Exploring & Reflecting on Guatemala’s Corn Chip Delights

Today was official our first full day in Belize after leaving the country of Guatemala. One thing I do miss from there are the small tiendas around Antigua with a wide selection of corn chips to choose from. As someone who loves a good chip selection and my research project being  related to maize in the Maya diet, it was only fitting to share my own personal ranking of Guatemalan corn chips I have come across.

The rank list is from 5th place to 1st and below I will share my own personal experience with the taste of each one and nutritional facts about how some are made.

5. TorTrix ChapiNacho Quesito Cream


TroTrix chips are an authentic staple of Guatemalan identity. They are made through a process called nixtamalization; a traditional method used to prepare corn that involves soaking dried corn kernels in limewater to improve the flavor and texture. It also helps make it more digestible compared to raw corn.

This particular one has a great shape for nachos with a nacho-like flavor with a hint of cream cheese.

4. Takis Fuego


In the U.S. we have Takis, however, this Guatemalan version is significantly different from what I am used to. The appearance of the bag is already a stark contrast with it being more skinnier and fewer number of chips. The Takis themselves are made through corn masa flour processed also with lime. The powder on these chips is less than the ones in the U.S., but are still delectable to the tongue.

3. TorTrix ChapiMix Detodito


This flavor intrigued me with how diverse the flavors were in this bag. There were no spicy chip included yet there was barbacoa, cheese. and a few more intriguing flavors! If you are a fan of Munchies, then this one is worth a try!

2. Doritos Dinamita Flamin’ Hot


This one is more on the spicier side and that is why I ranked it higher than the others. They have a good coat of chile powder and the perfect sounding crunch. My only regret is that I didn’t buy more :(.

1. Mambi El Tronchi’s Ferso

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If you love lime-flavored snacks and want a solid, addicting chip…do not look any further! These chips are so good that you want to share it with everyone else to try. The crunch and size are perfectly satisfying. Just be careful not to eat the whole bag in one sitting!

Overall, this research was extremely captivating and perfect for someone who loves trying new foods. Comparing these chip flavors to U.S. options was interesting and I am excited to see what authentic chips I can try in Belize and around the world!

Homestay Harmony: Uniting Cultures in Antigua’s Heart

On our last Sunday in Antigua, I decided to spend time alone and visit Central Park. All around me are hard-working street vendors, women selling fruit, lively musicians, and large families enjoying the cool evening weather of the highlands. Before leaving the US, I was nervous about how different the environment may feel or how differently I may be perceived. As a Black and Mexican woman in America, I am often reminded in various ways how my cultures are perceived. Whether it be negative or positive, I am constantly aware of what separates me from the majority. But, here in Antigua, I am surrounded by the kindest people I have ever met and people from all walks of life. In the park, there are musicians from France playing music from America while tourists and locals enjoy the beautiful sounds they are making. We each come to Antigua for our own reasons, whether that is to visit the gorgeous and powerful active volcanoes, study the rich Maya culture, or try amazing Guatemalan food. Regardless of these reasons, we all come together in this one place to experience something new that adds a story to our lives. One story I will tell for the rest of my life is about the incredible people that we got to meet in our homestay. Our homestay family, Doña Ana and Don Carlos, often host people from all over the world. When we arrived, a 35-year-old woman named Ivana from Slovakia was already staying in the home to learn Spanish. Soon after, a 24-year-old man named Mao from Japan arrived and began his Spanish lessons in Antigua. Although we come from different countries and life experiences, these two incredible individuals would change the direction of our study abroad and we would grow to become a small family. Each day that we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, our conversations grew from simple formalities to understanding what makes each of us the people that we are today and sharing lessons and stories to help each other in the future. Ivana studied economics in Slovakia but began traveling all around the world to gain new perspectives and find her passion. This led her to begin living in Antigua and begin her journey of learning Spanish. Mao worked in the business sector in Japan but came to Antigua to learn Spanish because the following year, he would begin living and volunteering in Paraguay to teach students about computers. These incredible individuals taught me that regardless of where you begin in life, there is always room for growth and to find your passions. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had living with Doña Ana and Don Carlos because, without them, I would have never met these extraordinary people I get to call my friends.

