I’ve now spent a week in Xela. I’ve spent most of my time in Spanish classes or lectures. I sort of randomly picked this school and I feel like I really lucked into it. It is one of the few schools that had a medical Spanish program with time in the clinic. In addition to great Spanish instruction, the school is involved in numerous volunteer projects, including the stove, a program to help tutor at risk youth, and clinics in the city and in rural communities. Everyone who works for or with the school is incredibly friendly and driven to help the community.
The city of Xela is an amazing place to live and explore. A little history. Quetzaltenango or Xela was a Mayan city that was the spiritual capital of the Mayan civilization. It was the site of the final battle between the Mayans and the Spanish in 1524. 270 Spaniards with firearms, steel swords, and horses defeated 10,000 Mayans in a day. Xela immediately became a major Spanish colonial city. It has the second oldest cathedral (or at least façade) in central America completed in 1532.
Today, it is Guatemala’s second largest city. I live in a relatively quiet neighbourhood in the newer, non charming part of the city. However, what constantly strikes me is the abundance of vitality of the city. The crazy drivers, the chicken buses, the taxis, the vendors on every street corners. The market with 100s of booths, many of which sell the exact same thing. Everyone is moving, everyone is talking, yelling, or in a hurry. Paradoxically, no one is ever on time and work is characterized mainly by sitting at a booth and talking to people.
The old part of the city has this feel mixed with a healthy dose of narrow cobblestone streets. Newer and renovated buildings are scattered amidst 500 year old cathedrals, old houses, and neoclassical buildings from the 1800s.