Be My Valentine

Antigua Guatemala Roses

Antigua Guatemala Roses

Our town of La Antigua and the Guatemalan Highlands send valentines to their lovers this month through each of the senses. Elegant long-stemmed red roses go out from local growers to all Europe and the Americas, and the roses not exported fill the markets for local romantics. Rich red bougainvillea vines spill over the white walls, dainty red fuchsia hang from baskets, elegant red primroses and more modest red geraniums border gardens. Along the highways, bright red achiote spikes—the annatto that brightens recipes—continue the seasonal scarlet. Watch for red from a few migrating cardinals flashing their feathers as they bathe in the fountains and for red robins visiting here from colder northlands.

Many indigenous costumes include bright red, cotton dyed from the cochineal insect once raised as a major export, the same dye used for the British Redcoats’ uniform. The sister towns of Patzún and Patzicía dazzle with brilliant reds on the women’s blouses in their outdoor marketplaces, well worthy of a stop just off the Pan American Highway winding into the Highlands.

Sweet scents of valentines come from the thick chocolate melting on the stove for a morning drink, and the sugary sweetness from cotton candy spun on antique machines at festivals. If it’s true that you best reach a man’s heart through his stomach, the smell and sizzling sounds of meat on the grill might please him even more than the chocolate savories.

Other sounds of the season come from romantic valentine chords strummed by a guitar player in a shadowed courtyard or the joyful music from a marimba band in the plaza. On the cobbled streets, hear the clop of hooves from horses pulling lovers’ carriages, and the tap of high heels as a beautiful woman bustles along a sidewalk; the quiet pase adelante welcome from the shopkeeper, and the gentle buen provecho wishes from the server.
And feel the warmth of the February sun, the soft breeze on your cheek. Another valentine for you, from Guatemala.

Enjoy the month, through all the senses.

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