Guatemala Before The Glamour

Hello everyone! I am beyond pleased to announce that I have my very first guest blogger! Please put your hands together for Ms. Gaia Zol. *applause* 

Right, in all seriousness, I am thrilled that she approached me and wanted to contribute a story to MyOrdinaryLegend. I am so honored to have gotten to read her work (which is spectacular, especially when you know that English is not her native tongue), and I am stoked to introduce you to her voice.

If anyone is ever interested in writing a guest post, please feel free to reach out. I love seeing the world through others’ eyes!



By: Gaia Zol of The Whirl Gig

Volcanoes weren’t the only frame around the rooftops of Antigua. The dust, raised by the incessant construction, surrounded the houses. Workers turned streets upside down, the big holes stopped traffic, and the mazes of cobblestones hindered pedestrians. The noise of the drills mixed with the noises of everyday life, the bulldozers and the markets buzzing with people.

While the busy streets didn’t give repose from the chaos, the corners of courtyards and colorful stairways were peaceful; the water of fountains trickled. The walk to the Cerro de la Cruz became more and more silent, the noise of the drills fading with the altitude. In this silence, locals had planted crosses and incense.

From the top of the Cerro, the panorama showed a city that struggled to invent itself. The smoke of modern construction sites filled the air, mixing with the incense of ancient traditions. New buildings slowly raised themselves from the ground with the help of workers sweating under the heat, helmetless as they tirelessly pushed rusty wheelbarrows.

Next to the futuristic hotels stood the 16th century San Francisco Misson. Antigua seemed trapped in between eras. It strove to become modern and attractive as it continued to exist in a world of traditions and humble charm.



Italy’s universe seemed galaxies away and Chichicastenango only confirmed the feeling of being strangers. In 2002, tourists were a remote idea in the minds of the people whose city was a swirl of Mayan heritage and colorful markets. Surviving the present was more important.

In a dusty patch of land, locals traded pigs, passing the leashes from hand to hand, transferring from seller to buyer. People filled the steps of the Iglesia de Santo Tomas, which had become an open-air market. Women sold garments, men sat smoking, and mothers carried crying babies on their back and baskets of fruit in their arms.

Antigua’s chaotic metamorphosis didn’t apply to Chichicastenango, where the world was frozen. The busy construction workers were replaced with farmers tanned by labor and women whose long, colorful skirts protected them from the cold nights in the mountains.

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation" Isaiah 52:7 I shared this photo and others from our trip to Guatemala last week in our first posting to #takeheartmissions blog (see our @takeheartmissions profile for the link – and follow us on Instagram and our blog so you don't miss it!) Our Heavenly Father blesses each of us with gifts and opportunities to share His LOVE and LIGHT each day. This 80-year-old great-grandmother has no shoes and can no longer get out of her home because of her and her husband's physical ailments (he's blind and deaf) – but her WORDS and TOUCH still radiated her Heavenly Father's love to ME. She's homebound and fragile – but still here on this earth for a purpose…how about you? What is your gift or calling? Are you using it to have lasting impact? Maybe some days?…you don't have to go on a mission trip to do this….when we all work together with our gifts and our callings, some as hands and some as feet, some as ears, and some as arms, we can be the BODY of Christ. #Guatemala #missions #guatemalanmissions #feet #bodyofChrist #useyourgifts #followyourcalling #behislighttotheworld #bringgoodnews

A post shared by Take Heart Missions (@takeheartmissions) on

But the children were the out of place detail. The children never sat on the steps of churches nor stopped anywhere; the children were always moving. Working, as a matter of fact.

In Chichicastenango, the children sold garments, hawked fruit, and cooked tortillas on burning stoves. The children ran up and down the alleys of the indoor market, moving the goods from one stand to the other.

They came up to the few foreigners, trying to sell something always different, always unnecessary. Other children came to us empty handed, hoping someone would fill their pockets with money.



In a nameless village on the way to Lake Izabal, children were not at school although it was the middle of the morning mid-week. Their village looked like many others, filled with wooden huts, tin roofs and no sewage system.

Outside of the village, a kid carrying a large bag of wood on his shoulders bent under its weight. He couldn’t have been more than 10 years old; his face was dirty from the day’s work and he didn’t smile. Would he ever go to school? Certainly, he had no time to run around foreign vans.

Perhaps he was carrying the wood to Lake Izabal, where locals on boats, huts with thatched roofs, and clothes left to dry by the shore composed life on the lake. There weren’t any cruises sailing with loud music and cocktails, but only locals doing their best in the shade of the lush forest.

The Mayan citadel of Tikal was just as quiet as Lake Izabal, with few visitors at the campsite. From the tents and the hammocks, the Guatemalan forest whispered, surrounded by the silhouettes of the leaves and the blinking of the stars.

The Guatemalan world of tradition was one of Latino influences mixed with ancient Mayan rituals, and in Tikal they mixed ever deeper. The Maya became more than few paragraphs on a book: their heritage still lived in Guatemala.

The Maya lived on in the girls handing dolls and doing braids by the shores of Lake Atitlan. They lived on in the mothers with thick eyebrows and dark hair, watching the young women from the distance. The Mayan heritage lived in the short men with moustaches who ferried people (and a few Italian tourists) around the lake for a couple of quetzals.

Fifteen years ago, Guatemala wasn’t trendy. The rare tourists that came went to Lake Atitlan, they handed out few coins to the children, and then they headed to the beaches. They didn’t stop to give colored pencils to the children of a nameless village. They didn’t go home changed by the sad face of a ten-years old boy. But some people did and they never stopped wondering.


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