Sensuous Guatemala: White

White flowers (photo: Jon Wilbrecht)

White flowers (photo: Jon Wilbrecht)

OK, so if you really must bring it up and insist on being scientific, white is officially an absence of color, and our editor wants these “sensuous” comments to be about Guatemala’s rich palette of all the colors in this land of rainbows. So maybe you’ll allow us to think of white as the framing for all our Central American colors, the whitewashed walls being necessary to set off the brick tones of the tiled roofs, needed to accent the bougainvillea reds spilling over their tops, to frame the lovers nestling at the gates. The bone-white facades of the churches serve as mattes for the gray saints in the niches and the worn brown doorways. The white foam of the breaking waves along our beaches frame the deep-blue Caribbean and Pacific waters beyond. White cottages on hillsides dot the greens and browns of the crops and the rich soil around them. Afternoon whitecaps on Lake Atitlán are warnings of rough sailing but are also touches of interest scattered atop the deepest blues of the great lake.

White frames the blue and the old-gold crest in the national flag, white feathers flash on our sea birds along the coasts, white doves nest in the nooks of the white cathedral ruins. White dresses adorn the brides heading to their afternoon weddings, lacy white shawls drape over the black hair of ladies in the markets, where white roses and white lilies stand out among all the floral colors. Out in the green fields, white herons pick at the earth for their meals, then float and swoop and playfully glide in formation to nest at sunset back in their favorite trees, right on time each evening.

Some of the ceremonies of the cofradía brotherhoods burn a special pitch for white smoke, while white robes cover Christian brothers and sisters and drape over the Christ figure in Easter Sunday processions of the Resurrection. White smoke puffs occasionally from the active volcanoes, steam replacing the usual black or red plumes.

And, of course, the full, white moon bathes the land in a special white light, when clouds allow the moonlight to break through and turn patios silvery-white.
And ah, those clouds! Gorgeous, puffy, white clouds, billowing up from the seacoast through the volcano passes some afternoons. Great stretches of feathery white clouds floating overhead. White thunderheads catch the midday sun, before their bottoms turn dark to refresh the earth with brief rains. Ever-changing clouds keep the tourist busy catching them in photos, and painters dabbing gobs of white on their canvases. So who says white’s not a color?


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