IMG_0972Last Day in Antigua with our Host mom (from left to right, Carlos, Chisom, Shiang, Me, Jordan, Ivana)

Can you see the past at Tikal?

Tikal is a Classic Period Maya site and one of the largest and most powerful ancient Maya cities. It is pretty well preserved, but when the entire site gets covered in millennia worth of vegetation and eroded from water and wind, it was hard but cool to connect what I saw to what it would have looked like.


The Maya created monuments and art to represent bigger spiritual and historical contexts, such as temples that mimic sacred mountains, serving as a place where humans could connect with gods. Twin Pyramid Complexes were built as stages for rituals. Indeed, when I climbed the East Twin Pyramid Complex Q, I felt like I was walking up to heaven. From the top, I could envision the nine doorways of the South Building that represent the nine levels of the underworld, the North enclosure opposing it, and the West Twin Pyramid opposite me.

IMG_2297A picture I took at the bottom of the East Twin Pyramid Complex.

City Life

Later, we climbed to the top of Temple 4, which was an original experience for me. I could see the entire jungle canopy, with other temples sticking out of it. It was where I could picture what Tikal would have looked like without the trees—massive temples with various water sources and a working city. It is like the city we know now, with temples substituting for skyscrapers, areas to congregate and practice religion, and designated people of authority.

IMG_2350A picture I took from the top of Temple 4.

There is a certain beauty to knowing that what we see that remains is only the remnants of one of the greatest civilizations. And what remains showcases the strength and wealth of the architectural and artistic expression of the Maya.

Exploring Maya Masterpieces: Two Museums of Guatemala City

Here is our amazing group in front of one of the preserved mounds at Miraflores. Despite centuries of erasure, this ruin of ‘Kaminaljuyu’ has endured countless opportunities to be destroyed. The location of the museum was powerful alone, as it elucidated Maya resilience through the preservation of both architecture and artifacts.


Today, our group once again drove to Guatemala City, to engage with the incredible collections of pre-Hispanic Maya art at the Miraflores Museum and the the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (MUNAE). Beginning with the Miraflores Museum, we delved further into our exploration of the Maya, deepening our understanding of their complex material culture. The museum was carefully planned and organized, with meticulous attention to detail in each exhibit. Each exhibit had its own means of interaction and immersion, like drawing one’s Nahual on a board of sand, or matching the location of various resources with their provenance on a map. It was starkly different from other museums we had been to as a group thus far, as it is privately funded and maintained, unlike the MUNAE or the site museum at Iximche. The collection was incredible, with amazing examples of artifacts ranging from finely carved eccentrics, detailed ceramic vessels, to sculpted jade of some of the best quality workmanship. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through Xibalba, stepping through each trial the Hero Twins faced as they traversed through the underworld. I really appreciated being allowed inside of the lab, as it allowed my peers and I to make more personal connections with the artifacts in front of us, compared to being enclosed in glass or roped off for security.

Here are my friends, engaging with one of the museum’s numerous chances to connect with the art that we were seeing.


Following the Miraflores Museum, we visited the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (MUNAE). This museum has one of the singular best collections of Maya art in the world, although the recently reopened museum’s orientation and layout left much to be desired. I was especially fond of the sketches and outlines of certain sections of monuments and artworks, that allowed the untrained eye to more easily decipher what one was looking at. Dr. Runggaldier led a fantastic tour of the museum, providing extensive information about the various artifacts. As someone focused on beginning a career in Maya archaeology and art history, I feel like this was an invaluable experience. I feel so much more knowledgeable about the meaning and purpose of what the Maya were conveying through their incredibly detailed artworks. This museum holds some true masterpieces, collected from all corners of the country. In contrast to the Miraflores Museum, MUNAE exhibited a tremendous amount of monumental architecture like massive stelae and altars. Some of these works included humongous stela that portrayed significant historical events, like the defeat of Calakmul by Jasaw Chan K’awiil I, the lord of Tikal in 695. I appreciated the carefully positioned lighting that appropriately showed each piece’s depth and range.

