special moments when the sheer exuberance and joy of the human spirit, shining so brightly, transcend all the negative forces and we find ourselves walking on air! Another in a long list of Guatemala’s best-kept secrets is the fantastic annual Carnival of Mazatenango: an event virtually unknown to those outside the Pacific Coast region. I do not recommend […]

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Video: Tikal Solstice at the Mayan Rainforest

I expect this year’s Tikal Solstice to be an even bigger solstice, which will happen on December 22 at 05:30 a.m. Here’s a fragment about the Solstice from Wikipedia. Many cultures celebrate various combinations of the winter and summer solstices, the equinoxes, and the midpoints between them, leading to various holidays arising around these events. For the December solstice, Christmas […]

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Getting High in Ixchiguán

Like Shangri-La, the name beckons from the maps–enticing, mysterious and alluring: Ixchiguan! I had noticed the place many years ago, and I was always looking for someone who could tell me more about this far-flung outpost. Ask anyone on the street in La Antigua Guatemala if they know anything about Ixchiguan and 99-to-1 they will say that they’ve never heard […]

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RABIN AJAU UPDATE: A Princess is Crowned

Selected from a field of some 80 young Maya women, Rosa Lidia Aguaré Castro, from Santa Lucía La Reforma, Totonicapán, is the new Rabin Ajau (Daughter of the King) for 2011-2012. The highlight of the annual National Folkloric Festival in Cobán, the magical pageant was conducted July 30 at the sports stadium field house. In addition to heartfelt presentations by […]

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Unicorn Hunting

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive Oreophasis derbianus I reached for my cell phone to turn off the alarm: 12:30 a.m., time to get started. I lit the stove and put some water on for coffee. A few minutes later there was a knock on my […]

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Green Gospel

Forest and brush fires were blazing all around me during my recent expedition into the rainforest.

The tradition of slash-and-burn farming cannot continue text/photos by Thor Janson (www.bushmanollie.com) In Mesoamerica the end of the dry season—April and May—finds millions of campesino farmers busy practicing their age-old method of slash-and-burn agriculture. All the refuse on the fields is put to the torch, enriching the soil with mineral ash. This traditional method of farming is sustainable as long […]

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The Gallon Jug Rainforest

The ornate hawk-eagle, the most beautiful eagle on Earth

After an expedition to the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, I was returning to Guatemala recently only to be greeted at the border by a glitch in the system and a real-life Catch-22. A new regulation says foreign-plated vehicles have to stay out of Guatemala for 90 days while the driver is welcome to return. So, having some time on my […]

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Cobán’s Folkloric Festival

Contestants from the 2010 Rabin Ajau pageant in Cobán. (photo: Thor Janson)

In 1936 Cobán prospered greatly from coffee exports to Europe. A group of leading businessmen decided that it was time to organize a regional fair, and so the inaugural “Feria Departamental” was planned for the first week in August. As part of the event it was decided to elect two queens, one representing the European population and the other chosen […]

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Rabin Ajau: Daughter of the King

Contestants from last year’s Rabin Ajau. The focus of the pageant is on spiritual beauty, oratory and  cultural knowledge. Additional criteria include grace, charm, carriage, sincerity and intelligence.

Cobán’s annual festival includes a spectacular traditional pageant It was a cool July afternoon and the cheepy cheepy (misting rain) was refreshing the land when we arrived in Cobán, the capital of Alta Verapaz Department. The last week in July is when Cobán celebrates its annual festival with parades, rodeos, expositions, fairs and one of the most wonderful cultural events […]

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