Cardinal Red

Rojo (photo by Rudy A. Girón, courtesy of

Rojo (photo by Rudy A. Girón)

This rich red color cries out for attention, from ALTO signs to garden blossoms to a flag announcing fresh meat at the village butcher. No wonder that cardinal signs are used by the big cola companies, a big phone service and most market chains. Your assignment this month, however, is to spot more subtle touches of cardinal-red among the bright blues and greens and browns and whites of Guatemalan towns and farms.

Finding cardinal in the fruit and vegetable markets is easy: apples from the Highlands, red pepper and chili in baskets, fat radishes in neat pyramids. Cardinal coffee berries are mostly picked by now, but enough still dot the fincas to catch the eye of passers-by. Some huipil weavings, such as the woman’s blouses of Patzún, are dazzling cardinal red; other brocades from San Antonio Aguas Calientes weavers have more subtle touches of cardinal.

It’s in gardens and along roadsides that sprinkles of cardinal stand out. Actual cardinals flutter by year-around in the Petén jungles, and macaws preening in their cardinal feathers munch seeds in some hotel-garden cages. Cardinal poppies dot the highway from Mexico to Salvador, springing up in dirt patches from recent slides. Tanagers and woodpeckers flash their cardinal feathers as they take their morning splash in our fountain, while the neighbor’s poinsettias don’t realize that the holidays are over and continue their cardinal show against the white walls.

But the best displays of cardinal in February come in crayon Valentine drawings from a child, and in a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses from a lover. May you be fortunate enough to receive either or both this month in Guatemala!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.