One of Guatemala’s most beautiful
departments is Huehuetenango.
In the western highlands, bordering Mexico, Huehue is a bit off the beaten track, but boasts breathtaking views of rocky green pastures and farmland, highlighted by the Sierra Madre and Cuchumatanes mountain ranges, and topped by stunningly blue skies. The area also has some of the most pristine lakes and rivers. For the most part, life in Huehue is life in the countryside: farmers with machetes, cornfields and bean patches, horses, mules and farm animals are common sights along the roads and in the villages.
Not far from the Mexican border is the small village of Nueva Esperanza. The town is clean and ducklings and piglets play in the front yards of the simple wooden houses that line the single lane dirt road. Smiles and stories of local legends are easily come by from the people who call this town home. Nueva Esperanza was established in the mid-’90s. The people who live here come from all parts of Guatemala and many were born in Mexico; they are returned refugees of the civil war, who fled, or whose parents fled, across the border during the years of fighting. After peace was established they returned to Guatemala and made a new home in Huehuetenango, expressing their wishes for the future by christening their new pueblo Nueva Esperanza (New Hope).
Nueva Esperanza is located close to the highway along an old road that leads to a (más o menos) century-old farmhouse – the home of the German immigrant who settled Finca Chaculá in the 1800s. Today, the people of Nueva Esperanza, who use the profits to fund local projects, manage the farmhouse. The white adobe and rock walls and shingled roof whisper of a time long past when this charming home housed a “red visitor” from a faraway land. Why red visitor? Well, as the locals will tell you, that’s exactly what “chaculá” means in the local Mayan dialect. According to the tale, the fair German settler must have had a sunburn when he arrived all those many years ago to stake his claim in Huehuetenango. Another thing the locals will tell you is that he fortified his farmhouse’s adobe walls with rocks he foraged from ancient Mayan sites that where abundant and still exist on the farm. Legend has it that he may have even found valuable treasure while pillaging these sacred sites of their stone. Perhaps, that’s why he built openings in the walls (which still exist) for the barrel of his riffle to shoot at unwanted visitors.
Today, you can get a taste of the simple country life at Chaculá. When you arrive the staff will greet you and show you to your room: there are three bedrooms, each with three beds (two single and one double or queen-sized). After you’ve settled in, take a stroll in the flower-dotted front meadow, listen to the buzz of nature, and breath in the fresh country air. At sunset the staff will light robust fires in the fireplaces to cut the chill of evening air, and you’ll enjoy a tasty home-cooked meal by the light of a hurricane lamp – there isn’t any electricity at the farm, but as long as you make sure all your batteries are charged, you’ll find you won’t miss it at all. Before bed, venture into the night air to gaze at the starry sky and then snuggle into your comfy bed and let the crackling embers and crickets lull you into a deep sleep. In the morning, the staff will return to cook you a hearty breakfast. The coffee is strong and the showers in the two bathrooms are hot, so you will be ready to explore the countryside. On the farm, you can walk down through a grove of cypress trees to a nearby pond said to be a reservoir built by the Maya. Or, take a hike to the waterfall or caves on the property while scouting for ancient Mayan ruins. Your host will point you in the right direction or arrange for a local guide. While time spent at Chaculá will be time well remembered and an experience few visitors to Guatemala get to enjoy, this is just the beginning of your adventure in this corner of Huehuetenango; as you will find, there is much more to see and do.
To be continued…
For information about Finca Chaculá, transportation, guides, and Huehuetenango, contact Adrenalina tours at 7932-5858 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit adrenalinatours.com.