Ermita De La Santa Cruz: Christmas Wallpaper

Santa Cruz ruins antigua guatemala

December and January’s Antigua wallpaper calendars are now ready! This wallpaper calendar features Ermita de la Santa Cruz, which we’ve featured before in a previous Antigua calendar. It’s not often you get to see Antigua’s ruins flanked by giant nutcrackers!

Nutcrackers at Ermita de la Santa Cruz

Nutcrackers at Ermita de la Santa Cruz

I’d been wanting to get a closer look at the ruins since it’s only open during special events.

I found my opportunity when I heard there would be a Christmas show event – Navidad Fantastica – showing at the venue.

The show was great and our family really enjoyed the Guatemalan Rockettes. Well done and save for the dialogue during the play, which was in Spanish, all musical numbers were based around English-language Christmas songs.

I’ll update this post with a few pictures later. Expensive show by Guatemalan standards at Q200 per person, I couldn’t help but remember that in the US I had paid at least double for similar presentations.

You won’t miss out on Christmas traditions from the US in Guatemala is what I’m trying to say.


Instructions on how to download your wallpaper below.

This calendar is available in a US-friendly format which marks Sunday as the first day of the week.

To apply the calendar to your desktop, follow the instructions below:

1- Click on the following links to get your preferred version; each of these links will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper calendar in the screen size selected.

Ermita de la Santa Cruz:  1920 x 1200 -&- 1920 x 1080

2- Right-click (or Ctrl-click for most Mac users) on the image. Choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something to that effect. Keep in mind that the exact wording will depend on the browser you use.

3- If the image does not fit your desktop background like it should, you may have to go to your preferred options. On a Mac? Go to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop. Using Windows? Go to Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose “Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

I hope you enjoy them! Feel free to share with friends and comment on our Facebook page.


More photos of Christmas in Antigua Guatemala here.

The Whistlers: Guatemala’s Informal Economy

goat milk Antigua Guatemala

According to an article I read recently, about 75% of the working-age population in Guatemala is underemployed, members of the “informal” economy. They are self-employed Guatemalans who make ends meet working odd jobs or by opening a small business of some sort. For these folks, there is little in the way of legal protection or recourse. Simply put, a day not worked is a day that income won’t come. There’s no retirement plan awaiting, or a paid vacation.

Most people that visit Guatemala will have some sort of interaction with these workers. From handicrafts sellers, boys who’ll shine your shoes at Parque Central for Q3, to the lady that helps people park on the street while her two young daughters watch. Whether it rains or shines, what they eat (or don’t) that day will depend on how much money they can make that day.

For Guatemalans who grew up in their country, these workers are part of the landscape. For most foreigners, adjusting to this economy can often take some getting used to. For example, there are no newspaper dispensing machines in Antigua. Nor can you buy one at the supermarket. If you want a newspaper, you head to your favorite newspaper seller, who’ll be there selling them rain or shine. You can always visit the friendly “lady with a hat“, a fixture next to Parque Central.

If you happen to live on the outskirts of Antigua, or in one of the nearby towns, you might soon begin to figure out who’s selling what outside your door. I’ve yet to master this skill, one that is second nature to my wife. Depending on the whistle sound, there might be someone outside my house selling newspapers, fresh bread, goat milk, or alternatively, offering to remove soot from your pots and knick-knackspen your knives.

guatemala goat cheese

My Goat Cheese Dealer…

For weeks now, the wife has been nagging me to do something about the now-dull knives we bought a couple years ago at Cemaco (aka Guatemala’s version of Target). And for weeks I’ve been trying to figure out when the knife-sharpening guy was outside, only to return to the house bummed when it wasn’t. A blind squirrel will find a nut occasionally and after checking outside after every whistle, I finally found my guy.

Knife-sharpening Guy

The Elusive Knife-sharpening Guy

And so it was that for a price of Q5 per knife, I saved myself the trouble of having to sharpen knives myself or worse, buying cheap new ones at the Mercado, which I was close to doing.

