Guatemala City is Guatemalan reality.
It is the village people (no, not the “Macho Man” kind…I think) that trek up here to make their fortune only to find that home felt so much better. It is the families who know that when the government runs out of room at the landfill they can set up a shantytown nearby. It is the juxtaposition of neon yearning for American luxuries without the cutthroat Donald Trump ambition to make such dreams an ever-present reality. A fast-paced city with an easygoing personality.
Social services are left to the government, because the NGOs are more inclined to rush off to beautiful Xela or mystical Tikal and set up camp. But how lovely it is to meet Albert Schweitzers of the non-Western variety! A Red Cross volunteer who trained her three teenage children in advanced first aid so they can help her teach classes on the weekends. A Nicaraguan nurse who came to Guate to help out and happily spent her souvenir money on a regulation uniform.
I loved Guatemala City more than any other place I visited in the country. There, I was not expected and catered to, but only a slight oddity. No children were kept out of school to give me puppy dog eyes in hopes of a few quetzals. The pirated CD stall owners never even gave me a second glance. I stayed there five days and made three new friends.
My advice: stay at La Pension Meza, an old haunt of Che Guevara’s, always eat chapin-style, and be sure to venture out to zona 12 (not for the faint of heart) and see what the organization UPAVIM is all about.
Happy trails! The Rough Guide to Guatemala is excellent, by the way, although not very well-stocked in American chain bookstores.over 5 years ago