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So You Want to Go to Graduate School?: Getting to Retalhuleu, Guatemala

Roasted fava beans. Links below on fava beans, surviving graduate school, and how I learned Spanish in my thirties


A Retalhuleu businessmen who operated an import and export business, loved history, spoke English, and could afford access to email responded to my virtual posting for help. Locals called him Don Tirso and he is the reason I started my dissertation field work in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. You must have a local contact to get some traction on your work. Tirso would introduce me to a Retalhuleu journalist everyone called Maco. It was Maco who served as my fix it guy on the ground; the person who knows the ropes and can introduce you to need to know people in a community. Don Tirso’s office was in the municipal capital of the Department (like a state) ofRetalhuleu and it was where I went for internet access during my stay and other needed help, he and his staff were great. At the turn of the century this region had several work camps of The Champerico and Northern Transportation Company of Guatemala. The companies recruited workers to build a deep water port at the port of Champerico and a railroad that would connect the port to the municipal capital of Retalhuleu. I traveled there from the United States both terrified and thrilled to archival research. I landed at Guatemala City airport and then took a taxi to the bus depot in zone 1 in the city. The place is a zoo with so much going on that it can throw a newcomer into a panic. Somehow I found my way and boarded a tricked out bus for a 6 hour no conditioned trip to Retalhuleu. The bus driver blasted narcocorridos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zjyDGnDUXs on the sound system the entire way. The route we traveled divided many small towns and villages and sadly on weekends intoxicated men staggered across the street oblivious to the oncoming speeding buses. That night I witnessed a hit and run three cars ahead that most of killed the man crossing the road because the car hurled his body up in the air like a sack of potatoes. At busy intersections one saw street venders selling fruit, juices, sodas, and nuts to pedestrians and bus passengers. One of my favorite street snacks in Mexico and Guatemala became roasted and salted fava beans which Latin Americans call Habas. You can buy them in the states at most bodegas. People in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, except for most North American have been enjoying this snack for hundreds of years. More tomorrow.


Related fava bean link: http://www.nutsonline.com/snacks/fava-beans/salted.html

Surviving Graduate School Series: http://frederickdouglassopie.blogspot.com/search?q=surviving+graduate+school

How I learned Spanish: http://lacrossememoir.blogspot.com/search?q=Learning+Spanish

Feasting in Guatemala City: Rey Sol

Historic Poems and Food Series: Jambalaya