Central America | Guatemala | Central | Guatemala City – First Impressions
It wasn’t until I looked out the window during our descent and saw miles of lush, green mountains that my anxiety subsided, and I remembered why I had been inspired to make this trip. For those feelings of awe, wonder and excitement that I get whenever I travel to new places – unable to predict what specific adventures I’ll have, but knowing they await. I imagined, with that glance, all of the other beautiful sights I would experience during my travels in Latin America, starting first in Guatemala.
Of course, Guatemala City is not a city that generally inspires comments on its beauty. I have read and heard mostly negative descriptions – generally related to pollution, crowds, poverty and crime. I was lucky to have a native Guatemalan meeting me at the airport who could make me feel more comfortable during my first time in Guatemala City. I stayed with her family and then with her uncle’s family for two nights, and was fortunate to be fed and cared for, taken on a driving tour of Zona 1 (to see the national museum, president’s house, the central park, etc.), invited to Rosanna’s escuela to meet her 13 year old students and play football with them, and taken out dancing with her tio’s son, Marlon.
And yes, Guatemala City is … not.. pretty. It is loud and crowded and the poorest of the poor live in shanties made of corrugated metal precariously perched on mountainsides. My hostess’ apartment, although very clean and cozy, is located in an apartment complex that would most likely resemble ‘the projects’ in the U.S.A. And yet, everywhere I went, there were signs of beauty, often unexpected. Not just in the exuberant colors of the Mayan women’s dress, or in the patient Spanish lessons and laughter of Rosanna’s daughters. There are surprise gardens hidden everywhere. At Rosanna’s school – where the playground is surrounded by 10 foot walls lined with barbed wire, and the classrooms are dark boxes with one window – you are treated to a canopy of flowers and greenery as you walk on the pathway from the playground to the classrooms. The outside of the classrooms are painted with murals of children playing. It’s as if, even in a concrete desert, one can create an oasis.