I visited a coffee plantation this week on the outskirts of Antigua. Finca la Azotea is actually much more than a coffee plantation; it is a cultural centre with a coffee museum, a wonderful collection of Mayan instruments dating from pre-Columbian times and a very interesting presentation on the costumes and customs of neighbouring Antiguan villages. I was terribly proud of myself, because the tour was entirely in Spanish, and I managed to understand it, which is fun because I’ve never learned Spanish but was able to follow along due to the similarity to French, the bits of vocab I’ve picked up along the way and both of my tour guides’ excellent enunciation. Yes!
The plantation tour was pretty interesting, but halfway through the coffee trees our tour got interrupted by the appearance of the very charming plantation owner, Ricardo, who started chatting to us about work the Finca has been doing to help the local villagers. It was a fascinating conversation. He wasn’t hard on the eyes either.
Ricardo departed and our poor tour guide finally got us back on track. We moved on to view the Mayan instruments. The oddest instrument they demonstrated was a horse-jaw which was played by hitting it so the teeth rattle. Not for the squeamish. I got distracted along the way by some fabulous masks depicting the devil, and seeing as it was December 7th, the day the whole of Guatemala celebrates La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil), I felt compelled to take some photographs.
Later on that evening, I headed out with a bunch of friends to explore Antigua by night and see if we could catch any of the devilry afoot in the dark. We were too late to see the actual burning – which incidentally involves setting fire to an effigy of the devil bang smack between two petrol stations, who thought that one up? – but I caught a couple of households holding their own burning ceremonies outside their houses.
When we got to the festival spot there was nothing but ashes left of the devil, the burning waits for no-one, but the party was in full swing, with musicians taking the stage and street vendors flogging glow-in-the-dark devil horns and candyfloss.
Wandering back after the celebrations, I took the opportunity to take in a few of Antigua’s landmarks by night. All in all, a pretty great day, even if the devil burned without me.