Monday, October 24, 2011

Guatemala’s Lost Photographs (en Inglés y Español)

I helped fund this project on Kickstarter is such a marvelous way to help so many worthy projects... what a wonderful idea, and such a necessary book. I am very glad I came here to Guatemala in a time of peace. We are so lucky that we have lived in the United States in a time of peace. I hope I can help with the recovery still going on now. English & Spanish translation below. Catherine Todd

From: Kara Andrade kara.andrade (at)
To: futuroscolectivos (at)
Date: October 24, 2011 

Dear Futuros Colectivos friends,

I hope you are all well! In my continuing effort to support projects that will help me understand the Guatemala my mother and I left when I was a child, I am teaming up with photographer Jean-Marie Simon to help her publish her photographs from the 1980s, one of the bloodiest period of Guatemala's civil war.  Jean-Marie was one of the few people at the time taking pictures of the violence, the army garrisons, the guerrillas and their encampments, the empty villages, the dead and displaced people. Little did she know that with every photo she was creating a historical memory of the armed conflict from a period in Guatemala’s history that many would not talk about, many still do not acknowledge -- and those who remember are still, thirty years later, reluctant to discuss.

When the Spanish edition of Jean-Marie Simon's book "Guatemala: Eterna Primavera, Eternal Tiranía" sold out in 2010, she invested the proceeds in a new, popular edition with more than 200 color photos. She wanted to ensure this edition would reach Guatemala’s remote rural communities, and that teachers knew how to use the book effectively at the elementary, secondary and university levels. In many of these communities it would be their only source of written historical memory of an era that is seldom seen in textbooks or spoken about in schools. She is underwriting this affordable color photo book for Guatemalans who cannot afford the previous coffee table edition, and  donating 1,000 copies – 25 percent of the 4,000 print run – to public schools and universities including those in the most remote areas of Guatemala.

This popular edition will be published in November and with your help we're going to make sure it's done well. While the book’s basic costs are funded, we need additional resources such as a sewn binding for the books to guarantee durability and the cost of digitizing the Kodachrome transparencies in order to include 100 color photographs that have never been published in previous editions. We're also paying local staff to design, proofread and print the book.

To show your support donate to
our Kickstarter campaign.

You can also tell your friends, colleagues and contacts who are interested in Guatemala's history. These published images can help the new generations of Guatemalans become informed citizens – making current decisions about their country's future from a place of knowing their country's past. To see some of the images click here.

Thank you for your help and interest.

Kara Andrade 

--- Translation:

Estimados de Futuros Colectivos,

Espero que estén todos bien! Quería compartir una campaña estamos trabajando en que se alinea con muchos de los valores que todos compartimos.

Estoy colaborando con la fotógrafo Jean-Marie Simon para ayudarla a publicar sus fotografías de la década de 1980, uno de los período más sangriento de la guerra civil de Guatemala. Cuando ella llegó a Guatemala en los años 80, llegué como voluntaria de Amnistía Internacional, documentando las violaciones a los derechos humanos en Nebaj, parte de los pueblos Mayas y área rural del triángulo Ixil guatemalteco.  Llegué mientras muchas personas huían del país – huían del comienzo de tres décadas de guerra civil, desapariciones, asesinatos masivos y la política de tierras quemadas que arrasó con las vidas y pueblos de miles de personas indígenas.  Jean-Marie fue una de las pocas personas de aquella época que tomaba fotos de la violencia, de la guarnición del ejército, la guerrilla y sus campamentos, los pueblos vacíos, las personas muertas y desplazadas.  Con cada fotos ella estaba creando una memoria histórica del conflicto armado, pero eso no lo sabía,  en un período de la historia de Guatemala del que muchas personas aún no hablan, muchos aún no reconoces – y aquellos quienes lo recuerdan aún, treinta años más tarde, se muestran renuentes a discutirlo.

Sus fotografías de la guerra civil de Guatemala fueron publicadas por primera vez como “Guatemala: Eterna Primavera Eterna Tiranía” (WW Norton). El libro vendió 20,000 copias.   Las imágenes del libro forman el único conjunto fotográfico completo de ese período de la historia de Guatemala.  En el 2010, publicó la versión en español del mismo libro, en Guatemala, y estuvo en el primer lugar de los más vendidos, se agotó en seis meses.

En noviembre publicaré una nueva versión estudiantil de su libro con el fin de enseñar a los escolares guatemaltecos acerca de la guerra de una forma más visual.  Hay una gran necesidad de distribuir este libro en Guatemala, especialmente a niños de edad escolar quienes tienen poca información sobre la guerra. 

