Monday, August 8, 2011

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is famous for its religious festivities during Semana Santa. This is the holy last week of Lent, a forty-day period during which devout Catholics swear off something they like in order to prepare for the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, which is probably why folks go bug-eye crazy during Carnival, which occurs right before the forty days of sacrifice.

One awe-inspiring aspect of Semana Santa in Antigua is the brilliant alfombra carpet laid out on the street. Sand and sawdust are sprinkled over the cobblestones, then dyed different colors and interwoven with bright flowers as well as other plants and pine needles. I was lucky enough to attend this dazzling event.

Yet, my story doesn't begin in Antigua but in Morelia Mexico. There was a time when I fell in love with a mexicano from Morelia. We met in the former silver-mining town just before I returned to the States. For six long months, we penned elaborate love letters to each other, while I saved up greenbacks with the idea I'd return to Morelia and live indefinitely.

However, like many men who've been separated from their lady friend for some time, my beau had moved on when I returned. Suffice it to say, I was heartbroken. Not ready to go back to the States, I fled Morelia for Mexico City, where I purchased a plane ticket to Guatemala.

On arrival, I traveled some and studied Spanish. Time passed quickly and soon I'd been living in Guatemala for two months. Most of that was spent in the idyllic tourist mecca of Antigua. I holed up in a tiny room with a single bed and rickety desk at a hotel called Hostal Refugio, which was fitting as I was a wealthy gringa refugee fleeing lovesickness. I called my guy in Mexico, since I had left some bags at his house. He told me he might make it to Antigua for Semana Santa to see me.

The religious festivities commenced. While pilgrims did penance on their knees in church, I guzzled Dorada Drafts in bars, waiting for my beau to show up as my quetzál currency supply dwindled. One night, I made my way to one of those churches. I'll never forget the haunting song of an old woman amidst flickering candles in red glass cups.

It was Saturday, which commemorates the loneliness of Mary while her son's body lay in the tomb. If I can say this without sounding offensive, I felt lonely like Mary that day. Where was my Mexican? As I walked back to my hotel through narrow colonial streets, devotees of Christ, dressed in white robes with distinctive and disturbing white hoods, carried a wooden float with Mary crying silent frozen tears on top. White pungent frankincense smoke inundated the air and cobblestones felt uneven beneath my feet.

I kept thinking I saw my love in the haze. There he was! No, that wasn't him. There he is over there! No, that's not him either. The next day was Easter Sunday, so Semana Santa was coming to a close.  The streets were strewn with trash and spent fireworks. Many of those glorious alfombras had been trampled over and destroyed. My guy hadn't come.

The Swedish girls I was traveling with were returning home. A sinister phenomenon was developing in the country. Children were being kidnapped. The peasants were blaming foreigners, especially foreign women. One American lady was attacked by an angry mob in a town not far away. It was time for me to go home too.

I returned to Mexico, stopping by his house to pick up my bags. I spent the night. In the morning, he said he'd continue to write me, but I knew that wasn't true. I'll never forget my plane lifting off Mexican soil.

I was in the air, heading back to Los Angeles, but my mind was still with my mexicanoI thought back to the first time we met. He was sitting in the mist that so often hangs over Morelia, reading a book of poems by Pablo Neruda.

The rumble of jet engines jolted me from my memories. I peered out the window as the plane lifted higher. Green fields and red roads were now nothing more than geometric shapes and colors. 
Adios, mi amor.

Lara Sterling authors Twisted Vagabondage Tales for travelers who like it rough. She is prettier than Vagabonding author Rolf Potts (though Rolf is very pretty) and could kick his ass (though only if he'd like that). She has written for Playboy and Larry Flynt Publications but now hosts an online radio show and blogs at

1 comment:

  1. david gregorio davilaMarch 5, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    es una historia muy interesante ya que las costumbres de los pueblo no se han olvidado y hay personas que todavía se interesan por las tradiciones y las imágenes que se muestras están hermosas y la historia es espectacular.