What Makes Guatemala So Special?
A question that is often asked is, where is Guatemala? Guatemala is part of Central America, South of Mexico and is bordered by El Salvador, Belize and Honduras. It is a place with a rich culture and fascinating history and incredibly special to me, Jürg Widmer. Below, I share my thoughts about what makes Guatemala so special.
The people of Guatemala are incredibly friendly and welcoming. The Guatemalans are so friendly that if you turn up with nowhere to stay, no money, and nothing to eat, they will open their doors and invite you in, provide you with a bed, food, and help ensure you can get on your feet. If you prosper, they prosper. They also have the most incredible stories to share, and with such a rich history, captivating landscape and Mayan heritage. Because their culture is all about community, it is also very safe, which makes it a special place and a rare one.
Guatemala means ‘a place of many trees’. Back in ancient times, there would have been many more trees than there are now. But according to data, over 30% is still primary rain forest and the most biodiverse and carbon-dense type. Guatemala has it all, volcanos, beaches, mountains, lakes, caves, caverns, underground rivers and forests. The wildlife in Guatemala is as wonderfully diverse as the people. If you are a wildlife lover and enjoy seeing species in their natural habitat where they thrive, Guatemala is a place to visit. The Flora in Guatemala is equally enthralling and is home to more than 8,000 plant species.
The Guatemalan’s hold many historical Mayan ceremonies which are woven into the very fabric of their culture. These celebrations are to connect the people to the land so that both may protect each other. Many celebrations are to give thanks to all flora and fauna. Mother nature is asked for protection and to bless them with rain when it is needed. Guatemala is also famous for its celebratory festivals, which there are several held throughout the year. Many Guatemalan festivals are rooted in religion and have taken place over decades and even centuries.
Guatemalan food is, in many opinions, considered to be the best food in Central America. This is because it has many influences from traditional Mayan dishes, Spanish influence, and the influence of tourists and those who have chosen to settle there from other countries around the world. The food is packed with flavour, passion and fresh ingredients, inevitably making it all delicious. You’re spoilt for choice with traditional and local dishes like Pupusas, Kak’ik, Hilachas, Chicken pepián, Rellenitos, Empanadas, and Tostadas. The latter two are probably the most well known dishes on a global scale, but the others are more like national dishes, which are much loved.
The Coffee and Chocolate
What is Guatemala most famous for? Coffee and chocolate, of course!
Coffee from Guatemala is considered to be some of the best in the world. You’re likely to be drinking Guatemala coffee right now without even realising it unless you are a coffee fanatic, that is. Coffee is Guatemala’s biggest export, and for a good reason, the coffee tends to be well balanced with a full-body, sweet, with gentle acidity and a complex flavour.
Guatemala is considered to be the birthplace of the divine chocolate that we all know and love. This is why they call it the food of the God’s; they are referring to the Mayan God’s. The cacao bean might have originated from Mexico, but the chocolate was discovered and created right here in Guatemala. The Mayans revered the bean and believed chocolate had health benefits. Leading health organisations such as Harvard Medical and John Hopkins have now proven that to be the case. Chocolate was first served as a drink in Guatemala and later developed into the solid bars we know today. As most people know it, hot chocolate is still enjoyed and preferred by the people of Guatemala today.
Guatemala is also famous for its art, textiles, music and literature. The culture has strong Mayan and Spanish influences. Spanish is the main language, but many people still speak one of the Mayan languages which still exist today. The vibrancy of its culture is what draws many people to Central America but especially to Guatemala. There are so many modern and international influences that complement the traditional cultures, making it a melting pot of extraordinary wonder.
What Makes Guatemala So Special?
The diversity of everything, the love of the land, the respect for tradition whilst embracing positive change, the culture and the wonderful people.