My childhood friend Margery Fine and I have just arrived in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where we will join a small group of fellow travelers to explore some of the highlights of this ancient culture.
Our initial airport experience was a little confusing with unclear signage and confusing paperwork for customs, but we made it safely to our 5-star hotel, the Barcelo, and finally made it into bed at 2 am. Guatemala time.
Our first day comprised a taxi ride to the Museo Popolo Voh, with a collection of extraordinary pre-Columbian art and artifacts, and the next door Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena covering the history of the textiles of the indigeneous people of this country. These are 2 beautiful modern buildings, side by side with different brick architecture, built next to the campus of a major new university dedicated to technology.
At the textile museum, a series of watercolors was created by Carmen Lind Petersen, born in 1900 who studied art in London and then spent her adult life in Guatemala. She recorded in her paintings the quickly disappearing traditional clothing of the local people. They are framed next to the actual piece of clothing that was worn and painted which made it an inspiring exhibit, both of the artist and the textile creator.
It is a Saturday and we were told these are the only 2 museums open today. When I asked about this at our hotel, the conceirge said that all the other major museums are now closed for renovation. So many closures at the same time seems slightly suspicious to me but, be it as it may, we thoroughly enjoyed our exploration of the museums we found open which gave us a greater understanding of the history of Guatemala which we will be exploring over the next 8 days.
Margie says that finding these 2 museums was magical. In one of the textile exhibits which shows the incorporation of traditional dress into the ceremonies of the Catholic Church, she also remarked how seamlessly the new religion seemed to be mixed with the indigenous arts.
The most striking part of our contact today for me was the uniform hospitality and graciousness of every local person we encountered, especially those who knew little English and had to suffer our very poor (in my case almost negligable) Spanish. From the workers at the museums to the guards at the shopping mall where we had lunch to the Uber drivers who were eager to interact with us, people went out of their way to help us. I began to notice at the airport and continued noticing today people’s much easier attitude toward time and activity – with the airport security and immigration officials having idiosyncratic ways of dealing with visitors, taking time to speak with each other and without strict policies being followed.
We rested in the afternoon, with clouds and intermittent sunlight outside our window looking toward the hills that surround this city, and will now go to dinner and then welcome sleep.