Adrian and I were really impressed by the size of this ceramic pot, it was monumental in its own right!



Cultural Resistance in Maya Murals

One of the first observations I have made during my time here in Guatemala are the amount of murals dedicated to Maya people and their culture. Murals are usually grand paintings where the artist can dedicate the work to whatever they may choose. Around Guatemala, I have seen many murals dedicated to Maya traditions and Maya people in their traditional traje clothing. It is beautiful to see Maya people and their traditions reflected in the art that expands their cities where they have faced years of oppression. The ones I have seen are mostly focused on uplifting and honoring women, especially older women, which is really wonderful and beautiful to see. Based off of what I have observed so far, Maya murals can be used to give representation to Maya people and stand for the persistence of Maya traditions and culture.


This mural is in Santiago Atitlán and is dedicated to Doña Magdalena, a close friend of Dolores Ratzan, in her traditional traje and tocoyal. The amount of detail and work put into this painting is really inspiring. There is also the addition of the birds and “T’zikin Jaay,” meaning “House of Birds” in Tz’utujil, which honor the history and origins of the city. This vibrant mural was something I simply could not pass up, snapping a quick photo of as I walked by.



These murals are posted in front of a textiles store in San Juan, on our way to the Casa Flor Ixcaco weaving co-op. These two murals honor Maria Ramos Hernández and Francisco Vásquez Mendóza, who were both important figures in the San Juan community. Both are shown in traditional traje and have a small summary of their importance to San Juan.

Overall, it is really amazing to see the local artwork that Guatemala has to offer. These specific murals give way to the cultural resistance and importance that staying true to Maya traditions that have historically been suppressed throughout history. Honoring these traditions through art is a beautiful way to express Maya culture. These examples are only a small portion of the talent, love, and community that is apparent in Maya culture. I have seen many murals that honor Maya religion, history, practices, etc. and hope to see more of them along the way.

Weaving History: 13 Threads of Maya Resilience

While in Guatemala, my project focuses on gender dynamics throughout the ancient, colonial, and contemporary history of the Maya, specifically through the lens of textile production. This week, our group had the privilege of visiting a textile cooperative in Santiago Atitlán named 13 Batz (“13 threads”), nestled a couple of streets away from Saint James the Apostle Church. After visiting the co-op and listening to the founder’s daughter, Andrea, it was evident this cooperative stands as an excellent example of the strong cultural resilience modern Maya communities display amidst globalization and economic pressures.

13 Batz courtyard

^13 Batz courtyard

Andrea, the 22-year-old daughter of Don Camarón, shared detailed insights into the history of backstrap and footloom weaving used to create traje, the traditional clothing worn by both men and women in Central America. She explained how traje weaving plays a crucial role in maintaining Maya indigenous identity, with intricate symbolism woven into every step of the textile production process, ensuring cultural history is passed down through generations despite modern societal pressures.

Andrea displaying a huipil

^Here is Andrea, the daughter of Don Camarón, explaining the embroidery process on the back of a huipil.

Huipil up close

^This huipil is very complex in design with butterflies, birds, men, and women depicted in detail in the columns of the huipil.

After Andrea’s presentation, Don Camarón invited us to the back of their workspace to see the footlooms. He led us through a corridor to a room with five footlooms, where two men were diligently weaving. As he demonstrated the looms, he explained that creating complex, multi-colored patterns requires significant experience. He then shared his personal journey, which left a lasting impression on me.

Footloom up close

^This is a close picture of the intricate process required to weave a huipil on a footloom. Each thread on the huipil has to be woven into the entire piece, thread by thread.

