Upon arriving in Quetzaltenango, commonly known as Xela (Shay-la), I took notice of Pasaje Enriquez. Constructed in 1900 this neoclassical building’s corridor opens up facing the west side of Parque Central. From the day the doors opened it has operated as an important commercial center and now hosts a myriad of bars, restaurants, cafes, a bank, and a slew of offices. When the Enriquez family sold the building their upstairs living quarters were converted into rooms for rent with communal living spaces. I rented one of these spaces during my week in the city and put myself in the center of it all.
The first hour of each day sailed away as I danced to the rhythm of the song in my head with the rise of the sun. With a glass of coffee and a bite to eat I ventured down the cobblestone streets to Trama Textiles, a backstrap weaving association, to learn from the women and work on a piece of my own. I was overseen and taught each step of the process by women who have spent a lifetime mastering the craft. They let me into their culture and shared with me a piece of the knowledge they pass down from one generation to the next. With a few hours of work each day I completed the weaving of my scarf, and had a desire to learn more and dowels to fumble with on my own.
Together with Laramie and Raffa — friends I went to school with back in Antigua — I climbed into a rented car, took out a map and asked, “Where to?”. We twisted through the mountains to ruins, thermal hot springs, and a night in Lago Atitlan. Laughter was shuffled in with a small let down (ruins closing five minutes before our arrival) and the thrill of an expedition with two other amazing people. Xocomil water park provided an outlet for our inner kids as we raced between water slides playing bumper cars with our inner tubes. We were the only foreigners in a mix of Guatemalans rolling in wave pools and giggling as we waited in line for the next Tikal inspired water ride. Amidst the craziness we spent relaxing afternoons split between El Cuartito or North & South Cafe. Conversation revolved around what had transpired in the earlier hours, stories of family, the politics of our countries, our views on religion, previous travels, and anything else that could possibly be thrown in between. When our jaws hurt and our stomachs were filled in satisfaction we wandered the markets and took off on other adventures. My biggest being the completion of my fifth top ten summit in Central america.
Each night, back home in Pasaje Enriquez, the heart beat of the city’s night life grew louder underneath the floor boards. As the offices flipped their signs over to read closed, the bars propped their doors open wide and welcomed a mixture of locals and foreigners alike. Upon hearing the city come alive I would stroll out my front door to where families had set up their food stands lining the square. There I indulged on hand pressed, corn tortillas filled with cheese and topped with a spicy, vegetable sauce in the glow of lights and those fluttering around me. After my street fair I joined in with the crowd for my own evening of entertainment. Most nights Laramie, Raffa and I would reconvene for a drink or a movie at the cafe down the road. And I always returned home while the night was still young to be lulled to sleep from the noises below.