Ciudad De Guatemala, Spanish for Guatemala City, is the largest city in Central America. The town lying in the valley of the central highlands was rebuilt after the disastrous six weeks earthquake that occurred in 1917-1918. The city characterized by elegant residential apartment’s steel multistoried office suites and high-end hotels.
Guatemala Cultural Life
Apart from the lavish lifestyle, the great city is the seat of the San Carlos University of Guatemala, the principal institution for all artistic, military, commercial and vocational education. It houses the Society of Geography and History and several museums. The various public buildings worth noting are:
- National Palace
- The post office
- The National Archaeological Museum
- The National archives
- The cathedral 1815
- Santo Domingo
- And the ancient La Merced
Guatemala is also known for its low literacy levels as there are areas that poverty is stricken. Various volunteering opportunities aim to make a difference in the lives of the community members. The children lack education attributed to lack of schools and teachers, and they need academic volunteers and persons to empower the women to enrich themselves before the volcanoes of Ancient Mayan ruins engulf them.
Before heading to become a Guatemala volunteer, there are several things you need to know.
- 1. GuatemalaCity
The country’s capital city is by far the prime destination for foreigners, but over the years it has experienced an increase in assault, robbery and other crimes against the tourists. There are measures put in place however to improve the situation.
Commuting to the city will be hectic if you are not used to the fast life. The drivers in Guatemala are always in a hurry and ever honking during their trips. Do not be afraid as this is their way of life, and you will get to your destination much faster though.
Time in the big city seems to move very slow for the natives. Like most Latin Americans, the locals are not very strict on time, they emphasize more on the quality time spent bonding with their company. A volunteering opportunity in the country will offer an escape from the stressful life of the minute planned life and a gentle reminder to enjoy life.
There are over 20 indigenous languages still spoken today by the locals. The Mayan culture remains prominent among the locals have retained their traditional way of dressing and customs. The Guatemalans are very hospitable people and vibrant.
Their staple food is rice and black beans, and there is no such thing as too much food. Breakfast often incorporates two scrambled eggs, fried plantains, and corn tortillas. Tamales and Empanadas are also favorite foods with various meats being included for lunch.
As a volunteer, if you want to eat the best authentic meals, visit the ‘comedores,’ that is, the small holes in the restaurant’s walls designated for families.
When you arrive in Guatemala, you will get a special price gift that is an exaggeration. It is expected you bargain despite the locals being very persuasive individuals. Shop at the local markets for inexpensive handmade souvenirs and do not feel pressured to purchase anything.
Unlike the western cultures that skimp down their attires during summer, the Guatemala locals wear modest attire all season. Do not pack short skirts or shorts and shirts with skinny straps, even for the swimsuit, carry a one-piece swimsuit. When dressed appropriately you will feel more comfortable and welcomed by the locals.
- 4. LearnEspañola
Spanish is the official language in Guatemala however, it is spoken by half of the population, and Spanish fluency is not necessary for the volunteers. Due to the essential Mayan culture, indigenous languages make up the majority of the spoken languages. Working as a volunteer, high chances you will learn some of the native dialects.
Guatemala is full of adventurous activities and beautiful view. Visit the massive mountains, the Olympic city, the Minerva Park, historical and archeological museums and the environs of Guatemala like the Chinautla villages. The beautiful scenery of the Quetzaltenango city south of Guatemala that sits at the foot of the Santa Maria Volcano. The high altitude causes the temperatures to fall below the freezing point during dry seasons, and it is a historic site in which the Spanish fought with the Indians. Do not wear flip-flops when exploring the Mayan ruins unless you want to lose your footing.
Guatemala is a poor community, and as a volunteer, you will have to contend with the necessary living conditions. Homestays will be provided, but it will depend upon the type of program you engage in. There is no washing machines or hot water showers; however, you will be provided with food, security, and transport.