Culture

This Ancient Town Is Proving To The World That We Need To Add Guatemala To Our Bucket List ASAP

With its stunning architecture and wild natural setting, this former colonial capital is among Central America’s must-visit destinations.

Nestled in the forested hills of southern Guatemala, the small city of Antigua was once the most prominent seat of Spanish colonial government between Mexico City and Lima, Peru. Founded in the early 16th century, it served as Guatemala’s capital for almost 300 years, until 1773, when it was abandoned by crown officials following a series of devastating volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods.

In the mid-1800s, agriculturists took note of Antigua’s rich volcanic soils, and the city thrived once again, as a center of coffee and grain production. It was during this period that its canary-colored Santa Catalina Arch, built in 1694 as a walkway for nuns, received its domed clock tower, becoming Antigua’s most iconic monument.

In 1979, Unesco designated Antigua a World Heritage Site, ensuring the protection of its architectural and cultural legacy.

Credit: @RootAdventures / Twitter

Now, the city’s cobbled streets – arranged in an easy-to-navigate grid, with views of the stunning Volcán de Agua to the south and the twin peaks of Volcán de Fuego and Acatenango to the west – are lined with farm-to-table restaurants, contemporary art galleries and design studios.

Beyond the city’s lush Parque Central, these new additions are taking root near 17th- and 18th- century buildings – such as Las Capuchinas, a former convent that is now a colonial-era art museum.

The Santa Catalina arch is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

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Antigua is well known for its rich colonial history and cultural attractions, but none are so iconic as the Santa Catalina Arch. Standing above the cobbled streets and in front of the hulking Volcán de Agua, this saffron-yellow arch has become the symbol of Antigua and the central image on most postcards.

To critics, it might just be another arch, but to locals, it represents the resilience of the city and a history that spans four centuries.

The city’s amazing architecture is only beat out by the city’s dedication to beautiful handmade textiles.

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Made using natural dyeing techniques and sold at workshops and bustling open-air markets across the city, fabrics, and textiles are a must-buy souvenir.

The entire region surrounding Antigua is also a hub of coffee production.

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Guatemala is known around the world for its great coffees and at Finca La Azotea, which has been producing coffee since 1883, visitors can learn more about one of Antigua’s most valuable exports.

During a tour of the property, which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, coffee enthusiasts can see how the raw fruit – which grows in dense, shaded rows of trees – is cultivated, harvested and processed. A portion of the plantation’s profits benefits local education programs focused on the preservation of the environment and Guatemalan culture.

And some of the world’s best chocolates come from Guatemala.

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For chocolate lovers, Guatemala is a sweet place to be.

This is especially true in Antigua, where chocoholics can try chocolate bars, amazing truffles and liquor-filled bonbons. The city is full of artisanal sweet shops.

And as if this weren’t enough to tempt a sweet tooth, Antigua boasts its own chocolate museum. In addition to producing edible cacao products, the ChocoMuseo educates the public about the entire chocolate-making process through interactive workshops, beautifully crafted exhibits and entertaining tours.

The city is surrounded by jaw-droppingly beautiful volcanoes.

Credit: tripstipsguatemala / Instagram

As Antigua is known for its volcanic activity, it would be a mistake not to climb one. Pacaya is the easiest, and you’ll still get the excitement of seeing lava spew from the volcano’s mouth, as well as getting the opportunity to buy lava jewelry from the isolated gift shop near the summit.

And if you want to explore a bit more, Antigua isn’t too far from Lake Atitlan.

Credit: bosel_guate / Instagram

A side trip to the magical, mysterious Lake Atitlán may seem like a long way, but the enchanting beauty of the water, which sits in a volcanic crater, is well worth it. It’s about 2½ hours by shuttle bus or you can catch the local “chicken bus” from the bus station at Calle Principal.

There are more than a dozen Mayan villages to stay in, but your best bet is Panajachel, a bohemian haven. It’s big enough to provide everything a visitor needs, but not so big that you can’t experience local culture.

