Sitting out here on the west coast at Mussel Beach, it seems kind of redundant to be writing about our stay over Christmas and New Years in Antiqua, Guatemala. We spent three weeks there, met a group of wonderful people and experienced some fantastic Guatemalan culture.
But mostly, I just wanted to use that line.
Since we were preparing the pig, and I came face to face with it’s uterus, I thought, “I have to write a blog about this…
I mentioned in my last meandering that we had quite the adventure getting over the border from Mexico into Guatemala. Now we were safe and sound, back in Antigua, looking forward to settling down for three weeks and diving head first into our Spanish School. Antigua is a special place. Super historical, full of all the vibrancy that you want in the Spanish Culture.
We arrived, met our host family, got our compulsory tattoos from Miguel at Superior Tattoos (something we do every time we are in Guatemala), and immersed ourselves in Antiguan culture. I could get into all the travel info about Antigua – the architecture, the Spaniards, Mayan, politics…, blah, blah, but you can do that yourself (and you can click on those links that I put into the blog – how clever!). What impresses me is all the smiles, the colours, the markets and the food.
But I better get on with our Homestay Experience…. Our host ‘parents’, Ana Louisa and Manuel were multi generational Antiguans that had been hosting students for years. Very affable, friendly, and really inclusive when it came to the daily running of the household and family gatherings. We were free to come and go as we pleased, fed delicious Guatemalan dishes – three times a day, and had a super comfortable room with a kingsized bed (a real treat compared to some of the accommodation we had had), and full access to the house and kitchen. The house had been in the family for generations and had been split amongst 4 of the 7 siblings. Seeing Antigua through the eyes of a prominent family was a totally different experience.
Antigua, being a prominently Catholic community, puts a lot of effort into Christmas. Night markets, spontaneous celebrations throughout the city, incredible displays of fireworks and “bombas” go on through the day and night for hours. The Posadas and the celebrations are of pure joy. People out having fun, laughing, dancing and trying to avoid costumed Toros (bulls – click on the link for the video) and later on, men running around with cages of fireworks held over their heads who are purifying the streets for ‘Las Posadas de Navidad’. It is a spectacle! Steeped in tradition and generally, in other countries, a somber occasion, but not in Antigua, oh no… It is loud, fun and full of life and merriment.
But first, to purify the streets…..
“Ustedes Guatemalans están Locos!!” I yelled in broken Spanish…
But it went on for hours. Bombas – literally ‘bombs’ launched out of grenade launchers to explode over our heads, and fireworks! We, in Canada, see maybe a half hour of fireworks on Canada Day, or BC Day. In Guatemala? Six hours of them going off, and not in some fenced, safety-conscious, controlled area, no! Right in the street. You buy them in a beer case-sized box with a single fuse, ready to go. Loco! The whole night sky was lit up. It was fantastico!
But getting back to the Uterus.
Now I’m a chef. I’m not squeamish about any aspect of cookery. But I have never seen such an efficient use of an animal.
Manuel and Ana Louisa raise pigs – especially for celebrations. On December 21st, Manuel took a 300lb pig to the butchers house, a little out of Antigua in a little town called Jocotenango where it was slaughtered and butchered. The next night, Manuel and I went to pick of the meat, the offals, the head and the blood (5L). In the the next morning, the butcher and his wife came with all their knives, tools and butcher table and made, blood sausage, stock and chicharrónes. For those of you who think they know and like Chicharrón? Nothing was like this…. Being somewhat aware of the health aspects of food, I had a hard time with this, being all pure fat ‘n stuff, but man, was it good.
But, to make a long story short (and believe me, I could go on and on about what a great experience this was!), 100% of the carcass was used, even the uterus. As I stood with the other 4 cooks (sweet Mayan ladies) and chopped to our hearts content, I was fascinated by what appeared on my cutting board. I was dismembering the head, including the teeth (getting all that tender little muscle out of the gums – yikes!) when I pulled up this rubbery pocket, the girls started giggling….
So, needless to say, it was an event. There’s a lot to remark on, our time in Antigua. Our teacher Janet, we hope to see her again this coming winter. Our new friend Jessica; Polish/American, Lab researcher/biologist, quiet, studious, scientific type, who is a killer salsa dancer that left a wake of broken hearts on the Antiguan dance floor. And our host family, Ana Louisa, Manuel, Adela, Ivan and the others who are too numerous to mention. We hope to see and stay there next time when we arrive in Antigua, hoping to finally be able to speak Español!
This was a little long, my apologies for that, but thanks for reading!