Posts Tagged ‘Lake Atitlan Guatemala’

Lake Atitlan tragedy

Friday, November 16th, 2018


A re-post written by my friend, Caroline Callison Tiffin, who knows Guatemala very well. On Wednesday, a boat sank on Lake Atitlan, with 17 people on board. Ten were rescued; three drowned, and four remain missing and are presumed dead. I’ll echo Caroline’s last sentence: “Enjoy the beautiful lake, but be safe!” From Caroline:

Adoptive families often ask about safety in traveling to Guatemala. I tell them it’s generally quite safe for tourists who use common sense and listen to the advice of their guide if they have one. I think most questions relate the the possibility of being a victim of crime but sometimes danger lurks in more unexpected situations: on Wednesday a tragedy occurred on Lake Atitlan, a popular tourist destination, when a boat traveling from Santiago Atitlan to Panajachel sank with 17 on board. Ten were rescued, 3 perished and 4 more were missing and presumed dead including a doctor from the Hospitalito in Santiago. He called colleagues to report the boat was going down but it is thought he may have drowned trying to save another before rescue teams could arrive.

The lake is not to be missed but many boats lack sufficient/adequate life preservers. The water is very cold and very deep. For my groups I have a local resident and friend charter all our lake excursions with a friend of his who runs safe boats. Although the law requires a life preserver for each passenger this is very often ignored. I understand there were way fewer than 17 on the boat that sank.

I suggest you book any lake excursions with a legitimate travel agency. Even then some pilots will operate their boats while intoxicated and on non-charters will grossly overload their boats to maximize profit. As early as noon on some days the afternoon Xocomil winds begin and on days like Wednesday when the wind is extra fierce an overloaded boat can capsize. If you suspect the pilot is impaired and or if you think the boat is overloaded, get off! Have everyone on your group put on a life preserver before leaving the dock – if there aren’t enough, get off! Enjoy the beautiful lake but be safe!


Politics, rural tourism, micro-loans in Guatemala

Friday, March 25th, 2011

This article in The EconomistGuatemala’s First Couple: Divide and Rule, gives the best general overview written in English about the divorce of Guatemala’s presidential couple, Alvaro Colom and Sandra Torres, that I’ve read so far. In reads in part:

Ms Torres is not the only candidate running on dubious constitutional grounds. Álvaro Arzú, a former president, is campaigning despite a ban on re-election. Zury Ríos, a congresswoman, may be blocked by a prohibition on the relatives of the organisers of coups, since her father, Efraín Ríos Montt, toppled a government in 1982 and installed himself as dictator.


One of the few candidates free of constitutional entanglements is Otto Pérez Molina, a former general who narrowly lost a run-off vote to Mr Colom in 2007. Mr Pérez Molina is the strong favourite: a recent poll put his support at 43%, with Ms Torres next on only 11%. In 2007 he promised an “iron fist” against crime. Since then Guatemala has become far more dangerous, as Mexican cocaine smugglers have put down roots in the wild jungle areas near the northern border. After four years of the soft-spoken Mr Colom, some Guatemalans might fancy an ex-army man to drive the gunmen back across the frontier.

Guatemala has been challenged with political and social instability throughout its history, including during  the years since the 36-year civil war ended in 1996. That instability has far-reaching implications. Tourism, for example. Danilo Valladares reports in Alternative Tourism Seeks to Overcome Major Obstacles.

GUATEMALA CITY, Mar 24, 2011 (IPS) – Most of the countries of Central America are lagging behind the rest of the tourist destinations in Latin America, despite their impressive natural and archaeological treasures. To turn this situation around, the area is increasingly focusing on alternatives like rural tourism.

“Tourism has become the main livelihood of families here,” Olga Cholotío of the Rupalaj K’istalin community association of eco-tourism guides in San Juan La Laguna in the northwestern Guatemalan province of Sololá, told IPS.

The association, run by the Mayan Tzutuhil indigenous people, works in the area around Lake Atitlán, one of the region’s main tourist attractions, offering tours of rural areas and villages where visitors see traditional weavers making colourful textiles, watch small-scale fishers plying their trade, take in traditional music and dance performances, and go on nature walks.


The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, produced every year since 2007 except 2010, seeks to measure the factors and policies making countries attractive for developing the travel and tourism industry. The index includes three main subcategories: regulatory framework; business environment and infrastructure; and human, cultural, and natural resources.

Cholotío is not familiar with the report. But she has no doubt that Guatemala’s high crime rates have a negative impact on tourism and keep it from fully becoming an engine of development for communities like hers.

In 2010, revenues from tourism, the country’s third-largest source of foreign exchange, fell 14.5 percent from 2009, to just under 986 million dollars, according to Guatemala’s central bank.

The first question I’m asked when I talk about our travels to Guatemala is “Is it safe?” My answer is that it is, as long as you’re careful. My personal preference is to avoid Guatemala City, but I may be more cautious than most. We plan our trips thoughtfully and make arrangements in advance. Our family loves the villages around Lake Atitlán. Like many other adoptive families, we try to visit as much as we can. I hope that the region’s plans to boost rural tourism succeeds.

Finally, a friend posted this link to a video on the Kiva website made by a Bay Area family who made a micro-loan to three women in Guatemala to help fund their clothing enterprise. You’ll enjoy watching a recap of the family’s trip to Guatemala, where they met the three women whose business they helped finance.

Happy Friday!


Guatemala Part 3: Family

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Anyone who has read my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, or anything else I’ve written, knows that I am an advocate for open adoption whenever possible. I believe that inside every person, at a very basic and profound level, is a need to know who they are and where they come from. And by that, I mean who they are biologically, who they are in their DNA. A person needs to know who shares her blood.

That need, in my opinion, in no way undermines my role as an adoptive mother. Rather, it acknowledges a life–and a biology–that existed before me.

That’s one reason why I am here with Olivia in Guatemala, so she can visit with her birth family. Are our visits straightforward and uncomplicated? Honestly, they aren’t, for any of us. Not only do we grapple with the complexity of adoption, but we also face the challenges of two vastly different cultures and lifestyles. Speaking elementary Spanish and no K’iche is the least of it.

Despite the challenges, though, these visits with family are the most important days of our year. I believe I can speak for everyone involved when I say we feel healing, and unity, and love. When we started Olivia’s adoption in 2002, never did I dream that nine years later, we would walk down the calle of Panajachel with her birth brother and sister, or drink Coca-Cola in the mercado and shop for hair barrettes and blue jeans. Nor did I imagine kneeling beside her birth mother and Abuela in church, offering prayers in each of our languages. But that’s the reality of our family. That is who we are, now and forever.

For anyone who has been to Guatemala, or hopes to visit, below are a few scenes from Panajachel. My enormous fruit cup at Hotel Kakchiquel, the  vendors, the bus to Solola, the church steps. This is a beautiful country. We feel lucky to be here.


Antigua Guatemala continued

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Summer in the United States is rainy season in Guatemala, and as anyone familiar with the tropics knows, when it rains here, it really pours. We just got word that the road to Panajachel and Lake Atitlán—where we planned to go next week with Tim and Mateo—is closed due to a mudslide. Not only tourists use the road, of course; it’s the main thoroughfare through the central part of the country. With luck, the road will be cleared soon for car traffic. (more…)