|Beautiful Guatemalan Countryside|
Thirty seven years ago, my husband and I started our married life in Guatemala. After exchanging vows on May 31st, 1975, we arrived in Guatemala City four days later. Ed had a three month grant to study intestinal ailments at the capital city’s Roosevelt Hospital and I was ready to explore.
We often strolled to the central plaza, stopping on the return at open-aired markets. A neighborhood store named Tienda Mary, supplied fresh milk and cheese. And we enjoyed an occasional night out at one of the surprising number of international restaurants, German food being our favorite.
Most tourists were young and looking for a cheap place to travel. A few organized tours would include Antigua, the beautiful colonial former capital, Lake Atitlan, a volcanic mountain lake, and Tikal, a giant of a Maya ruin. The government was ruled by General Laugerus Garcias, a conservative Norwegian/Guatemalan while “narcotrafico” was not even a word. We thought the traditional garb of the indigenous tribes charming and were unaware of the internal war that was building for native rights. Guatemala simply enchanted us.
|McDonalds and Wendy's are popular with Guatemalans|
|View of Volcano from Antigua's City Hall|
Tourists to Guatemala have more than doubled in the last eight years, fueling 15% of the work force and one-fourth of the national GDP. Lodging has even become a problem in high season. NGOs are everywhere, helping women’s co-ops, building homes, and teaching business basics. Guatemala is now about 50% “evangelico” or protestant, resulting in a broader array of mission trips from the U.S.
Two changes were obvious. Roads were greatly improved. The Pan American highway is now a well-paved, four lane fare way, a far cry from the bumpy, two lane, shoulderless road of three decades ago. And cell phones are ubiquitous and cheap, thus enhancing options for small business owners and farmers and encouraging communication among rich and poor.
|Active Fuego Volcano near Antigua|
|Typical Guatemalan store with textile products|