GUATEBUENA, GUATEMALA, GUATEMEJOR

Back in the old days Guatemala was THE place to hang north of the Darien Strait, beautiful and cheap, the winning combination back then before my DNA started demanding a bigger gene pool to swim in.  The first time I was there, c.1977, the earthquake had just been cleaned up and people had forgotten that there was still a civil war to fight.  International hippies still slept on the beach and paraded through town in the evening playing guitars for tips.  Very HIPPIE.  Some buds and I rented the house over the hot springs in 1981, from which I launched my handicraft-import business, which still sputs and sputters to this day.  Perched above Lake Atitlan at 5000 feet and ringed by volcanoes, in a land inhabited by some of the most beautiful and peaceful people in the world, the scenery was incredible.  I can still see it in my mind’s eye to this day.  Then one day a body was found tossed down the ravine along the road back to town.  The civil war was on, and all bets were off.  Within two years the country was in a shambles and Panajachel, formerly dubbed ‘Gringotenango’ because of the number of tourists and travelers there, was devoid, at least until the handicraft business really took off.  I hadn’t been there in over ten years, until I went back last year.  It’s better.