Sunday 24 September 2023

1987 Travel Diary: Movie Night in Panajachel


        After my voyage back to Panajachel, I went up to a cafe and got a Coke.  I watched as a group of Mennonite women, dressed in their characteristic long dresses and bonnets came in to eat.  They seemed so out of place here in Mayan Country, but I recalled hearing that fundamentalist Protestant churches had been making inroads into the Catholic areas of Guatemala and I had seen several churches in my travels.

    In the evening, I went in search of a nice place to eat.  The night before I had tried one of the places down by the lake shore.  I ordered a tortilla con carne, but it ended up being very gristly.  I had been keeping an eye out as I wandered through town in the morning, in hopes of finding a restaurant with an outside menu that listed the prices.  I had spotted such an eatery on the long road down to the lake, so made my all the way down there, only to find it closed.  I continued down the road, and did finally find a place where I bought an exciting, chicken sandwich and Pepsi.

    I couldn’t figure Panajachel out.  There seemed to be lots of tourists, and that was a puzzle, where do they stay?  Where do they eat?  How do they spend their time?  Surely, they can’t shop all day.  Obviously, I must have been missing something, but I never did find out what it was.

    When I walked back to my hotel, I noticed the sign; “Cine”, and guess where it was, right on the front of the hotel where I am residing.  That night it was featuring the movies, “Into the Night” starring Dan Ackroyd and David Bowie and then “Salvador” with James Wood.  It cost a whopping 2Q ($.74) to get in, and since I didn’t have any other plans, I flopped down my money and entered.

    I didn’t really have any high expectations, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to discover that the Cine was just a side room of the hotel.  The film was only a video with its image projected on a big screen.  The movies were obviously pirated from “Showtime” the US movie channel, because periodically throughout the films the Showtime name flashed on the screen. “Into the Night” was okay, but more violent than it needed to be.  

    I found the movie “Salvador” which is set during the murderous military coup in El Salvador devastating, despite the fuzzy images projected on the screen and the sometime unreadable subtitles used for the Spanish dialogue.  It is not the kind of movie I would recommend watching while actually being in a third world Latin American country, like Guatemala.  To me, its sets and characters, seemed too much like what I was seeing all around me every day.  The film left me with the “creeps” as I walked back out onto the poorly lit streets of Panajachel.

    Luckily, I didn’t have to go far because my hotel was just next door, but when I got there, the door was closed, and I could see no doorknob or latch to open it.  Another couple also wanted to get in, so we rang the buzzer several times, but got no response.  A passerby told us to knock on the window, so we tried that.

    Another local guy who was watching us standing there, said something in Spanish to the first guy, who then pulled a wire that came out of the middle of the door, and Wallah! the door opened.  Foolishly, we walked in and apologized to the hotel staff person, who by this time, had come out to see about the ruckus we were causing outside by the door.

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