Photographing the Mayor of Antigua, President of Guatemala and President of Taiwan on Arc Street, then feeling like paparazzi as I was almost trampled by Taiwanese journalists.Hiking up Pacaya Volcano, frequently having to stop and take breaks so I wouldn’t shit my pants, then roasting colorful marshmallows over the volcano with sticks we found.
Which images of Guatemala symbolize my new understanding of Guatemalan cultura. Hmm.Well there are the things you might expect. The cobblestone streets of Antigua, because pavement is expensive. The face of Felix the coffee farmer, darkened by long hours in the harsh sunlight. The beautiful landscape of Hobbitenango, the Lord-of-the-Rings themed hotel and restaurant. The colorful chicken busses on every other corner.
Okay, maybe that headline is a little dramatic. But that’s what it felt like as I was lounging in my hammock in San Pedro La Laguna, overlooking Lake Atitlan. That’s what it felt like as I was receiving snapchats from my friends driving to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
There are two moments from my time in Guatemala that I will hold on to forever. The first was when we met JP Fuentes, the head of Los Patojos. As he told us about his story and how he ran away from everything only to come back and start this school, I was struck by his passion and compassion for his hometown.
Guatemala seemed more familiar to me than most of the places I’ve been to in the United States. I felt more at home in the climate, on the dusty streets, and with the brown-skinned people. I grew up in the Philippines, which was once a colony of Spain, and I found that Guatemala was very similar to the Philippines.
I walk into the market with my mind barred and alert, trying to avoid sensory overload. People trickle like a river and we seem to be walking into them like salmon. I hold my camera, itching for a moment to use it.“That sign says to watch your belongings,” Josiah says. Now I am gripping my camera less for use, more for security.
Through the window of the car, I could see the maize fields go on to what felt like forever. I was trying to see my country through their eyes. Mattie and Alayna were beside me, soaking a new facet of Guatemala, different from touristic Antigua.
Vanessa and I met over a year ago. I met her at a conference where she was selling garments, and we just got along. I bombarded her with many questions about textiles and she politely and enthusiastically responded to my strange interrogation. I didn't know if she was going to remember me when I contacted her a few days ago, but she did.
I am awful at keeping connected to social media. I have many friends all around the world, but I rarely keep in contact with them. The only way I remember to message them is when I get notifications on my phone. This caused me to be even more disconnected in Guatemala than I usually am.
He smiles at me every time I glance at him, but I try not to look too often. I avoid pointing my camera at him. The idea seems uncivil. I am not here to photograph his arm that he clutches toward him or his hand that dangles at the wrist, the wheelchair that he leans against or his tongue that pops out every now and again.
With each step, I knew I was entering a different world: the world of the park. Each stranger passing by glanced, but most stared uncontrollably. I quickly realized how prominently I stood out as a foreigner. Majority of the Guatemalans at Central Park where locals targeting tourists, such as myself.
My chest tightened as I fought for each breath, climbing up the precipitous, rocky slope of the active Pacaya Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala. Not only did my chest tighten with each step, but my breathing grew louder and heavier as I inhaled dirt and volcanic ash.
Walking out of the brown wooden door of Hotel Quinta de las Flores I begin walking towards Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala. Every once in awhile nervously looking up from the uneven cobblestone ground to see the colorful architecture, businesses and people surrounding me.
Carlo Holmberg sticks out like a street performer in the middle of Antigua’s Central Park. He sports maroon cargo shorts while they sport black dress pants. He’s dressed in a beige, baggy v-neck, while they’re dressed in tailored sports jackets.
Day one in Antigua, Guatemala. Our team, the Spicy Iguanas, had just met our fourth member, Chantal Soldini, who took us out to lunch. Numerous lighthearted anecdotes about cultural idiosyncrasies quickly transpired over filling Middle-Eastern food and ginger ale.