Sunday, March 30, 2008



With Tikal under wraps, we headed off to Livingston to continue working on our tans. Livingston is four and half hours by bus plus one hour by boat from Flores. Located on the small portion of Caribbean coast that remains to Guatemala after the British made off with Belize, it is an area unique to Guatemala. If asked to select which of these things do not belong in this country, Livingston would be it.

Livingston contains the largest population of the Garifuna people in Guatemala. The Garifuna are descendents of shipwrecked African slaves who mixed with the local indigenous population of the island St. Vincent in the Caribbean. When the island was finally conquered, the British deported its surviving population to Honduras and their descendents spread along the Caribbean coastline.

Needless to say, Livingston has a decidedly Caribbean feel and culture which starkly contrasts with the conservative Mayan cultures of the western highlands. There is a large black population, palm trees, brightly painted wooden houses, an abundance of seafood, people who are taller than me, Garifuna music (mostly composed of drum rhythms), and actual dancing!

[To get to Livingston you have to take a one hour boat ride in from Rio Dulce (sweet river), or a 30 minute boat ride from Puerto Barrios. Having arrived from Rio Dulce and exited to Puerto Barrios, I strongly recommend taking the boat ride in from Rio Dulce. The ride down this river was one of the most beautiful I have seen in my life. The hills fade from green to blue to purple and the water is calm and gorgeous. Houses are constructed along the shoreline on stilts with palm roofs. Rounding the curves of the river you catch glimpses of hundreds of birds and I’ve heard there are manatees in this area, but we didn’t see any. It is easy to imagine this area uninhabited and teaming with wildlife. The ride out to Puerto Barrios is through the bay waters, rapid, and rather non-descript in comparison. In addition Puerto Barrios itself is a rather ugly, seedy port town and not much to look at.]

Upon successfully arriving in Livingston (three Belgian tourist were kidnapped a few weeks back on their way in from Rio Dulce by a rebellious indigenous group, but were released unharmed) we made our way to our hotel; a rather large dump, but the only place that was still taking reservations by the time we got around to planning our trip. Quickly dropping off our stuff, we raced to the nearest restaurant to begin gorging ourselves on seafood.

This portion of our trip mainly consisted of eating, dancing, eating, exploring, eating, sleeping, and eating. Unfortunately it was cloudy both days we were there so we did not spend much time at the beach, on the bright side; Livingston is not renowned for its beaches anyway. We did watch live Garifuna music and the Caribbean waters at night from the dock of a seaside bar. I think that my favorite part of Livingston, besides the seafood, was its strong contrast of culture against that of Cabricán. It is amazing that there is such a wide spectrum in a country so small.

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