Country

Guatemala

Explore Guatemala's Ancient Maya Metropolis Before the Crowds Come

Buried beneath deep jungle growth in Guatemala's northern reaches, the ancient Maya metropolis of El Mirador is worth the walking. And walking, and walking some more.

Go now for the rare chance to experience lush tropical forest and have the ancient city — more and more of which is being uncovered by archeologists every year — largely to yourself. Soon, both the wilderness and the solitude may be harder to come by.

Communities and Concessions

Nadia Sussman, for the Pulitzer Center
San Francisco, California

One of the strangest things about Guatemala is how close it is to the US. And how easy to leave. In our plane, we effortlessly crossed the border where Mexico tries to keep the Guatemalans out, then cleared the wall the US is building to keep the Mexicans out. Just four and a half hours out of Guatemala City's gleaming new airport we landed in LA.

A Visit to Beef National Park

Michael Stoll, for the Pulitzer Center
Laguna Del Tigre National Park, Guatemala

The sign announcing the entrance to Laguna del Tigre National Park is large and impressive. The problem is, that's about the only visible sign that you're entering a "core protected area" of a massive national wilderness preserve.

Almost back to Oakland for the Mirador Four

It's the last leg of our journey back from Guatemala and I marvel at the difference in the landscape from above — houses neatly dotted against the foothill ridges and valleys of California's sloping red terrain inching all the way from Los Angeles in random sproutings of civilization. It's the same feeling I had while staring out at the Pacific from Laguna del Rey today — kids ran from the onrush of crashing waves and boogie borders chased their boards only to bounce on them within an inch of a quick slide beneath their feet.

Over land to the capitol

I finally got to see more of Guatemala by land yesterday. I left Flores, Petén, with Kara and Nadia at 6 a.m. Hector, our friend and driver, was behind the wheel and we headed south for hours on straight roads passing more treeless land than I had seen my entire time in Guatemala. The vast rain forest that remains to the north has long ago been transformed into great open tracts of multi-use land. Houses line the roads, roofs are tiled or metal covered rather than thatched. The livestock grazing in the fields are larger and meatier, the car traffic is denser.

Guatemala City rain and welcoming

As the sun emerges from the gray brown smog that hangs over Guatemala City's wet streets, we board our plane and are inundated by the sounds of English words, and babies crying — for the most part a universal language of frustration.

Our time here is ended (for now) and I point the Blackberry in different directions while on the plane with the hopes that I'll be able to send at least one text or one blog entry while in the clouds. I am a horrible role model when it comes to connectivity politeness; make no mistake, it's a life line and it can get Hobbesian quickly.

Sustainable forest agriculture spawns its own verb

Michael Stoll, for the Pulitzer Center
Uaxactun, Guatemala

Everyone in this village down a muddy, rutted road, 23 km past the world-famous Maya archaeological site of Tikal, knows how to "xatear."

The verb, which would stump most Guatemalans, means "to cut xate," a decorative plant used in floral arrangements in the United States and elsewhere. But as obscure as the word may sound to outside ears, it's a core activity for most of this village of fewer than 1,000 people ...

Guatemala: On the other side of the jungle

Yesterday we completed our two-day return hike from El Mirador to Carmelita. The bajos again felt muddy and endless, but with the help of an early start and a mule ride, we made it out. On our own, without the archaeologists for the first time in many days, our group of four felt small.