La necesidad de un libro fotográfico para lograr este objetivo tiene una urgencia especial en Guatemala, donde 70 por ciento de la población rural es analfabeta o semi-alfabeta y donde el predominio de las lenguas mayas suma un reto en la distribución de información.  La fotografía rompe las barreras lingüísticas y de la pobreza.  El financiamiento será invertido en la publicación y distribución del libro para cubrir los costos de impresión, para crear guías para los maestros, paquetes de prensa, y fondos para viajar y llevar el libro a las áreas rurales de Guatemala donde su necesidad es mayor.

Este es el único libro de fotografías que cubre la guerra brutal de Guatemala.  Es muy importante que los pueblos que más lo necesitan tengan acceso a él y que las personas lo utilicen como un recurso al enseñar la historia del conflicto armado guatemalteco.

Para mostrar su apoyo a nuestra campaña haga clic en Kickstarter.

También puede compartir con sus amigos, colegas y contactos que estén interesados ​​en la historia de Guatemala. Estas imágenes publicadas pueden ayudar que las nuevas generaciones de guatemaltecos se conviertan en ciudadanos informados y tomar decisiones actuales sobre el futuro de su país desde un lugar de conocer el pasado de su país.

Para ver algunas de las imágenes haga clic aquí.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guatemala: Finding peace in the volcano’s shadow

Reposted from Telegraph Travel, UK:

Guatemala: Finding peace in the volcano’s shadow

Antigua is fascinating, but Lake Atitlán really is too much of a good thing, finds Rhymer Rigby.

Guatemala: Finding peace in the volcano's shadow
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Atitlán's famed clarity means the swimming is great. There's also a bit of a hippie vibe 
Antigua is a great place to wake up. We’d arrived in the middle of the night after 20 hours of planes, stopovers and cabs with two small children. But when I stumbled, jet-lagged, onto our balcony it was all worth it. The red-tiled roofs of a beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city, punctuated by flowering trees and church bell-towers, stretched to the base of a giant conical volcano. And it was warm and sunny, but pleasantly so, as Antigua’s altitude cools the steam-bath heat of the tropics.
This Guatemalan town is cute and knows it, but it’s none the worse for this. Paradoxically, the city owes its remarkable state of preservation to the destructive power of the spectacular volcanoes around it. The Spanish built it as their third Central American capital in 1543, when it went by the name of La muy Noble y muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemala. For centuries it was Central America’s most powerful city, something to which the grand civic buildings and elegant private houses bear witness.
But the area was very geologically active and, after a particularly destructive earthquake in 1773, Antigua was evacuated and the capital moved to Guatemala City. Antigua was never really abandoned but its relegation meant that, the odd earthquake notwithstanding, it retained its 18th-century charm while Guatemala City became an unlovely and unsafe urban sprawl.
Antigua’s geological instability has also resulted in an extraordinary vernacular architecture. Buildings, although recognisably Spanish in design, are low and massive. Single-storey walls are 3ft thick and columns barely 10ft high have the same diameter as those holding up the portico at the British Museum.
The town’s numerous churches are often better appreciated from outside; they’ve been shaken to pieces by earthquakes so many times they tend to be rather plain within. But, many of the humbler buildings such as restaurants and hotels have beautiful, shady courtyards in which to escape the mid-day sun. Antigua is in some ways a bit like Bath or Cambridge – the fabric of the city is the attraction and it’s best seen by walking around.
Neverthless, by day three, we felt we needed to stretch our legs a little more so we booked a day trip to the nearby Pacaya volcano. In years past, you could walk right up to streams of red-hot lava, but the 2010 eruption changed that. Although we couldn’t actually see molten rock, it was gratifyingly volcanic.

We watched smoke belch and rumble out of a crater that looked like an entrance to the underworld, walked across a blackened landscape where the ground was warm to the touch and sweated in a cave dubbed “the natural sauna”.

After four days in Antigua, we headed up to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala’s geological show- stopper. We passed some pretty scenery on the way, but nothing prepares you for the lake. As a scenic set-piece, it is astonishing. When he visited the area in 1933, Aldous Huxley wrote: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” He wasn’t exaggerating.

To appreciate the lake you need to get out of its biggest town, Panajachel. We picked up a water taxi at the docks and headed to Santa Cruz, which is everything a lakeside hamlet should be. Here, stretched along a couple of miles of shoreline, are perhaps a dozen hotels, all small and charming, with manicured gardens running down to the lake.

Atitlán’s famed clarity means the swimming is great. There’s also a bit of a hippie vibe. Quite a few foreigners discovered Atitlán in the Sixties and Seventies and our hotel was also a yoga retreat.