With its towering volcanoes (accessible by challenging day hikes), booming coffee scene and bevy of boutique hotels, Antigua is quickly garnering appeal as one of the most enticing cities in Central America.

Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

Entertainment

Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

José / YQstudioLLC

Award-winning Guatemalan film ‘José’ is about to make its US theatrical premiere in L.A. and New York. But thanks to US travel restrictions, its leading actor Enrique Salenic won’t be allowed to enter the country for the film’s release.

The Guatemalan actor is the star of the award-winning film “José”

“José,” directed by Chinese-born American filmmaker Li Cheng, won multiple awards internationally during the international film festival season in 2018-2019, including the prestigious Queer Lion award at the 75th Venice Film Festival.

Guatemalan actor Enrique Salanic has been blocked from entering the United States ahead of the U.S. premiere of the film in which he is the star.

The fast-rising, U.S.-educated actor earned strong reviews for his lead performance in the Venice 2018 premiere as an impoverished 19-year-old gay man who lives with his mother and falls in love for the first time. 

Made in a neorealist cinematic tradition, the film is described in a press release as “a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.” 

‘José’ follows the eponymous character of the film, a closeted 19-year-old who lives an impoverished life with his mother, a street vendor, in Guatemala City. Guatemala, and most of Latin America for that matter, is a place dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religious values. When he meets an attractive migrant from the Caribbean coast, he finds himself falling in love for the first time; the relationship pushes him to rethink his repressed life, and before long he is contemplating a drastic change that will require a leap of faith he is still reluctant to take.

The film premiered in New York on Jan. 31.

And it’s premiered in Los Angeles one week later. Salanic has traveled widely in support of “José,” attending the Lido and festivals in Spain and Panama but the U.S. appears to be a step too far.

The U.S. embassy rejected his visa application twice. 

Efforts to bring Salanic to the U.S. have proved fruitless after the U.S. embassy in the Central American country rejected his non-immigrant visa applications. The embassy argued Salanic, who lives with his parents in Guatemala, could be a flight risk were he to enter the U.S. as he does not have a residence in Guatemala.

The premiere should have been a celebratory occasion for the film’s star.

The young newcomer named Enrique Salanic, should be celebrating the great success of his debut appearance. But instead it has become a senseless bureaucratic nightmare, the latest demonstration on the world stage of the current draconian stance on immigration and travel.

The actor’s first application was denied in November.

Salanic’s first visa application was made in November according to Paul Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures; the embassy rejected it, arguing that Salanic could be a flight risk if he were to enter the US. 

Hudson then sought the aid of Congressman Ted Lieu.

Congressman Lieu, wrote a personal letter on behalf of the young actor which was submitted with a second application. That request was also denied, with no apparent consideration of the congressman’s letter. According to Screen Daily, a copy of the embassy’s original rejection letter states that a requirement of a successful visa application is a residence in a foreign country which the applicant “has no intention of abandoning,” before going on to write, “You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, had something to say.

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#Repost @jose_movie • • • • • • OCTOBER premieres > PHILIPPINES > MEXICO > DENMARK > GERMANY > (SINGAPORE cancelled: gov’t censorship) + USA festivals > Tampa FL > Seattle WA > Rochester NY > Duke University / UNC Chapel Hill NC ver/see trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs Venice film festival Queer Lion award + best film in Boston, Mumbai, Honolulu – "festival favorite" premieres: 35+ countries Guatemalteco cast + crew – CDMX post-production sigue a Jose y comparte con tus amigos: detalles completos que se publicarán pronto: peli en español ‘José’, una historia épica de amor en Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/y6rr4gub confident visual sense.. tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained.. powerful performances.. unsentimental yet deeply affecting: "best film"+ "best script" (160 films from 43 countries) – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling and honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston Enrique Salanic: Jose, Herrera LK: Luis, Ana Cecilia Mota Chavarria: Jose’s Mom among the most violent countries, yet ‘José’ is a tender look at love in Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/yxdhmdme gay, indigenous, resistant: https://tinyurl.com/yxw28dmo BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while "Jose" is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% – https://tinyurl.com/yy4ycq2n Outsider Pictures North American distribution + world sales @outsiderpictures Rediance int'l festivals Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival @tiglff Portland Queer Film Festival @pdxqueerfilm Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage Hamburg | International Queer Film Festival ImageOut Seattle Queer Film Festival @imageoutfilmfest QCinema Cuorum Morelia Reel Pride AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center Cine+Mas SF / San Francisco Latino Film Festival Cinema Queer @diasdecine #josethemovie #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovie

