Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 08/31/2010

Tamales and more

28 agosto- Again I slept through my alarm, the drawback to sleeping with earplugs to drown out the fireworks and roosters.  My body revolted at the 6:30am awakening, especially for Saturday so I had a 15 minute dash from my bed to reunion with my comrades at the parque (park).

Off we went by camioneta (bus) to Antigua for the movie “El Norte”…none of our families have DVD players, so our instructor’s friend kindly invited us to her home. A powerful movie…it evoked many for feelings as we vicariously suffered along with the Guatemalan sister and brother who leave behind a pueblo that looks just like ours, only to risk a new life in the U.S. The sadness of war which greatly impacted the indigenous population here is not so distant in time…the peace accords were signed in 1996. During training we have learned that there could be undercurrents beyond our comprehension when we seek community participation, such as some people refusing to work with others…an indicator of wounds from the dark history of warring factions and families. Healing is a long process.

On a lighter side, we headed to Cookies Etc, a café that sells delicious sweets, treating us to a taste of home. Large cookies cost 2.5 quetzales or 30 cents. Some treats actually made it back to our host families.  After lunch we reunited at Justin’s host family home for Tamale-Making 101, a hands-on training (literally) that provided much humor. Us gringos really struggled to achieve thin, regular-shaped tortillas made of cornmeal batter (masa) for the chuchitos (similar to tamales). Esperanza, his host mom, had an incredible memory and pulled our chuchitos out of the vast quantity steaming in a caldron so that we could taste them. Tamales and chuchitos are a special food for holidays and weekends, and this is her economic livelihood. We joked that due to our imperfect results, she would need to sell our tamales at a lower price! Definitely an art to this…hay que practicar (we need to practice).

Tamale-Making...harder than it looks

While tamales were cooking we headed to the entrada (entrance) of our town…a great vista, and clearly the place for young lovers to hang out. Feeling energetic, we kept walking along the road to the next small town…only ¼ mile away. An open door and the smell of fresh wood called us into a shop. The friendly carpenter gave us a tour of his incredible craftsmanship …headboards, chairs, tables, and picture frames, all carved by hand. He thought we were a group of Spanish tourists. Wow! Quite the compliment; we had just learned yesterday that we tested at the advanced language level, but we certainly don’t pretend to be native speakers! We clarified our origins, “Somos de los estados unidos.” (We’re from the U.S.) Not many handmade products like his in the U.S. we commented.

Esperanza cooking tamales

A Saturday immersed in the taste of Guatemalan food and the beauty of their crafts, with the movie, El Norte, giving us a sobering reminder of the violent past these people have endured.

¡Que delicioso! Our chuchitos


  1. Hola Janet!

    Love your blog with the photos of your activities. The pic of the woman bending over the huge pot and of you all eating the chuchitos was great. What kind of filling do they have?

  2. Nice writing, Janet.

    A drummer friend of mine recently returned from Mexico, and he mentioned how noisy things can be south of the border. Fireworks and clanging bells are common sounds, he says, which explains your need for ear plugs.

    My surgeon says my left hand functioning should return within a year and a half. At this point, it doesn’t hurt any more, but the functioning is still very low. But I’m only three weeks removed from the operation in which he removed a ganglion cyst that was impinging on the Ulnar nerve.

    Be happy down there!


  3. Jan, I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to read of your adventures… and I was so happy to finally see a picture of you! You look like you’re getting your tan on. We haven’t been able to leave messages before and Steve has been dying to get in touch with you. He wants me to tell you how proud he is of his big sister! I think it’s an awesome thing you are doing. We are loving all the updates and pics… keep them coming. Everyone is well here. The kids have started 1st grade and I’ve gone back to work for a few days a week. Have a wonderful day and know that we are always thinking of you! Love, Crystal

  4. The chuchitos have tomato sauce and chicken inside, with more salsa on the outside before wrapped in the banana leaves.

  5. Janet,
    thank you for keeping all of us who care about you so up to date on your life there. ralph

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