For a number of New Zealanders Guatemala is synonymous with the iconic line from the very first episode of Shortland Street, the long running Kiwi soap opera set in a hospital which started in 1992. If you ask Kiwis what else they know about the country then you will probably get a blank stare or quizzical look. Which ironically is exactly what Spanish teacher Ana would have given you when she first moved to NZ and was told "You're not in Guatemala now...."
Now living in Nelson and after living in New Zealand for many years, Ana is proud of her Guatemalan heritage and would love Kiwis to know a bit more about Guatemala than just a quote from a TV show.
Guatemala is on the isthmus between North and South America and is blessed with a warm tropical climate leading to it often being referred to as the land of eternal spring. It borders Mexico to the North, as well as El Salvador, Belize and Honduras. It is home to stunning landscapes, awe inspiring volcanoes, charming colonial towns, verdant rainforests, ancient Mayan temples, contrasting Pacific and Caribbean coastlines and colourful people and cultures.
The biggest city in the country is the aptly named Guatemala City which is home to approximately 3.5 million of Guatemala's 17 million population. This is where Ana comes from although even she would admit that Guatemala City does not showcase the best that Guatemala has to offer.
However once outside the city are many diverse regions that offer wonderful rewards for the traveler. The jungles of Peten shroud the staggering Mayan cities of Tikal and El Mirador and are abundant in varied and exotic wildlife. This area is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a stunning region to visit.
Lake Atitlan is a scenic jewel in the Guatemala Highlands, ringed by volcanoes and offering a great base to explore the surrounding scenery and wildlife.
Antigua is the former Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala and is a beautifully preserved town of cobbled streets and colourful buildings awash with ornate churches and leafy plazas beneath the impressive Volcan de Agua. It is a popular place to learn Spanish.
Spanish is the main language of Guatemala although over 20 indigenous languages are spoken by the various peoples of the country, many of who are directly descended from the Mayan civilization.
Spanish is a good form of Spanish to learn as it is often clearly pronounced and the accent is relatively easy to pick up. There are numerous Spanish schools in Antigua which allow students to learn intensively in a Spanish speaking environment.
Of course, living in Nelson, it isn't easy to just go to Guatemala and learn Spanish for a month or two, especially in our current COVID environment ! The good news is you can learn Spanish here in sunny Nelson with Ana of Hola Nelson. Give her a ring or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start learning Spanish in Nelson.
Ana is always happy to share stories about her home country and she is a living breathing example of the friendly openness of the Guatemalan people.
Learn Spanish in Nelson and learn about another culture at the same time. You may not be in Guatemala now but this is the next best thing!