At Home in Guatemala City (?)

November 28, 2009

Guatemala City is an intense place to live. A Guatemalan man told me repeatedly that it is the third most dangerous city in the world, but the number two title alternated back and forth between Baghdad and Bogota, so I’m not convinced that it’s a scientific fact. Regardless, people believe it. This city has the feel of a place at war: pedestrians look over their shoulder with alarm whenever they hear a sound behind, security guards with rifles are stationed outside fast food restaurants and elementary schools, no one goes out at night. And razor wire is everywhere.

It’s also a city of extremes. Their is a sharp divide between the old center and the sprawling colonias, which were never fully rebuilt in the aftermath of the 1976 earthquake, and the new zones to the south, dominated by high-rise, American-style complexes that are home to the wealthy. The same extremes exist in the United States, but they are rarely so closely juxtaposed.

Notice that there is no one on the street. Outside a roughly six-block radius around the central plaza and market, this is normal.

 

Traffic was moving briskly on the Calle Martí- an unusual phenomenon.

 

Full body armor and a safari hat? If you love the absurd, you should come to Guatemala.

 

In the midst of this madness, I feel very lucky to have landed in a beautiful neighborhood just north of the center,  in a great apartment surrounded by bamboo. It’s in a compound set off the street, and when I’m inside I feel like I’m in The Secret Garden, minus the imperialist sub-plots. 

Avenida Simeon Cañas, One block from my apartment

 

 

 

Leaves, lime trees, and razor wire, inside my colonia

 

 

My fantastic roommate's fantastic cat. (I generally don't like cats.)

 

Nothing says "welcome home" like freshly-made tortilla soup. Come visit me and I'll make you some!

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