Fijate vos… Cobblestones, layoffs, and filming… Oh, my!

Fijate vos_ver3Greetings, Loyal and Cherished Readers!

Well, despite calls for the return of public executions and the offer from a local metalworking shop of a custom-made guillotine, I’m back for another month of tidbits and scandal.

I hope 2013 is going better for you than for the several dozen city employees who found themselves suddenly without jobs at the beginning of January. When they showed up for work after the New Year’s binge… ahem… holiday, they were told to pack their stuff and get out. Although their contracts had ended at the end of December, they were expecting renewals… and according to reports, they hadn’t been given the two weeks’ notice of non-renewal that the law requires. There has been at least one traffic-blocking demonstration in front of City Hall and the Ministry of Labor has gotten involved, so we’ll see what happens. (Couldn’t the City just pay for these unfortunate people’s salaries with the funds normally used to pay the salaries of the allegedly nonexistent employees on the payroll?)

Fans of foreign masculine pulchritude were thrilled when Brazilian TV network Globo, shooting scenes in our fair city for their upcoming soap opera Flor do Caribe, brought novela hunk Henri Castelli to town. But not all residents were so happy. At least one of our local busybodies was apparently so morally outraged that she tried to shut down the filming in the streets because she didn’t want the façade of her house to appear in the background of such a smutty program… on a show where, not only do unmarried people kiss, but where other, too-nasty-to-mention things happen. Oh, the horror!

I hope you’ve had a chance to drive on the newly completed – and very smooth – main road leading into town. It’s finished except for the final lane-marking and reflector-installing touches. You’ll remember that there was a big brouhaha about the cobblestoning of the last 300 or so meters. The work crews had installed some of the cobblestones, but there were some public employees who said that this had never been approved, so work was halted. But then – surprise, surprise – documents surfaced which showed that the rocky road had been approved months ago. The counter-charge was then that they were the wrong kind of cobblestones (rounded river rocks instead of flat-sided stones). According to my sources, somebody (or -bodies) at City Hall (or possibly the Council for the Protection of La Antigua) did approve the round cobblestones – without apparently considering how much more bumpy the ride would be – because they were cheaper. Anyway, the rocks were ripped up (with a reported pricetag of about Q1.5 million) and there’s now silky-smooth concrete. Enjoy it while you can, because before you know it, there’ll probably be 37 speed bumps installed in that last kilometer through Santa Inés.

Many Antigüeñans are ticked off about the work that’s still being done on the park at the Tanque La Unión. A year ago, with the renovation work barely begun, the Muni had the fence surrounding the construction work removed for Lent and Semana Santa (after all, gotta rent spaces to food vendors, ’cause the City – or somebody – needs the money, right?) Then, a few months later, the fence went back up and the renovations started up again. But with more than a year’s worth of “work,” there’s very little progress to be seen, and the progress that is there has some people up in arms. Now, it’s all about the walkways in the park. The new design – just starting to be put down – is made from concrete pavers of different sizes and in three colors. Frankly, it’s really ugly. Neighbors from around the park as well as the Salvemos Antigua Association and the Diego de Porres Association (don Diego was the city’s great architect during the colonial period) have filed protests with the Public Ministry, claiming that the ugliness and the bad quality of both the work and the materials will damage the cultural heritage of La Antigua (and might, in the long run, help to lose us our designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). With Lent and Holy Week just around the corner, guess what?  The fence will probably be coming down again, even though the work – such as it is – is a long way from being done. Maybe all of this will be resolved in time for the next B’ak’tun change. (That’s a little over 394 years from now, but, hey… I’m an optimist.)

Before I forget, a hearty “Thank you!” to the many, many readers who wrote to me with comments, compliments, constructive criticisms, questions, and – most importantly – scandalous tips. And to answer your questions: (1) No, (2) Yellow, (3) Only on Wednesdays, (4) Underneath the pila, and (5) If it comes with tortillas, then of course!  Please keep the emails, cards, letters, and gift baskets of baked goods coming.
Well, that’s about it for this month, boys and girls. Make sure to tune in next month – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel – for more. And if you’re very lucky, I might just tell you about the 2X1 Valentine’s Day specials at one of our local bordellos and the foreign philanthropist who found out the hard way that you’ve got to read the fine print at the bottom of the coupon.

If you have a question, a comment, or a suggestion for a topic for Charlie, you can write to chisme@grupoquepasa.com.

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Just to set the record straight (and to keep anyone else from being sued): All opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies and opinions of Qué Pasa, the rest of its staff, its advertisers, or anybody else in the solar system.
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