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“Denying Enrique Salanic his entry visa to promote his work in a film produced, financed and distributed by American citizens and companies represents just one way in which the current administration’s immigration rules impact U.S. businesses, and it perpetuates the negative impression the world has of America. Denying entry to a man who has already successfully studied in the U.S. just because he is from Guatemala is unjust and cruel,” Outsider Pictures’ Paul Hudson told The Wrap.

Robert Rosenberg of Outsider Pictures also had an issue with the rejection of Salanic’s entry visa. 

“It broke my heart that such a talented young actor like Enrique, who is the star of our movie, is being thwarted in pursuing his career by our own government in the U.S.,” Rosenberg told The Wrap. “Our policies should encourage this kind of ambition and success, not trap Central Americans in their countries, as if they were less than human.”

In a statement on the creation of the film, director Li Cheng discussed the movie’s cultural relevance.

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Busy week! Come see the movie JOSE now in Seattle USA, Hamburg Germany, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines, Rochester NY, Morelia, MEXICO! JOSE is the Queer Lion winner in Venice film festival. Find out why it's called "brutally authentic," "a form of resistance", See information below: FOLLOW & SHARE! Jose is the non-industry film that beat Oscar-winner THE FAVOURITE and SUSPIRIA and other films to win Queer Lion, It is an art-film from Guatemala: reflecting realities, it features a lower-class non-white protagonist HAMBURG GERMANY @lsfhamburg_iqff Thu 17-Oct 8pm – Metropolis Kino tickets: https://www.lsf-hamburg.de/pages/timetable-2019?locale=en SEATTLE, USA: – first showing sold out this is the last showing tickets still available now @threedollarbillcinema Thur 17-Oct 7pm – Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Center tickets: https://tinyurl.com/y5sxk9of QUEZON CITY, MANILA, PHILLIPPINES Sat 19-Oct 9pm – Galleria 3 Mon 21-Oct 9pm – Gateway 6 @qcinemaph tickets: https://qcinema.ph/venues ROCHESTER NY, USA @imageoutfilmfest Sat 19-Oct 1:15pm – Dryden Theatre, Eastman Museum tix https://festival.imageout.org/2019/tickets/how-to-buy/ MORELIA, Mexico @cuorummorelia función gratis con invitación – preguntas: comunicacion@moreliaprograma.com Jueves 24-OCT 15H / 3pm – Centro Cultural Clavijero trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs confident visual sense tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained, powerful performances, unsentimental yet deeply affecting: winner of TOP AWARD – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling, honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while JOSE is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% Outsider Pictures N America distribution + world sales Rediance int'l festivals Photo @marcoviscastudio #josethemovie #josemovie #josefilm #josepelicula #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovies #qcinema2019

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“‘José’ is really a page ripped from today’s news headlines,” he said. “The crises of young people, single mothers and dark-skinned peoples in Guatemala frames the film’s story. Guatemala has become an increasingly violent and dangerous place, where more than half the people live in poverty. Indeed most of the children separated from their parents and locked in dog-like cages in Texas (shocking people around the world) are Guatemalan, not Mexican, as is often claimed.”

READ: Go Guatemala! You’re Finally on Your Way to the Oscars

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

Things That Matter

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative