Postcards from Guatemala.
Guatemala is a vibrant country. The people and their culture are as diverse as the land and animals that they live with. It is a relatively small country, but sharp elevation changes between sea level and the highest peak in Central America translate to an incredibly varied set of ecosystems and a density of life that few other places can boast.
There is a lot of history in Guatemala; from its role as the heart of the ancient Mayan empire to the civil war that ended only a few years ago in 1996, not to mention the massive natural events that have shaped this seismically active land along the Ring of Fire for far longer than humans have walked upon it.
Over the period of a month, I saw many different sides of this country. Here are some postcards from my time there. These are the first images I’m releasing of this body of work (besides what I’ve shared on Instagram), with many more sure to come.
A cross overlooks the old capital city of Guatemala: Antigua. Nestled in a valley between three volcanoes, this area embodies the intersection of Spanish colonial and Mayan culture. Based out of here for a couple of weeks, it was a central hub for me to explore the unique festivities of Semana Santa (Holy Week) with the masses of Guatemalans that gather here around it.
Central Park: a gathering place at all times of day.
A major part of the local Semana Santa activities is the building of alfombras: artistic carpets created from plant trimmings and/or dyed woodchips. Elaborate works are completed just moments before they are marched over by a procession and swept away as if nothing had happened. It is a beautiful illustration of the temporal cycle of everything.
This is Mercedes Perez González; a coffee farmer working with the De La Gente coffee cooperative. After touring his coffee fields on Volcán de Agua, we returned to his home to roast some green beans and brew a pot of his very own coffee. Here he is enjoying the fruits of his labour.
A fisherman takes his traditional Mayan cayuco canoe onto the calm waters of Lake Atitlan at dawn.
Clarineros flock back to their nests as the twilight of evening falls upon Lake Atitlan.
In stark contrast to the lower elevations, volcanic peaks in the remote cloud forests of Guatemala’s highlands take on a more lush look indicative of the abundant life amidst them.
Days of walking meditation in the cloud forest were spent with Rojelio, a Mayan fellow who grew up amidst these trees. Walking slowly, we quietly tuned all our senses in to the abundant life hidden in plain sight around us as we sought out some of the cloud forests more elusive residents…
…such as the legendary male resplendent quetzal. This is the national bird of Guatemala. It appears on all the money and is an important character in Mayan stories. Given its significance, I really wanted to photograph it as part of the overall body of work I put together from my time in Guatemala. However, the quetzal is elusive; you’re lucky if you catch a glimpse of it in one’s lifetime, and even then it’s usually just a dark silhouette hundreds of feet up in the cloud forest canopy where you can’t even make out its brilliant colors. Further complicating the situation, travelling light meant that I hardly had ideal gear with me to do any sort of wildlife photography, never mind birding – ah, the technical challenge. In the end, with a good guide, patience, and several days spent tracking mating pairs, we made it work, and this is the resulting image that came of it all.
High above, a spider monkey gracefully moves through the jungle canopy of Petén.