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62# Greeted by the Maras

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

- The mandala is down...and the kitchen! Did you leave a mess in here?


Marco left to attend his grandmother's funeral in France. I was alone in Guatemala, and that gave me plenty of time to observe my surroundings. I played a silly but funny game. I would watch people and try to spot stereotypes. The stereotype could be about anything, but only a person from the targeted group could approve it. It was judgemental, shallow, and extremely amusing.

There were many alcoholics as in Guatemala, more than I had ever seen. At any time of the day or night, there was a drunk man passed out in a gutter. That was my first stereotype. The second was about young Guatemalan women. They dug foreigners, a lot! Both Marco and I could testify on that one, but we couldn't explain it. I'll ask Paula about that.

Marco returned to La Chichona! It was good having him back after two weeks apart. He placed his large travel backpack inside the van, under the kitchen counter, and found his ease. Our little rituals resumed as usual. We only had a few more days in Guatemala and stayed in Antigua before our next destination: El Salvador. The waves were calling.

Marco loved my little game. During his time in France, he noticed how often people complained, about everything. He'd been away for too long and had forgotten how much the French love to complain. Having lived four years in France, I learned the meaning of the word râler. The French loved to complain, and Marco approved the stereotype. On the road, complaining does not help. So, I made sure everyone who travelled with me agreed on these 3 golden rules.

With my employer Shitty Sugar behind me, I started pushing my business. Marco and I had different agendas during the day. I worked from cafés while he toured the city of Antigua. One afternoon, he had a date with Milena, a local he met on Tinder. I left him the keys to La Chichona and wished him good luck.

In a café, I saw a local girl with a foreigner and sat next to them. They were on a date, and the girl was all over him. The guy's jokes were so bad they made me cringe. Yet, she flicked her hair and gazed in awe. She laughed at his bad jokes and I laughed at the stereotype. The Guatemalan girl was performing her ritual, a graceful mantis toying with its prey.

Intrigued, I texted Paula for an answer

  • Why do Guate girls seem to favor foreigners over locals?

  • Guatemalan men are machos and womanizers. Foreigners are exotic. You never know what you’re gonna get.

She had a point. Paula approved the stereotype.

I left the café and knocked on La Chichona's door. "Not now bud. Give me an hour" , Marco said from inside. I waited at the park for him to finish his business and join me for dinner at the market. I told him about Paula's explanation, and how she stereotyped Guatemalan men. Marco laughed and added, “and alkies! She forgot to say alkies”.

A man was lying on the ground, unconscious, on the main market alley. Next to him, a teenage girl no older than twelve was kicking in the gut. Whoever that man was to her, she’d had enough. The child girl was fierce, brave, and angry. That wreck couldn't confirm the stereotype, but his beaten body did. After than, Marco and I labelled local men Guatemalkies.

We left Guatemala the next morning, the land of lakes, flora, and volcanos. All the people we met were kind and welcoming. I knew nothing when I first arrived but was mindblown by the generosity of its people. We said goodbye to our lovers and promised to keep in touch. We will come back one day. Inshallah!

Our next destination was Playa El Tunco, a tiny village on the coast of El Salvador. I heard El Salvador had good waves, but all my Latino friends warned me against it. El Salvador is home to the Maras or MS-13; the most dangerous gang in the world.

I usually pay no mind to such rumors; mainstream media is bullshit. Listen to them for too long and you'd start suspecting your immigrant neighbour is plotting to steal your job and murder your family. I'd rather be my own judge. This time though, I wasn't keen on confirming the stereotype.

We drove through the long narrow street of Playa El Tunco at sunset. People walked around shirtless and barefoot. The air was humid and the heat oppressive. We parked, packed the bare minimum, and looked for a room with a fan.

Two days later, we returned to la Chichona to pick up extra clothes. Something felt off. I always leave the van neat and tidy, Marco as well. But The mandala curtain was down and the kitchen messy. Marco yelled! His backpack was gone...Fuck.

Stereotypes exist for a reason.


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