Sunday Morning in Antigua

Sunday mornings here in Antigua are the best. In particular, I enjoy visiting the churches. There are a lot of Catholics here, along with a lot of amazing, colonial-era cathedrals, so Sunday mornings are a special time. There’s a lot happening, and a warm, hopeful feeling is in the air.

The Catholic mass sounds lyrical in Spanish — probably as close as I’ll ever come to hearing it in Latin as in ages past — and it’s inspiring to see all of the Guatemalan families congregated together in prayer. Guatemalans are very devote Christians, many going to church several times a week; consequently, the church tends to be one of the central pillars of society here. So not only do Guatemalans go to church to pray; they also go there to socialize. Outside the churches on Sunday mornings, there are markets where Christian artifacts are sold — handmade rosaries and stuff like that.

A couple church photos from this morning follow (click on the photos to see them full-size). This one is of the church near my house; I walk by it each morning on my way to Spanish class:

Iglesia San Francisco

Note all the people gathered outside of this church:

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced

Also on Sunday mornings, I enjoy going out for breakfast and coffee. One of my favorite breakfast spots is Y Tu Piña También, a corner café a half-block from my school. (The name of the café is a play on the title of the popular Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También, a great film I highly recommend.) In particular, I like their ham-and-cheese omelets, which are served with super-spicy picante sauce.

This morning, as my eyes were watering from the picante sauce, I met a fellow Michigander. He was an older man sitting at the bar near me whom I wouldn’t have noticed, let alone engaged in conversation, if not for his United Auto Workers (UAW) hat. I asked him the obvious — if he was a retired auto worker — and then asked him if he was from Michigan.

Indeed, he’s retired auto worker who lives in Shelby Township, near Utica. Now that he’s retired, he and his wife spend a lot of time in Central America, particularly Mexico and Guatemala. He and his wife fly down for a month at a time, and they stay in $20-a-night hotels, enjoying Central America’s warm weather, easygoing pace of life, rich culture, and affordability.

We talked about traveling, of course, but also the latest news from back home — in particular the news that General Motors has been courting a merger with cross-town rival automakers Ford (first) and Chrysler (now), and how it’s a clear sign that GM is gravely concerned about its liquidity and that it risks bankruptcy in the near future unless its fortunes improve.

Y Tu Piña También

After that breakfast conversation — meeting fellow Midwesterners is always a joy here, a regular reminder of how small the world can be sometimes — I sought out Fernando’s Kaffee, a café across town that I had read boasts the best coffee in Antigua. Which is indeed something to boast about, for not only is Antigua brimming with fantastic cafés — several on each block, sometimes — but Guatemala is one of the world’s premier coffee producers because of the tropical climate and high altitude.

Fernando's

The walk across town to Fernando’s proved worthwhile. Not only did I randomly — totally randomly! — run into a Swedish tourist whom I’d befriended out on the town the night before — a mere 14 hours earlier — but she happened to be friends with Fernando himself, so I was personally introduced and got to hang around the café for a while. Fernando made me a special drink — a potent combination of drip-brewed coffee, espresso, and steamed milk — and let me sample some of his homemade chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Fernando in Action

The reputation of Fernando’s is such that he sells his own coffee roast — roasts his own beans right there in his café, in fact — as well as his own chocolate-covered coffee beans, the most curious of which included a little chili pepper, which kicks in after about 30 seconds and opens up your taste buds — or so he explained.

Fernando's Chocolate-Covered Coffee Beans

While I hung at Fernando’s and drank my special drink, I read one of the Guatemalan newspapers. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m always curious to see how American politics is viewed down here, and the local newspapers never disappoint.

Today’s Sunday edition featured Sarah Palin on the cover. The story, headlined “Humorades Electorales,” was about how political humor is very popular in the States right now, especially jokes about Palin. The article singled out Tina Fey’s uproarious satire of the McCain’s VP pick on Saturday Night Live (video 1; video 2) and how it has sent SNL’s ratings through the roof.

Sarah Palin on Front Page of the Sunday Edition of a Local Newspaper

There was also an article about how the Alaska Legislature concluded — in a 12-0 ruling — that Palin had abused her power in trying to orchestrate the firing of her former brother-in-law (i.e., “Troopergate”):

Troopergate

And for good measure, there was also an article about Obama sticking it more aggressively to McCain in these final weeks of the election:

Obama Amplia Su Ventaja Sobre McCain

Lastly, and somewhat unrelatedly, I’ve walked by this photograph several times now, and because it pleases me so much, I thought I’d photograph it this morning. Years ago — or so I presume, given the faded nature of the photograph — Bill Clinton visited a particular shop here in Antigua, and the shopowner was so proud, he continues to display this photograph near the entrance to his shop:

President Clinton in Antigua

I’m tellin’ you, sometimes I feel like Guatemala is a far-flung extension of the United States, given the level of interest here in our governmental politics and policies. North America, Central America, South America, Latin America — are we all not Americans?

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