The People on the Bus-The People of Antigua


You can tell about where someone is going by the way they get on the bus.  His eyes, the hombre who watched people walk by his empanada stand all day, only 50 quetzales to bring home again, they are low and you can see him looking to the past, when the dust blew the other direction.  Her shoulders, the woman who I saw in the park that said “You want?  For you pretty girl…”, hunkering from the weight of the serapes and homemade tablecloths in the varying colors of the sunset in times that never were, only imagined and so you can have them.  His voice, the boy with a sun-dried soccer jersey and no part in his hair, speaks more confidently than his product of cheap gum and five-day old oranges bought for a nickel but he sells ‘em for a dime.  His smile, the tall twenty-something with a white face and a tan hat, never fades and only tells brighter tales of the day that he’s led, how he will look out the window as the streets roll on as streets can only roll on and wonder thoughts of far away places so close places are closer when he returns from reverie. 

Some of the many textiles homespun by the humble hands of “los mujeres de Guatemala”

The preceding passage was written while I was in Guatemala, an anecdote that proves more powerful upon reflection.  As I reread these words now, I realize that not only can you tell about where someone is going by the way they get on the bus, but moreover where they have come from.  The beauty of the spirit of los guatemaltecos is captured in many ways, none perhaps more salient than their work ethic, humbly felt in their bus-side posture.    While Antigua certainly has its fair share of posh cafes and B & B’s to employ certain demographics, a majority of el pueblo work as vendors and artisans, selling anything from said serapes and empanadas, to their freshly picked corn or homemade tortillas from that same corn.  Still others drive tuc-tucs, these little taxis of sorts, well that is being generous.  It is more or less a cart, with an axle in the back with two wheels, and a single wheel in the front, a covered wagon that moves hurried Guatemalan people in and out of places that shouldn’t be possible to navigate so quickly, especially along cobblestoned streets. And if you don’t run into the rest of Antigua at el Mercado, then you are sure to happen upon them speaking eager English in one of the city’s many tourism hotspots.

Oh the infamous tuc-tuc

The glorious Semuc Champey from up on high.


While Guatemala is full of such rich natural and historical beauty (Semuc Champey and Tikal to mention my favorites), there are myriad opportunities to explore within a 30-mile radius of Antigua.  Notch on the backpack kinda guy?  Then head to one of the visible volcanoes that guard Antigua’s soft streets, fumes wavering from the tops of some give away their guise as silent protectors (and take some S’mores fixins with ya’, nothing like roasting a marshmallow on a volcano!).  Or perhaps your allure is the best part of waking up, that steaming cup of joe that comes from the hillsides just around you where there are offered many a tour.


And within Antigua itself, aficionados of architecture will have a heyday, observing the pastel paints highlighting the quaint curvature of steeples pronounced in molding of pure white.   It truly is a blessing just to walk down the streets of this quietly teeming city, the majestic Volcan Agua resting at a point for all to see in meandering those cobblestone alleyways to find your next adventure.  But the true beauty lies not in these touristic getaways or meditations in Parqué Central, but in the folk on the bus who one day you just decided to talk to.


One of the many splendid Catholic churches in the heart of Antigua.


That woman’s name is Lupe.  Sweet Lupe who invited me into her home after a five-minute conversation on the bus ride home about mostly I don’t know what.  Who in her humble abode fixed my friend and I tea and homemade campechanas, delicious pastries that were but a delectable distraction from the heart of conversation that mattered.  She poured out her love to us, her only company in the empty home, her boy far away and not speaking to her, her husband long gone, her daughter caught in the midst of a toilsome world.  To strangers (one of whom could barely understand what she was saying) she let her heart out in the open and cried her song for all who would listen.  This is the real Antigua, the part you see when you venture off the safe streets into the dusted roads that lead you into higher elevation, greater understanding.  You see them through your Skype screen, but the teachers of Homeschool Spanish Academy live in a way that you must come to understand if you are to understand Antigua.  Their story is not Lupe’s, it is their own, but it is a story worth knowing and I beseech you to learn it.



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