As soon as I exited the plane, warm air enveloped me in a tight a hug. My black sweater that was direly needed this morning, was suddenly too much! As we walked towards baggage claim a new Spanish filled my ears as I listened to the chatter around me. Despite the different accent, I could still understand words and the meaning of the surrounding conversation, which was a huge relief. At the airport, my own Spanish felt clumsy. However, this did not arise as an issue as the group instantly watched out for one another as we navigated through the airport.
Finally outside in the chaotic mass of shuttles and taxis, Jenny greeted us all with warm smiles and tight embraces. We then loaded up into the white van and drove through the city to the hotel that we will be staying at during our time in the capital. We quickly dropped of our luggage and shed the many winter layers. We then loaded back onto the bus and drove to a small cafe called Casa de Cervantes, where we spent the entirety of our afternoon and evening. Casa de Cervantes is easy to pass by without noticing, yet once you go inside you will be forever thankful that you did indeed notice it. Strong flavors of Guatemalan coffee fill your nostrils, music and laughter fill your ears, and your eyes do not know where to look first as art covers almost every wall. Additionally, Casa de Cervantes also houses a local bookstore and works on cultural preservation.
We made our way to a room in the back and spent the afternoon getting to know one each as a complete group (finally!) and discussing issues surrounding colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. We quickly came to consensus that none of these issues are singular. They overlap, criss-cross, and lend themselves to one another constantly. The current state of Guatemala is a by-product of these affairs. This conversation laid the foundation for the purpose of our trip. I can already tell that I will be reflecting on what these mean to me personally, what they mean to the United States, and what they mean to Guatemala throughout our journey.
Despite the heavy issues that will permeate our trip, I have noticed (at least thus far) that the people of Guatemala are incredibly friendly and welcoming. (Disclaimer: It’s only the first day, and my only conversations with locals have been limited at best). Like the customs attendant told me, “I can feel your good energy,” I can similarly feel the good energy of Guatemala. :)