Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala and a major center of indigenous culture, with a rich history. Known more formally as Quetzaltenango, it is also considered a rich city by Guatemalan standards. An important export is cotton thread used for weaving and creating fabric. Xela also has a thriving glass blowing industry.
Interestingly, one of Guatemala’s most famous architects comes from Xela. The late Efrain Recinos’ art lends beauty to many of the facades and interiors of Guatemala’s landmark buildings but he is perhaps best known as architect of Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias, which serves as the county’s national theater and largest cultural complex
Another famous Xelan is Miguel Angel Asturias, for whom (obviously) the cultural center complex was named. He is the only Guatemalan to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Asturias played a major role in establishing Latin American literature’s contribution to mainstream Western culture in the twentieth century and drew attention to the importance of indigenous cultures, in particular those of his native Guatemala.
Both Recinos and Asturias based their work on Mayan culture but were heavily influenced by the Spanish, priests and other Europeans. This is not only seen in architecture and literature, but in the food as well. We have enjoyed many dishes (raviolis, pizza, gnocci) that are Italian by heritage, but are prepared with a strong Guatemalan flair.
Here are some pictures of the ravioli, pizza and gnocci that we have learned to make from Angela. For those who travel and enjoy sampling local cuisine, you know that cooking styles, menus, and traditions are often hauntingly familiar — perhaps with just a few wonderful twists and different spices.