I have wrapped up my Economist work in Bocas del Toro – 8 weeks of hammock, seafood and hanging out with Donna and the rest of the American expats at an end time to move on. Next stop is Guatemala and the town of Antigua. I was going to do an overland bus journey until i realized how far and how long it would take through Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. I have opted for a cheap flight instead into Guatemala City then a bus ride to Antigua.
The first thing that struck me arriving are the colours and patterns on the women and children’s clothing (men dress in thirst and jeans). If you know the local terrain then you can tell which village the women come from based on the embroidery on their shoots and tops. The central square in Antigua is packed with ladies selling their wares either clothing to each other or jewellery, beads and carving to the tourists.
The second thing I notice is the level of security around. Lots of high walls and armed guards carrying what looks like semi-automatic machines guns. In the central part of Antigua the streets feel safe, but only because of the heavy police presence. As soon as you step out of this zone, the feeling changes. The streets start to clear pretty quickly as dusk approaches. No-one stays on the street after dark.
This little crowd accosted me and we had a half an hours fun and teasing.My secret strategy for getting natural photos of kids is to forget about camera fragility and just hand it over to them (wrapping the camera strap around their necks) and seeing what shots come out. Then they march me off to the sweet shop, then followed up a a visit to the neighbourhood tortilla making side store. A very cramped hot dark room where two girls are expertly flipping tortillas with their bare hands over a hot inverted drum with a fire underneath.
Tonight there was a procession of sorts. Not entirely sure what it was about but loys of iconograhy, the virgin mary, lots of widows, priests and children .. in fact the processions have been going on all day, the cobbles have foliage spread across them, lots of singing and chanting. Magical.