Friday, November 21, 2008

Trip Pic of the Day: Flores

What happened here?

When I first came to Flores back in '88 it was - sin ofender - the culo del mundo.

Now this little island township on Guatemala's second largest lake has a charm sharpened with incipient sophistication; a mildy Mediterranean mood one might even suggest.

There are even loads of pretty girls buzzing around the place on mopeds. Ok, some of them are carrying new-borns and have other-halves at the handlebars...but this is surely progress.

Flores was not only the first proper town I visited in Guatemala, it was also the only such place I'd heard much about before I came to these parts. This was because it was the axis around which the revolutionary fantasies of my soon-to-be travelling companion turned. Once known as Tayasal, capital of one of the last independent Maya polities, he rather optimistically conjectured that a limited amount of sponsored insurgency, camouflaged as a Cambridge University archaeological expedition, might restore the autonomy of this region and reestablish indigenous sovereignty in the Petén.

In the end I was to enter Guatemala alone in April 1988, because my revolutionary comrade by then considered me a potential rival vis-à-vis his somewhat asymmetic romantic assault on a young English teacher in Belize, and had duly plotted to remove me from the scene by way of the three day solo excursion to Tikal that he had been strongly recommending to me!

Having arrived in Santa Elena on a late bus from the border which had been stopped en route by both army and guerrillas, I crossed over to Flores on the narrow rough earth causeway that in those days linked it to the southern shore of Lake Petén Itzá. This has since been replaced by a fine raised highway, a gift it seems of Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen, former President of Guatemala and world's best mayor. (Honestly, who cares if he knew in advance that they were going to clobber the bishop? Can't we put that one down to a bit of healthy anti-clericism?)

Cortés visited Tayasal on his way to discovering that Honduras wasn't really worth discovering. He left his sick horse with the Indians he found there, promising to return, but never did. Iberian missionaries later found that the island's inhabitants had given themselves over to a cult of equine worship - it seems that they'd accidentally killed off the Conquistador's mount by feeding it flowers and, uneasy with the idea of being responsible for the death of such a deity had, by way of atonement, constructed a stone statue of the defunct steed, naming it Tzimin Chac or 'Thunder Horse'.

Some more pics of the lovely Flores here.

1 comment:

scott said...

I first walked over the causeway from Santa Elena to Flores in 2003. The first thing I saw on the Flores side was grafitti: "Afuera gringo huecos." And our host told us that the mara situation was very bad.

But other than that, it was quite beautiful. We'll go back in April will be interesting to see 6 years' worth of change.