Welcome to our family blog!

We began in September 2010 by traveling a portion of the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route that leads to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago, Galicia, in the northwestern corner of Spain. The name of our blog is inspired by the camino, and we'll have many stories (cuentos) to tell! We spent 2010-2011 on an intentional international journey, living and working in Spanish-speaking countries. Since then, we are immersed back in our lives at home but will report on occasional openings and discoveries. Please join us!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arriving in Antigua

Well here we are in Antigua, Guatemala, which Laura correctly describes as Disneyworld for US progressives. Antigua is a lovely small city, a walkable size with an easy-to-navigate grid pattern. 
El Arco, Antigua
What we see today of the city was built by the Spanish in the 16th century, leaving an unusual number of gorgeous buildings, some well-kept and some in scenic ruins. The streets are almost entirely cobblestone, which serves to slow the traffic and presents a quaint appearance. (This element is not without danger, however: I fell last year on a large stray cobble and ended up with permanent nerve damage to a fingertip.) . In the distance are several huge conical volcanoes that let out a frequent Disney-like puff of smoke, but with no dangerous lava flows.
The many indigenous women who live in the city or in the outskirts wear gorgeous hand woven clothes with geometric designs and vibrant colors. Looking at them, one could almost forget the poverty and racism that they experience daily.
Yet the many social problems evident here in Guatemala  present deep challenges in every community, and impressive work is being undertaken by the hordes of progressive foreigners here. The coffee is fabulous, the restaurants are diverse and inexpensive. Flowers are blooming and music is playing. The question is: should we stay here?
It’s hard to imagine trading this in for a more rural location where the prospect of being held up at gunpoint is an ever-present danger. Tragically, the violence which never seems to leave Guatemala is on the rise recently, affected by worldwide recession and the drug wars spilling south from Mexico. We are not eager to have to worry about our personal safety, so we may just stay in this lovely place for our time here in Guatemala.
Besides being an absolutely beautiful city, Antigua is a great place to learn Spanish. Not least because Guatemalan Spanish is one of the purest accents around. There are more language schools than there are coffee shops, and that’s saying something. The block where our kids have enrolled has three different programs next door to each other, running a fierce rivalry with each other. We chose a non-profit school with a long history that focuses on uplifting Mayan languages. Its profitable and highly regarded Spanish language school finances its Mayan linguistic research. Mornings for school, afternoons for roaming around and getting situated. Next week we all start volunteering. I have found a great program that offers microfinance and business education to women, and the kids will start with a creative afterschool program in a neighboring village.

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