Published: January 11th 2006January 3rd 2006
San Pedro FC
Real beach football
After a day and a half of frustrating travel, due to many reasons, I arrived in San Pedro La Laguna via a overnight stop in Guatemala City. Within about ten minutes of arrival a guy had lead me to a hotel and language school and I had parted with money to both. Language schools are amazingly cheap here, with 20hrs lessons 1-1, accomodation and food setting you back only about US$90. The general consesus among travellers is that the standard of teaching is not hot, but for what I wanted (a lot of conservational practice) this is not too important and still provides excellent value for money. Of course the flip side of the coin tells you that by the time the language school has pocketed it's bit the teacher is unlikely to earning much over $1.50 per hour, not much even here.
San Pedro is a likeable friendly place with a mixture of Hippy Gringo joints, with lots of joints available, straddling the lake side area, great views of the lake and the surrounding hills and with a friendly, mainly indigenous population dominating the town. You will often hear as much Tz'utujil and English as Spanish spoken here. All in all making it a good place to chill by being relatively quiet yet with enough entertainment to keep it interesting.
The guy who runs the language school used to be a revoluntary figure, meeting Marcos of Zapatista fame (see San Cristobal stuff) along his way. But he has given up that side of things now and is trying to build up a network of academies and training centres across Guatemala starting with a Language school and small hotel, I'm currently using both. I have spent some time with him talking through the politics of Guatemala, much of which I was already aware of, through background reading, which I will discuss here later, but he added some interesting points too.
One of which is why all the Indigenous women in the town wear the traditional dress but men (including him) don't. This basically comes down to discrimination and racism towards Indigenous people forcing Men to lose the dress in order to gain work and make their way in the world, with women tending to work in the home they were able to be stubborn and resistant. He also predicted things improving for the Mayan people in 2012, as this is predicted in ancient literature, I was little more dubious about this bit.
My homestay for the first week invovled living in a large house spread into two parts. My part had no bathroom or sink, meaning I had to walk down the street a little bit everytime I needed this and also to eat. Combine this with the family mostly talking amongst themselves in Tz'utujil , again losing the 'total immersion' promised other albeit it was marketed as a cultural one, it wasn't ideal but interesting. As far as I could make out three generations were living in the 'one' house numbering around 13 or 14 people in total, I struggled a bit with names, as did they with mine.
Overall, to continue the guidebook bit, it's a good place to meet other backpackers and concile yourself that there are many people who speak worse Spanish then yourself and chill in the evenings watching films.