Angela of Livingston – Part 8
While Angela of Livingston Guatemala and Vermeer, her pinwheel-eyed admirer, continue to clean and polish the Hotel Leddie, John and Veronica are getting a tour of the town.
Strolling at a slow pace down the main street that leads to the beach, their guide Daniel greets and waves to passing townsfolk. “Mornin’ mamas,” to the ladies balancing plastic basins of laundry on their heads and making their way to the communal “tanque” where clothes are hand scrubbed, slapped and wrung amid gossip and laughter. Roosters crow without stop and closer to the beach two middling-sized pigs cross the street ignoring stray dogs and bicycles.
Livingston Guatemala was founded in the early 19th century by escaped slaves, Haiti likely the starting off point, he explains. As they reach the beach, he points to a statue about 300 metres from the shore. Standing on a concrete platform is the tribute to town founder Marcos Sanchez Diaz who’s holding a long staff and gazing at the sea in the direction of nearby Belize.
It is said that Sanchez Diaz had shaman powers which allowed him to commune with animals and insects and banish plague from the area, making it a good place for his Garifuna flock. It is also widely believed that his continued presence protects Livingston Guatemala from the lashings of tropical storms and hurricanes. None of these have hit this shore with any great force in living or recorded memory.
Veronica asks about the Garifuna drumming and singing they heard the night before. Well, that, sighs Daniel is the dark side of tourism. Those people sing for money and not out of spontaneous joy or veneration for tradition, which is why they are so dreadfully, annoyingly bad. “You get to hatin’ dem too if you have a drop o’ sense in your brain,” he laughs.
If you want to hear authentic Garifuna rhythms wait for a celebration like the ones to Sanchez Diaz or other festival days, is his advice. There’s an event at the Garifuna Centre on top of the hill on the Rio Dulce side in few days. He’ll go with them.
Walking along the beach, there are two abandoned hotels, among the many in the area that have failed because the gringo owners didn’t know how to incorporate themselves into the culture or respect the unwritten rules of life in Livingston Guatemala. Bad karma, tut tuts Daniel. People here are friendly and helpful, but if you close them out and, for example, only hire other gringos and don’t buy anything from local suppliers and merchants, things are not going to go well. People here may not be rich, but they have powerful spiritual or black channels to send you good or ill if they so choose.
Making a sharp turn off the beach they find themselves suddenly in a jungle patch, a random micro climate eruption where the swampy earth yields coconut, palm and mangrove trees. On first facing it you might be inclined to turn your head back to verify that the sandy beach is actually only a stone’s throw away. In fact, this is what Veronica does and, turning jungle-ward again, her fine patrician noggin collides with a low hanging mangrove bough with a force that sends her down fast.
Daniel catches her before her knees hit the ground. John, oblivious and walking a few paces ahead, is marveling at a flock of pelicans stationed top-most on flimsy trees. Back at the Hotel Leddie, Angela of Livingston Guatemala gets a sudden thudding pain right above her eyes, blanching her rich skin tone and sending her to a chair on the shady side of the patio.