Don Camarón learned to weave on a footloom from his grandfather when he was young. However, he married early and needed a job to support his growing family, so he worked as a merchant in Guatemala City for 20 years. During this time, he had four sons and a daughter, Andrea. When his wife was pregnant with Andrea, Don Camarón wanted to buy material for her traje corte (skirt) from their town. Unfortunately, with only four weavers in Santiago out of a population of 44,000, the material wouldn’t be ready until Andrea was three years old.

This realization inspired Don Camarón to return to weaving. He knew others in his community faced similar challenges in obtaining woven material promptly. Thus, he founded 13 Batz, a cooperative including both male and female family members, to make traje more accessible to their community.

Don Camarón’s dedication to his community and family is profoundly inspiring. His decision to return to weaving, despite facing discrimination against indigenous men wearing and making traje, has had a lasting impact. Without his efforts, individuals like Andrea wouldn’t be continuing the vital work of revitalizing Maya culture.

Don Camarón at the footloom

^Here is Don Camarón at the footloom explaining the history of the co-op.

Visiting 13 Batz and hearing Don Camarón’s story highlighted the sheer power of their cultural preservation efforts through traditional crafts. His unwavering commitment to his heritage and community serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of resilience and cultural pride. The work of 13 Batz not only sustains a significant aspect of Maya identity but also empowers future generations to keep their traditions alive.

The San Bartolo Murals and Maize Cooking Class!

The last two days here in Antigua had a common thread among the program, which was Maize! On the 23rd, we had the opportunity to meet Doña Lucrecia (Lucky) Morales, accompanied by her good friend Doña Victoria (Vicky) Mixtum. Doña Lucky and Doña Vicky arrived to Casa Herrera in order to teach us a cooking class on Chuchitos.


Doña Lucky started by explaining the different ingredients we were going to be working with as well as highlighting the differences between her friend Vicky, who is an indigenous Maya woman from Santa Maria de Jesus, who prepares a traditional Guatemalan tamale variant, Chuchito. Doña Lucky also discussed the differences in identities as a mestiza woman and the different ways Antigüeños eat with Chuchitos like a sweet snack and chocolate! Vicky mentions that Chuchitos are usually made on special occasions for important people in her pueblo. The list of ingredients here are bell pepper, Roma tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, allspice, peppercorn, maize, and chili peppers.


We had the chance to see a brief demonstration from Doña Vicky and Doña Lucky on how to begin making a Chuchito. While it may look easy at first, getting the dough to a decent size and thickness can be tricky. 


With sounds of dough smacking on our palms, our group got to work preparing what would be our dinner! We got to work together to make ourselves dinner and chocolate, a special occasion on this trip so far with my peers <3.


Our lecture on the San Bartolo Murals also tied into this week’s activities very well as we learned about the role of Maize starting with the Pre-Classic Maya mural from San Bartolo. It was fascinating learning about how these themes of corn, tamales, and storytelling highlight the esoteric themes of milpa farming and the resurrection of the Maize deity also found in the 17th-century K’iche’ origin story of the Popol Vuh, where contemporary Maya and scholars can follow the thread back to the Pre-Classic period.

C31B0445-1478-44F4-8D0D-C8DC32919DA6Our professor, Dr. Runggaldier had a role in recovering and excavating the mural fragments from this site. We had the chance to also listen to a lecture by Dr. Heather Hurst who also worked at the site and explained in more detail about the murals. This also made me think about the research I’ve been doing during my time here in Antigua with looting practices as this structure had already been visited by looters. Luckily though, the looters tunnel did not bust through the main portions of the actual mural but could have and was close to destroying the main mural in order to find the prized tomb caches looters are after. 

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Illustrations done by Heather Hurst (2001) 

My Career Path in Indigenous Community Development

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During my time in Guatemala, as part of a research program focusing on the impact of globalization on Maya cultural identity, I’ve gained invaluable insights that I plan to carry into my future endeavors. My project explores how global economic and cultural exchanges influence traditional Maya cultural practices, language usage, and self-perception. As I delved into this complex interplay within indigenous communities, my experiences in academic settings and day-to-day interactions have profoundly influenced my understanding and appreciation of cultural dynamics.

