(continuer en français) – Published: May 14, 2022
For the time being, I have not had the chance to visit Guatemala in a more conventional way, but I have collected the few pictures I took on my way to Tikal. It was a day trip from San Ignacio in Belize and back, giving only a quick overview of the northern part of Guatemala.
A mostly rural area, before the huge Mayan Biosphere Reserve that separates the country from Mexico.
At the border, the crossing from Belize to Guatemala is done with minimal time wasted, obviously the customs officers are used to these temporary entries. At the end of the day, this translates into four extra stamps on the passport.
As is often the case in Latin America, the trip is organised with a different vehicle and driver on each side of the border. Cars and trucks crossing the line are given a disinfectant shower.
Guatemala is a giant among the garland of Central American states, with a population of more than 16 million, far exceeding, for example, neighbouring Belize, which has barely 400,000 inhabitants.
The Mayan civilisation extended over Guatemala when the Spaniards arrived. In spite of a significant interbreeding with the European settlers, some Mayan villages still exist, living in relative autarchy, with a housing style that still resembles that of their ancestors.
During the Spanish conquest, the Catholic religion was closely associated with the organisation of the new society. It won over the indigenous populations all the more easily as some similar religious traditions merged into a syncretism that satisfied everyone.
In the second half of the last century, Protestant churches from the United States became firmly established, accompanying the economic and political links between the two countries.
Guatemala experienced a long series of military coups, followed by a murderous repression against guerrillas and organisations suspected of having links with communist countries.
The democratic process has been restored and the situation has calmed down, but the army still plays an important role. Paramilitary groups are also still active, often engaged in various forms of trafficking against a backdrop of corruption that international pressure is struggling to curb.
The improvement of the political and security situation has favoured the development of tourism. Following the example of neighbouring countries such as Costa Rica, Panama and Belize, Guatemala is taking advantage of its proximity to the North American market, where part of the population is looking for a sunny escape.
Sun with a plus. Whether it is the discovery of nature, Mayan sites or a different and authentic society, Guatemala has great potential. The additional financial resources are accompanied by a modernisation of tourism-related sectors, such as construction or transport.
The great Mayan city is certainly the driving force behind Guatemalan tourism. Tikal has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
Tikal was inhabited from 900 BC to 900 AD. The city had already been abandoned when the Spaniards arrived and the conquistadors did not go there. For a thousand years Tikal remained a ruined city lost in the jungle. It was not discovered until the middle of the 19th century, and it took another 100 years or so before improved access made it a mass tourism destination (more).
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