Knowing What You’re About

Mayan Barista Rocking the Cimbali Espresso Machine at Cafe Baviera, in Xela, Guatemala

Mayan Barista Rocking the Cimbali Espresso Machine at Cafe Baviera, in Xela, Guatemala

It was raining in Quetzaltenango, a city with a surprisingly cool climate in the land of eternal spring. Xela, as the locals refer to it by its pre-Spanish Mayan name, is Guatemala’s second largest city, and a gateway to the coffee country of the western highlands. My tribe — Dilnavaz, myself, and our three young boys — had been up since dawn to make the trip from Lake Atitlan to Xela. From the precarious wooden dock of Hotel Isla Verde, we had hailed a public lancha (canopied motorboat) to Panajachel. At the Pana docks we crammed our five bodies and five stuffed backpacks into a tuktuk, a Guatemalan rickshaw; ours as many others in Pana rested on a classic Indian Bajaj scooter chassis, which delighted Dilnavaz. The tuktuk dropped us at the perpetually frenetic intersection of the Calle Principal and Calle Santander, in the spiritual center of town. Four chicken buses and three hours later we stood literally outside the Xela city gates at an impromptu bus stand.

A young office worker was thumbing through text messages on his Claro network berry. He looked up as we tried to orient ourselves. I approached him and tried to articulate our wish to reach the central square, in my — for lack of a more precise term — charismatic Spanish. He pointed to a microbus, which naturally at that moment was roaring into gear and grudgingly rolling out of the dust and onto the main road.

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