I know we were only away for a little over a week, but it seriously felt like way longer than that. For some reason, our relatively short trip to Costa Rica and Guatemala felt gloriously long.
We totally relaxed in Costa Rica and kept a pretty slow, low-key pace, which is unusual for us. We only spent one day in San José and that was definitely enough. It’s not a very pretty city, but we did manage to find a few cool things, like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design and TEOR/éTica.
And we managed to catch one of the performances associated with San José’s International Festival of Arts, despite the fact that they switched the location at the last minute and we had to cab it all the way across the city to a huge park (La Sabana) where nobody had any idea where the performance we were interested in was taking place. After wandering around for close to an hour, we just happened to stumble upon it. And it was good that we did, because the show was absolutely fantastic! It was a theatrical dance performance entitled “Oxlaju B’aktun” by a group of Maya-Kaqchikel performers from Guatemala (Grupo Sotz’il). I didn’t understand a word of it, but it was powerful nonetheless. And, oddly enough, R and I both came away with the same basic storyline (a testament, I’m sure, to the choreography, acting, and costuming).
The next day we headed for the mountains (Santa Elena / Monteverde) to explore the cloud forest. We saw a fair bit of wildlife during our hikes (we did both day and night hikes). Most of what we saw was birds (toucans, song birds, hummingbirds, etc.), but we also few small mammals (kinkajus, agouti, monkeys). We didn’t see any sloths in the wild, much to my chagrin, but we did spot the elusive quetzal (a pair of them, actually), which more than made up for the lack of sloths. While in Monteverde we also did a tour of a small coffee and sugar cane farm, where we got to make our own candy out of the sugar cane juice and even tried some liquor made from the distilled outer fruity casing of the coffee berry. As my dad would say, that one would “put hair on your chest.”
From Monteverde we headed to Heredia, where R was participating in a conference. So while she worked, I had a day to myself. I joined up with a tour going to the Poas volcano and a few other locations, but Poas was really the main draw for me. Too bad though, because it was completely cloudy and I didn’t get to see the crater or the lagoon. Bah! I guess the up-side to that was that I really got to see the cloud forest in action (which, oddly enough, we didn’t see in Monteverde, as we had two very dry days there, without a hint of cloud).
After Costa Rica, we jetted over to Guatemala (to the capital) to visit with some of R’s family and take in the Huelga de Dolores. What an experience!
[Quick Huelga primer: It started in 1898 as a protest against the government of the day and has been held every year since then. The Huelga coincides with Lent, culminating in a march on the Friday before Good Friday (viernes de dolores). It criticizes and satirizes Guatemalan politics using a variety of forms of expression (e.g. songs, pamphlets, dances, etc.).]
We were there for the march (which lasts for HOURS…seriously, you’ve never been to a longer march) where all the faculties from the University of San Carlos march through downtown Guatemala City in costume, singing and dancing and carrying banners and floats. We also had the privilege of attending an event the night before the march known as Juebebes, which is put on by R’s aunt and uncle and the Huelga group (known as a “comparsa”) that they’ve performed with for years. The highlight of the night was when their comparsa performed several songs (popular songs whose lyrics had been changed to denounce various aspects of Guatemalan society and politics). My favourite, by far, was one called “Blackberry”, which was about the rampant violence plaguing the country (muggings, shootings, etc.) and was penned by two of R’s cousins.
And that’s it! As a souvenir, I brought back a case of laryngitis. Fun times.