If there’s a point to this post, I guess is that if you have the chance to pay somebody for an odd job here and there, do it. Or even if it’s buying cheap knick-knacks you’ll give away as presents to someone else later – like the poinsettias I bought for my wife last week from a couple of cute, chatty Maya girls on the street. This form of “giving” I feel is more effective than only handing out money to beggars, which Antigua has plenty of. I know it’s your money, and you can be as generous (or not) as you want and distribute as you see fit, but it’s something to consider.


What’s your favorite “informal” economy purchase?
Share in the comments below!

Guatemalan Fireworks And Virgen de Guadalupe Day

Virgen de Guadalupe Antigua Guatemala

The first time it happens, don’t be surprised if you experience what feels like a mild heart attack. There you are, snuggled up under a toasty blanket when suddenly, a small war breaks out outside your front door. Panic hits you first, then comes a sick feeling of disorientation.

“Where am I?”,  you ask yourself? “Somalia? Somewhere in Pakistan?”

Then it dawns on you that, yes, you’re on foreign soil, somewhere in Central America. Guatemala, actually.

Nerves frazzled, you shut your eyes trying to catch some sleep – but it won’t work. I know you’ll try to regardless of what I just told you. Just accept your morning is wrecked and that you might as well get on with your day.

Guatemalans Love Loud Fireworks

It might take you – and your dogs, if you have any – some time to get used to the ‘lovely’ local tradition of setting off bombas, or firecrackers at all hours, for any conceivable celebration. And not the pretty ones that light up the sky, but fireworks resembling mortar shells designed to go off at a certain height, or the type that go off like a machine gun.

Someone’s birthday? Bombas will go off at dawn at 6 am sharp, sleeping neighbors be damned.

A procession leaving a church? Bombas.

The Vice President renounces her post due to a corruption scandal? Bomba time.

As I type this, bombas are going off, I presume because it’s 6:27 pm on a Sunday night and I’m sure something noteworthy happened a long time ago at this very exact hour. It’s the only logical explanation.

If you have dogs, fireworks can be highly stressful for them. I recommend that you take a look at what are some of the things you can do to minimize their stress here.

Fireworks Season

There are two times during the year when bomba explosions ratchet up in frequency and intensity – Independence Day in September and Christmas. It’s one of those things that’s synonymous with the holidays here, as much a part of Christmastime as drinking ponche (hot fruit punch), eating tamales, setting the Devil ablaze, going door to door in tiny processions (posadas), and unwittingly buying Christmas presents for children of local Police Officers via bribes.

Bomba season starts ratcheting up on December 11, on the eve of the day of Virgin of Guadalupe Day, a wholly Mexican celebration that has taken root in Guatemala. And that’s my segue-way to show some pics and there’s nothing anyone can do about it :)

Virgin of Guadalupe Day Celebrations

This celebration is all about the children, whom parents dress up in traditional attire. Boys are dressed as Juan Diego – a saint who some in the Catholic Church doubt even existed, while girls are dressed as indigenous girls. Fake beards for boys are part of the costume.

In Antigua, children are taken to churches – usually La Merced, where photographers have set up displays with live animals.

Virgen de Guadalupe Day in Antigua Guatemala

Virgen de Guadalupe Photo Stand

For a fee – and there’s always a fee (Q20), children can pose for and receive a picture. There was about 10-15 such photo stands, all competing with each other for business (hence the appearance of live animals – chickens, roosters, rabbits, parrots, and kittens).

The atmosphere in front of the church’s plaza is really festive and full of all sorts of street vendors selling traditional food items.

Although it seems like I was complaining about bombas at first – maybe I was, at least about the early morning ones –  I really enjoy the Christmas season here. I can stay far away from Guatemala City malls (traffic is hellacious there at this time of the year anyway), while also getting into the spirit of the season. Christmas without consumerism – what a novel concept.


Thinking of moving to Antigua? Go here:



Do you love early morning bombas? 

Identify yourself as a mental patient in the comments below!