Thursday, February 02, 2012

Stranger in strange lands - part two

I left Copán Ruinas for Antigua Guatemala early on Wednesday, January 25.

The ride in a shuttle van was pleasant and the roads were generally much better than those in Honduras, arriving in Antigua about noon.

I met a friend who works with the Alternatives for Violence Program and had some time to walk around Antigua.

Saskia had recommended visiting the convent of the Capuchin nuns. 

The church of the convento de las capuchinas

  Though much is in partial ruins, you can get an idea of the spaciousness of the place, a really quite nice cloister, a large church, and some beautiful statues. It was only open from 1736 to the 1773 earthquake that devastated the city. It seems to have housed between 25 and 28 contemplative Franciscan nuns of the Capuchin order.

The cloister of the convento de las capuchinas

The statues placed throughout the convent are amazing. My favorite statue was of a angel swinging a censor – offering a prayer of incense to the Lord. 

I only had an hour to visit and so may have missed some of the lower regions, though I did take this picture of an underground chamber which was probably meant to show how the nuns were laid out for burial.

In the underground of the convento de las capuchinas

Though Antigua has many beautiful ruins and lots of good restaurants, it felt a bit odd to me, even surreal.

The Jesuit church, at night.

Except for the time I spent waiting with Saskia in the central plaza, I felt as if I didn’t see a lot of Guatemalans, and few of them indigenous people. Maybe it was where I was staying and where I walked, but it seems as if Antigua is all too touristy, with lots of people from the US and Europe. (Antigua is noted for its many language schools, thus attracting a lot of foreigners.)

I am spoiled here in Santa Rosa de Copán, where there are very few “foreigners.” It’s also a smaller town and less touristy – though beautiful. It’s home.

The reality of the precariousness of life hit me the next day when I took a twelve hour shuttle to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, México.

On the way in the department of Huehuetenango I noticed a good number of handmade signs against mining. The problem of mining is serious in Guatemala with deaths and threats against those who oppose the mining companies (many of them from Canada). The church there has been very responsive to the threat.

Our territory is not for sale. No to mining. Tixel is present.

Only about twelve kilometers from the border we were stopped for about forty-five minutes. Before Christmas there had been a major landslide which destroyed a number of buildings. They were clearing it – a seriously difficult and dangerous process.

Landslide in western Guatemala

The precariousness of life here is a reality.

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