Journey to the Ixil

I left Coban on Boxing Day from the bus terminal shown here in one of the minibuses to Uspantan. As usual, there were about 30 people jam packed into the bus, and very little room to put my legs.

Part of the way the road was very bad, and there were regular warnings of landslides, and parts of the road had fallen away, or had huge boulders we needed to skirt around. There were warnings not to take this route after dark.

The scenery — what I could see of it anyway — was amazing, with green mountains and deep valleys. After Uspantan, and on another minibus, the road was greatly improved and has recently been built with a hard top, but even still there were parts of the road covered with debris from landslides.

I was exhausted from the bus ordeal when I arrived in Nebaj, and checked into a good hotel that had excellent hot water and clean sheets. I found the organization that runs the Spanish language courses I intend to take next week and signed up. The package I took includes room and two meals a day in the home of a local family.

Nebaj is a town in the Ixil Triangle, a heavily indigenous area that was especially targeted by the military governments in the civil war of the 1980s. Ixil is one of the many local Mayan languages. Many people here speak it as their first language, though the family I’m staying with are Ladinos, a term that tends to describe people of mixed race who have been totally assimilated into Hispanic culture and speak Spanish as their first language.

About Richard McGuire
Richard McGuire is a part-time photographer and photography enthusiast based on Ottawa, Canada.

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