62# Greeted by the Maras

Updated: Jul 5, 2021


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

- No… MY BACKPACK!!!



Being alone in Guatemala had given me plenty of time to watch people. Every time I was bored, I played a silly but funny game. I would observe 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.


I had never seen as many alcoholics as in Guatemala. At anytime of the day or night, there was always a drunk man lying in the gutter somewhere. Another stereotype I noticed was about young Guatemalan women. They dug foreigners, a lot! I could testify on that one, but I couldn't explain it.


The prodigal child had returned! It was good having Marco back. He placed his large travel backpack under the kitchen counter and found his ease in la Chichona. Our little rituals resumed as if he had never left. We only had a few more days in Antigua, Guatemala. The waves were calling.

Marco joined my little game. During his time in France, he noticed how often people complained, about pretty much anything. He'd been away for too long and had forgotten his people's favorite hobby. When you’re on the road, you quickly realize that complaining does not solve any of your problems, quite the opposite. Having lived four years in France, I learnt that part of the culture, râler. The French loved to complain. Marco approved the stereotype.



With Shitty Sugar officially behind me, I started seriously pushing my business. Marco and I had different agendas. I worked from cafés while he enjoyed the city of Antigua. On that same afternoon, he set up a date with Milena, a local he met on Tinder. We planned to meet for diner after his date. I left him La Chichona's keys, went to my usual café, and wished him good luck.

I saw a local girl with a foreigner and sat next to them, eavesdropping. They were on a date and despite the guy’s quaint humour, the girl was all over him. His jokes were so bad they made me flinch. Yet, she laughed, flicked her hair, and gazed in awe. She laughed at his bad jokes and I laughed at his naïvety. The local girl was performing her dance, a graceful mantis about to devour its pray.

Intrigued, I turned to Paula. "Why do Guate girls seem to always favor foreigners over locals?" I asked. In a candid tone she said, “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 returned to la Chichona and knocked on the door. "Not now bud, come back in an hour" Marco said from inside. An hour later, he and I went to Antigua's market for diner. I told Marco about Paula's explanation and how she stereotyped Guatemalan men. He laughed and added, “and alkies! She forgot alkies”.


On the main market alley, a man was laying on the ground, passed out drunk. Next to him, a teenage girl was kicking him hard in the gut, teaching him a lesson he wouldn't remember. I felt his pain with every kick. Whoever that man was to her, she’d had enough. The teenager's anger broke (and beat) the man's cowardice. The little girl was fierce and brave, the next Rosa Parks. That wreck couldn't confirm the stereotype, but his corpse did. Since witnessing that scene, we called the local men Guatemalkies.

Guatemala is the land of lakes, flora, and volcanos; a fabulous country. All the people we met were kind, welcoming, and generous. I knew nothing when I first arrived, but was mindblown by the beautiful experiences we had. Marco and I said goodbye to our lovers and left Antigua with a heavy heart. We will come back...one day.


Our next destination was Playa El Tunco, a tiny coast village in El Salvador. We heard the waves were good over there. When I shared my plans though, all my Latino friends warned me against it. El Salvador was home to the Maras or MS-13; the most dangerous gang in the world.


I usually pay no mind to such news; mainstream media is bullshit. If you listen to them for too long, you would start believing that your immigrant neighbour is plotting to steal your job, burn your house, and murder your family. Thanks but no thanks, I'd rather see El Salvador. This time though, I wasn't keen about their stereotypes.


We entered the long narrow street of Playa El Tunco in the late afternoon. People were walking around shirtless and barefoot. Even at sunset, the heat was overwhelming. There was no way we could have stayed in the van. We parked, packed the bare minimum, and went looking for a room with a fan.


Two days later, we returned to la Chichona to pick up extra clothes when I noticed something odd. The large mandala curtain was down and the kitchen was messy. I always leave the van neat and tidy, always. Marco usually does too. Just as I turned to him, he yelled! His backpack was gone. Fuck...


Stereotypes exist for a reason.


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