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One of the key learnings from this program is the resilience and adaptability of the Maya communities. Observing how traditional practices are modified and sometimes commercialized to cater to tourism has given me a nuanced perspective on cultural preservation. For example, in local markets, traditional motifs are repurposed for tourist consumption, often diluting the cultural significance of these crafts. Similarly, in a cacao museum, I witnessed the transformation of a cultural staple into a global commodity, packaged and sold in ways that are far removed from its origins.

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These experiences have reinforced my commitment to learning about the cultural heritage and development of the Maya and have sparked a profound interest in getting more involved with my family’s community in Belize. I am particularly eager to seek a role that will allow me to contribute meaningfully to the upliftment of indigenous communities, ensuring they can navigate the challenges posed by globalization while retaining and embracing the essence of their cultural identity.

By fostering a deeper understanding and respect for cultural heritage, I plan to develop sustainable practices that preserve and celebrate the rich cultural landscapes of indigenous peoples. This commitment is not just professional but deeply personal, as it ties back to my heritage and the desire to make a tangible difference in the communities that mirror my family’s background.

Santiago Atitlán

Today’s trip to Santiago Atitlán (known originally in the Tz’utujil Mayan language as Tz’ikin Jaay, meaning “house of birds”) was an exploration of local syncretic culture, specifically focusing on Maya textile traditions. First, our guide Dolores Ratzan led us to Iglesia de Santiago Apóstel, a Catholic church with iconography of an indigenous deity named Maximón behind the decorated altar. Before we went inside, we met Dolores’ friend Magdalena who showed us how she wrapped her textile headdress, shown here. Also of note is her huipil (a name for the Maya blouse that she wears) which depicts the birds that the town’s name references.


Once we went into the church, we witnessed many dressed saints who were decorated with scarves and offerings like candles. There were hundreds of chrysanthemums and colorful flowers placed carefully among the altars. The dark, carved wooden altar against the wall resembles a Mesoamerican mountain shape and has figures ascending to the peak holding the masks of Maximón. This is extremely unique and somewhat controversial within Catholic traditions, but exists today because of Santiago Atitlán’s more remote location, which was harder for Spanish priests to monitor.


We then traveled to a Cofradía where we saw an actual Maximón effigy complete with papel picado, candles, and people attending him with offerings.


Then, Dolores took us to a local weaving co-op, where we were shown how women use backstrap looms to create cloth in a symbolic process evoking birth. There were countless dyed threads in bundles that were used to make these high-intensity textiles. Some of them take at least 3-8 months to make, including the weaving itself, stitching, and additional embroidery.



Excursion Day- Santiago Apostol

May 21st, a day with Doña Dolores. This day felt very enriching especially with her introduction. I loved how she spoke about her early years and then finding love and finding the church all through to the civil war. Things I did not realize was that the war had been so recent. People were forced out of homes, community, and even church.


Where was safe?

Traveling with Doña D felt like the grandmother I needed. From her mannerisms to her deep knowledge about everything from the church to the weaving co-op, I could tell that she was very passionate about everything in her life. After learning about church, we moved towards the Cofradia, where we met the brotherhood and Maximón.

Maximón is a shrine that is idolized for many reasons. The people of the town go to him if they are sick, if they need help, if they need purification. He is their beginning and end. He is their holy grandfather. I was intrigued to see the body of Jesus Christ right next to the Maximón, as it confused me to see both entities in one room. But as the day progressed, I learned that both religions were practiced simultaneously. German explained that everything was integrated, and I saw a lot of integration as we continued with the tour.

Ending this blog is tough because there is still so much more left on this trip, but I am forever grateful to German and Doña Dolores as they added a pivotal switch in this program for me.

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