Tecpan and Iximché

Tecpán - Rolling hills

Sometimes you just need to get away. I really don’t mind Guatemala City, but its nice to take a break from all the traffic and see some green countryside every now and then. After living in a place like Guate, I’ve really come to appreciate the value of green space – both to the human spirit and in dollars. Green is a luxury good, as Prof. Pollack might say. Any well-located, solid plot of green ground in the city is quickly purchased by a major developer who will quickly staple together an apartment complex or a compound of “American-Style” homes, which has lately been the trend. In our neighborhood I can count at least 5 new complexes currently being built. Unless you want to enjoy the grass in the median of Avenida LasTecpán - Farm on the way Americas or Boulevard Reforma on a Sunday afternoon, to find a clean green space where one can go with their family for a picnic, one must drive a little ways outside of the city. In addition to green space, clean air and streets are valuable goods. There is lots of littering, and lots of pollution happening around the city. My guess is that the government has bigger problems to worry about at the moment, such as murder, violence, and corruption; funds are diverted elsewhere.

Just a few weeks ago the United States launched the Cash for Clunkers campaign urging Americans to ditch their old gas-guzzling emissions-secreting hunks of junk for more efficient environmentally friendly cars. Do you know where those cars will end up? Here. Importing used, totaled cars is a huge business in Guate. Entrepreneurs buy ’em, repair ’em so they are road worthy, and sell them for a decent price. And you bet there are still problems with them — like that black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. The road is filled with clunkers here. But the truth is people in general can’t afford to purchase that new hybrid, nor  do they have the time and money to fix major problems with their current vehicle (although I see a disproportionate number of Hummers here…but this just speaks to inequality). But for the majority, better just is not an option.

And then there is the city noise…but enough explaination : sometimes I just like to get out of the city for some piece and fresh air…

Tecpán - Tree growing on top of ancient pyramidOn Saturday we took a trip outside the city. We traveled only an hour and a half away — through beautiful farmland and patchwork-adorned rolling hills — to a little pueblo named Tecpán. A little beyond the pueblo is the ancient Mayan city of Iximché (proounced eek-seem-shey) which is now a national reserve. The ruins are not very large, nothing to compare to Tikal — but the history is there nonetheless, and its interesting to walk around, learn what all the structures had been used for, and imagine the ancient people strolling around going about their daily lives.

And most of all, the park was clean and green and well cared for. There were many families there walking around enjoying the space just as we were, others had brought picnics and were grilling carne asada, and children were playing soccer and tenta electrica (literally “electric touch”, but it is what we call tag). There was even a group of boy scouts having some type of ceremony. It was a tranquil place, and the only noise you could hear were the gleeful shouts of children playing. What a nice break it was for us — we who live next to a 24/7 gas station with the noisiest carwash you’ve ever heard. Sometimes I don’t even realize how loud it is until it shuts off and my ears are ringing — as if I am attending a concert.

Tecpán - Flower in the field of ruinsWe walked around the ruins for a little while before we settled under a tree to just rest and watch. The sun was out, blazing hot, but we were safely sheltered by the tree. We were really lucky to catch a sunny day like this in the middle of the rainy season. We just laid there watching a group of indigenous kids playing a very complex version of tenta electrica for quite some time, enjoying the nature and the tranquility.

Tecpán - AlmuerzoBut then our stomachs began to rumble, and we proceeded to our next destination: lunch! Tecpán is esteemed for its restaurants. There are more than a dozen of them, all advertising carne asada, caldo de gallina criolla (a traditional chicken stew), mantequilla lavada and other fresh dairy products — loads of culinary treats you can’t find as fresh in the city. There are a few restaurants we really like, such as Katok and La Cabaña de Don Robert — but my favorite is Rincón Suizo. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when we come to Tecpán I cannot pass up the sausages. I even like the pork chops they serve here, and I don’t ever remembering enjoying pork chops. The meats are top of the line, fresh products from the surrounding countryside. Thats hard toTecpán - Rincón Suizo pass up. And the tortillas are made fresh, taken from the komal (cast-iron griddle over a wood-burning fire) seconds before brought to your table. The smell is intoxicating. Here the tortillas are made with yellow corn, versus the white corn tortillas we get in the city. They are different. Not necessarily better, but noticeably different. And because of the freshness, much more enjoyable.

Tecpán - ComidaWe ordered a typical Guatemalan lunch. Héc had pork chops with roasted cebollines in chimichurrie (green onions in a garlic-parsley-parmesean sauce) and Guacamol. I had chorizo and tortillas with guacamol on the side. We also ordered a portion of aged Chancol, a Swiss-style cheese made by people we distantly know, located in Nebaj at least 8 hours away on partially-unpaved roads. I’ve been dying to go there since I learned they had a little bed and breakfast. Plus cheese might be my favorite food. Anyway, in Tecpán we ate well and relaxed throughout the afternoon. It was a beautiful day up until we were within 30 minutes of the capital when it began to rain. And how refreshing it was to be cooled off by a summer shower after a long day in the sun. It truly was a perfect day.