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Anne Dalke's picture
This statue in the Parque Centro America, in the center of Xela, commemorates the work of a political activist, “the favorite daughter of Xelaju,” Elisa Molina de Stahl (Doña Elisa, as she is known here). According to my teacher, there was a great uproar in Xela when Rigoberto Minchú received the Nobel Peace prize; everyone in Xelu thought that it would have been more justly awarded to Doña Elisa (but had not been, because she was wealthy, and Minchú had suffered…)

Just a prelude to a collection of my favorite-so-far quotes (some of them are awful; all of them represent some puzzlement, some tension, between what we know-and-what-we-don’t):

From our orientation to the school:

“To kill the fish, you must take out the water” (Rios Montt’s argument for destroying villages, in order to stop the guerilla movement). From a conference on the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua: “It was prohibited to be young in Nicaragua at this time.”

“The people are never wrong. They just pass the bill.”

“We need to change the way that people just think just their own profit; ask instead how many people can benefit from this project.”

From a talk about “the rebel radio, La Vox Popular”: “We learned in the road as we went along.”

“I passed the test for for a strong voice: the voice of the guerilla.”

(On learning to read aloud:) “The meaning would lose itself without the pauses.”

“We had to think about different formats, since the problems remained the same. We had to change the program while saying the same thing.”

From Jeff: “The corn is higher than the houses.”

“I don’t think they have zoning laws in this country.”

From one of my teachers: “El matrimonio es el bano no se piensan.”
("Marriage is a (cold?) bath you haven’t thought about.”)
Guatemalan slang and sayings I found in a newspaper (literal meaning followed by interpretation…) El que entre la miel anda algo se le pega ("something sticks to those who walk in honey," or people take on the habits of those around them).

Lo que de noche se hace, de día aparece ("what is done in the night is discovered in the day," or secret deeds always come to light).

Llevar bien puestos los pantalones ("to have the pants firmly in place," or to be in charge).

Aplanar calles ("to flatten the streets," or to wander aimlessly).

Estar como los ocho cuartos ("to be like eight rooms" [=like a house chopped up into small spaces] or to be very angry).

And finally: the first paper I saw after we left Antigua, EntreMundos (Sept/Oct 2006), carried a story in it about Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which tickled me very much. (I think I got it translated more-or-less right.) It said that “According to many interpreters, Asteroid B-612 is the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, because it was there that the author recuperated after suffering an accident taking off in his airplane from Guatemala City on a trip to Nicaragua, after landing for fuel. It is said that it is Antigua, because it is the only city in the world with three volcanoes, two of them active, exactly the description of the asteroid. The rose of the same asteroid is probably an analogy with Antigua, described as the city of the rose.” I don’t know whether I believe this, but it makes for such a nice story!