the roads of Guatemala


The roads of Guatemala have always been its best and worst theatre. Beautiful dirt roads leading to a vast green nowhere. Old gravel roads winding up active volcanoes, around rivers and lakes, through screaming jungles. Long, eternal roads whose ends dip into two great oceans. City roads that are barely paved, barely straight and barely navigable. A few years ago, after spending some time in Spain, I finally moved back to Guatemala and was struck when friends and family members gave me the same piece of advice. Don’t honk your horn at another car, don’t overtake another car, don’t dare raise your headlights at another car. Why? On several occasions I forgot this advice and was then able to confirm its gloomy wisdom. Once I was chased fiercely for ten or fifteen minutes, until my pursuer either got tired or grew bored. Still another time, and without me ever knowing why, an elderly woman drove for a few blocks right next to my car, screaming and insulting me with the most lavish vocabulary I’d ever heard. Another time a man pulled up beside me at a red light and proceeded to show me, all the while smiling, his handgun.

more from Eduardo Halfon at Granta here.