This week we choose to learn about Guatemala. My dad visited there this past winter. He was with a group of doctors and other trained people who went to help and check on kids. I know the health care system is not the greatest in Guatemala. My dad really enjoyed his time there. He said the people were very friendly and the landscapes were beautiful.
The area that is now Guatemala was first inhabited by the Maya from as early as 2,000 BC. Tikal and El Mirador were two cities that held the center of this civilizations. This great power is thought to have collapsed around 900 AD because of drought and over population.
This territory was taken over by the Spanish in the 16th century along with much of South and Central America. They gained their independence in the 1800’s but have been ruled by dictators and dealt with political upset ever since. After 36 years of civil war, the UN helped Guatemala negotiate peace in 1996. They still struggle with a very corrupt political system even today.
With 54% of the population living in poverty it is one of the poorest countries in the Americas’s. Healthcare is lacking with the highest infant mortality rate and only 1 doctor for every 1,000 people.
The Maya were very advanced for their time. They were the first to recognize the concept of zero in mathematics. They had an advanced system of hieroglyphic writing but most of their texts were destroyed with the arrival of the Europeans. Their calendar was very sophisticated including fairly accurate lunar and solar cycles into their 360 day year.
Guatemala is located over the ‘ring of fire’ a circle of shifting tectonic plates that circles the world. This causes many mountains and volcanoes to form in this area over time. Their are 37 volcanoes here with 4 still active these days. This is also the home to many devastating earthquakes.
This is a nature made limestone bridge. It’s kind of like steps down,level to level with swimming areas throughout.
Antigua is a colonial Spanish city that still hold much of it’s original architecture. Several earthquakes over hundred of years have left parts of the city in ruins. Safer then Guatemala city, Antigua is a touristic center of operations and also holds great religious festivals.
This city is mostly known for its outside market twice a week. This is a great tourist spot with many handcrafts, weavings, pottery and other items to barter for.
Maya villages are still scattered throughout Guatemala today. Each village has a different pattern similar to tartan in Scotland. So you can tell where someone is from according to their clothes.
On the day of the dead, many go to the cemeteries to decorate the graves. They also fly bright, giant kites in a festival to symbolically communicate with the other world.
And that’s one thing you’ll notice as well. The clothes,the cemeteries, the markets, the ‘chicken buses.’ Everything is colorful in Guatemala!
So in our food focus this week, we ate: tamales
Guatemalans use a lot of corn, and masa (corn dough), beans and chilies in their food. The food was yummy and really filling.