28 Oct 2017. Antigua Guatemala
The cranky bit upfront: I booked the ship’s transportation because attempting to make 90+ minutes from the ship privately is just not that smart an idea. My issue is that “on my own” didn’t mean that I am left alone to read on the trip much less able to think my own thoughts. Oh, no there must be someone blatting on a poorly tuned microphone for the entire journey. I just was not in the mood. I wonder if I am the only one who would like to reserve a seat on a quiet bus?
Anyway, back to the old city. On the outskirts we transferred from the large coaches to smaller buses. Policy is that the large buses aren’t allowed in the city. In real terms, there is no way that such large vehicles could manage the narrow cobbled streets, much less navigate the corners.
Cobbles – ranks, rows. and round bumps set in dirt. Makes sense when you take into account all the active volcanos providing a free source of paving materials. The building style is obviously a blend of one story Spanish style architecture with an adobe chaser. Many of the buildings have low fired bricks as the main material before being covered then painted one of the five basic colors. There is white, dark red, yellow gold, light and medium blue. Actually, it might be only four with with the pale blue just being faded. Similar to Nicaragua, many of the stores and commercial locations have their names, services or goods displayed in paint on the building.
The big sales pitch here is for Jade. Given the tectonic activity in the area and being on the edge of the plate, Guatemala has jadeite deposits. Obviously this has provided a significant source of income in the modern era. The largest purveyor of Jade here has a huge store plus an open workshop and small museum. Besides listening to a looping video, I had the chance to chat with one of the volunteers at the welcome center. A retired cultural anthropology professor from the university of Iowa, her specialty is Meso-America which obviously includes tools and jade.
Also at the center was a woman engaged in back-strap weaving. The textiles so produced are distinctive as are the wooden flutes and percussion instruments. The people range from those with obvious Spanish in their backgrounds to those who are purely descended from the Mayans. But it really didn’t seem to make much of a difference when swarmed by hawkers. It reminded me of Africa, India, Egypt where white skin and height made for obviously targets. Never mind the backpacks, cameras or waist belts and lanyards which are the hallmarks of the clueless tourist. There was one beautiful piece which caught my eye. But it was not meant to be – someone else had purchased it by the time I wandered back to the Visitor’s center to await the bus.
At lease we had the good fortune NOT to have someone nattering all the way back to the ship.