Made it to Guatemala City! After just over an hour-long flight, we arrived in the capital, which turned out to be even smoggier than Mexico City. Like most of the capital cities in Latin America, Guatemala City is nestled in a valley and surrounded by mountains, I think. It’s a bit too hazy to make them out. Though in our hotel’s brochure the penthouse view is extraordinary.

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Aside from our photoshopped vista provided in our hotel’s brochure, our short venture through the touristy/financial district also colored my first impression of Guatemala City. Something was slightly amiss in what resembled a swanky Mexico City neighborhood and perhaps it had to do with the dozen or so “security” guards standing outside the restaurants, parking garages and strip malls holding AK-47s. Their stagnant expressions weren’t exactly putting me at ease.

Later on, a conversation with a cab driver – coupled with Wikipedia research – only made things worse. Turns out, according to our cabbie, pretty much everyone in Guatemala City is armed, certainly the ones driving nice cars. This is for security, he told us. Though to protect yourself from what or whom, I’m not sure.

Wikipedia mentioned that Guatemala’s civil war between the government and rebels — that began in 1960 —  only ended in 1996, and new information about war atrocities along with genocide accusations are still coming to light. Maybe I learned too much last night, or maybe it’s just first-day jitters, but I was pretty happy to board the ancient Blue Bird school bus and put 100 km between me and the city.

April 15, 2014