Our lakeside routine involved a fruity breakfast, a little swimming and perhaps a walk along the wooded shoreline. If we found this too taxing, we’d soak in the hot tub; in volcanic Guatemala, these are something of a national obsession.

The scenery is stunning and occasionally surprising. Walking along the lake at sunset one day, I could see what looked like a bush fire. But a local man told me, no, it was volcanic steam or smoke venting. Hardly surprising: although the last major eruption was in the 19th century, the area remains active and the lake is not only watched over by three volcanoes, the basin itself is a volcanic caldera.

We’d only intended to spend three days at Atitlán, but found it so relaxing, we extended to nearly a week. You probably could spend seven days doing nothing other than looking at the views but there are plenty of other activities. We hiked in the mountains around the lake and hailed water taxis to visit the little villages that dot the shores.

I climbed Volcán San Pedro, walking up through coffee plantations and cloud-forest to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the lake.

Had we stayed longer we could even have scuba dived and parasailed. But eventually, my wife told me that we really had to leave.

As I carried our luggage to the jetty, I suggested that we might extend our stay. But she was adamant. It was time to go – and I daresay she was right.

Lake Atitlán is already too much of a good thing. And you don’t want to have too much of a good thing.

American Airlines (0844 499 7300; flies to Guatemala City via Miami from around £600 return. Most hotels in Antigua offer an airport pick-up, which takes 45 minutes and costs about £40.
Journey Latin America
(020 8747 8315; offers a 13-night package to Guatemala, from £1,581 per person, excluding return flight. Exodus (0845 287 7543; has two 16-night packages to Guatemala, from £2,079 per person, including return flight.
Casa del Parque, Antigua ££
A minute’s walk from the beautiful central square, in a traditional building, Casa del Parque is a friendly, good-value hotel with a swimming pool and hot tub.
Ask for a room on the upper floor as the few extra dollars are worth it for the views (00502 7832 0961; ; doubles from US$80/£50 per night).
Villa Sumaya, Lake Atitlán ££
Set in gorgeous lan dscaped grounds on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Villa Sumaya is a great place to stay whether you’re into yoga or not. It has a swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and offers a range of spa treatments. The food is fantastic, much of it home grown (4026 1390;; from US$80/£50).
Posada del Angel, Antigua £££
The place where Bill Clinton stayed when he visited in 1999, Posada del Angel is small, exclusive and immaculately decorated in a style that retains much of the building’s original charm. It’s expensive by Guatemalan standards, but still great value (7832 0260;; from US$210/£131).
La Esquina, Antigua £
If you want to eat authentic Guatemalan food, but with a slightly haute cuisine twist, this is the place to do it
(6a Calle Poniente No 7-5a Avenue Sur; 7882 4761).
Sunset Café, Panajachel £
It’s a fair bet you will need to eat in Panajachel at some point as it has the greatest concentration of facilities on Lake Atitlán and is the gateway to the lake. The Sunset Café has a superb location and, as its name suggests, has some of the best views of Atitlán’s extraordinary sunsets (corner of Calle Santander and Calle del Lago; 7762 0003).
Casa Escobar, Antigua ££
If you tire of basic but typical Guatemalan dishes and feel in need of a more upmarket experience, Casa Escobar does an excellent steak, along with a good, largely South American wine list. The restaurant has a sophisticated feel, too (6a Avienda Norte No 3; 7832 5250).

What to avoid

Most visitors skip Guatemala City entirely – and with good reason, as it has high levels of crime and poverty and rather lower levels of attractions.
Panajachel, on Lake Atitlán, is not a great place to stay either, but that’s because it’s scruffy, rather than dangerous. You want to be out on the lake.
Public water taxis run on the lake from 7am and are used by visitors and locals alike. If someone tells you that they’re not available it’s almost certainly because they’re trying to sell you a pricier private boat. Although they have designated stops, the public boats will dock at any jetty they pass on request.

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Antigua is totally gorgeous, but extremely touristy (think groups of Americans down for a week or so to 'do' Central America) For the real Guatemalan experience, head to Quetzaltenango in the Western Highlands, Guatemala's second biggest city but with none of the issues of the capital. Within near reach of some beautiful volcano hikes and only 2 hours from lake Atitlan it is also one of the cheapest places in the world to study Spanish, with one-on-one classes and lots of after class activities.  And unlike Antigua,  also has a ton of Spanish schools, people in Xela (as Quetzaltenango is know locally) will actually speak to you in Spanish, not English! I loved it and can't wait to get back to Guatemala.
Here is where I studied, Utatlan Spanish School:

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.