Xela Who?

Guatemala 2007 Xela

Xela is a great city. Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala and it has the feel of being a "real" city (Antigua for example is wonderful but it seems a bit too touristy).

The Parque Central is beautiful, surrounded by historic buildings. This part of Xela compares to Antigua, only the historic area is smaller in relation to the rest of the city.

There are tons of restaurants, bars, salsa lessons, Spanish schools etc. The real problem arises when you try to sort out where to go and what to do among so many cool choices. First you should check out the website This site has lots of good info on schools, doctors, hospitals and more. Xelapages is the serious website that gives lots of good information. The publication Xela Who? on the other hand is irreverent and it has quality info for finding where the hot spots are in the area. Xela Who is available at many local restaurants, bookstores and language schools to help you make decisions. The small, probably xeroxed publication is full of interesting reviews of cultural life in Xela (and now San Pedro too!). It also has some humorous articles to keep you reading.



By Chris Perras
Chicken bus driver Juan Lentemente was fired this weekend amidst charges of driving too slowly and without the influence of alcohol. Initially, bus company officials had called for the suspension of Lentemente’s license, but upon learning that he never had a license and was only thirteen years old, decided they had to let him go. Lentemente issued an apology, adding "I neglected my responsibility to the Guatemalan public to drive as fast as the laws of physics allow to get my passengers to their intended destination, and just before reaching it, to stop inexplicably for an extended period of time." We interviewed Alvaro Siemprespacio, the president of Xelaju Chicken Buses, Inc., to find out more about the firing. "The difference between arriving in Chichicastenango at 6:15 am and arriving at 6:19 am may only be the sale of one goat," he remarked, "but when that difference is multiplied by the number of people who can fit in one of our buses, that's a whole lot of goats."

Siemprespacio pointed out that these were neither Lentemente's first, nor only violations. He has also been cited for failing to stop for passengers on the roadside when the bus was, as he put it, "full." "We at Xelaju Chicken Buses, Inc. believe that when there's no room, it's our job to make it" commented Siemprespacio. The company was kind enough to share with us the formula it uses for bus capacity: (C = 4N + X), with C representing capacity, N the number of benches and X the number of additional people on the roadside who want a ride - generally somewhere between 8 and a gajillion.

Siemprespacio explained that filling each bus to capacity helps create a family atmosphere. He added, "If sitting on the lap of a campesino while simultaneously helping diagnose an oozing rash on a nearby passenger and breastfeed a Quiche baby isn't an ice-breaker, I don't know what is." Siemprespacio also responded to criticisms of his company's mandatory alcohol requirement. "Tossing back a few Gallos before driving is a crucial aspect of the job," he replied. "How can one make blind passes on twisting, steep mountain roads without an artificially-inflated set of huevos?"

We at XelaWho can't help but agree. As the saying in Guatemala goes, 'he who hesitates is (knocked off of a cliff by an oncoming 16-wheeler and subsequently) lost.'

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Xela Teco

I had a work related project in Xela. This isn't a pro-blog about my work so I will just give a short overview of what I was doing.


Over 2.1 billion people live without electricity. Most of these people use kerosene lamps to provide light at night. The price of kerosene, like gas, is going up. It costs a family in Africa (or Guate) about $75.00 per year to light their houses. Cheaper and better is to use photovoltaics and LED, (light emitting diodes) lights. A house can be outfitted with a 20 watt PV panel, good quality nickel metal hydride batteries and (3) room lights using LEDs for less per year than the cost of kerosene. And that includes the cost of borrowing money at typical market rates. (This is a business opportunity for any eco-entrepreneurs out there!)

I was working with the Xela Teco workshop in Xela to make some prototype LED circuit boards. The big idea is this: LED lights are still pretty expensive, about $25.00 just for an LED replacement for a light bulb. If you make your own LED circuit on a pre made circuit board the cost is relatively small, about $2.50 - 3.50 per LED circuit board. The catch is that you have to design the circuit board and install all of the parts.

A NGO who provides services in very rural parts of the world can set up a workshop to make LED lights on pre-printed circuit boards, sell the service - light - and provide maintenance of the lights and photovoltaics as a profit making venture, given the right circumstances.

I, or we, (The Appropriate Technology Design Collaborative) are working on the design of a universal LED circuit board. It will work with almost any photovoltaic system and when made in a host country where rural use of kerosene lamps is common, it will cost less than kerosene.

The design of the LED circuit board will be published for anyone to use. Better, we expect to make thousands of the circuit boards and instructions available to any NGO who wants / needs to use them.

Anyway, I was trying to be short winded about this but as you may guess by now, I'm pretty excited about the project.

The Xela Teco workshop has engineers and the ability to prototype electronic circuits (+about anything you can imagine). Working with them was a pleasure. Plus I find it much more interesting to travel with some sort of project in mind VS travel just to be somewhere different.

At Xela Teco we worked out some of the potential bugs in the circuit board design, although much work needs to be done. My partner at Xela was Jose Ordonez who has a much deeper knowledge of electronics than I, and he was fun to work with. We started the project speaking mostly English but at the end I'd say we were speaking half English and half Spanish.

I have to catch the bus home, I will add more to this soon.

Also: After Xela, on to Tikal and Peten.