Photography, Travel

Trip to Guatemala: Visiting the Mayan Ruins

The Last day we were in Guatemala we visit the Mayan Ruins of Iximche. They are located about an hour-or-so outside of Guatemala City. Our earlier flight was canceled or delayed, so we opted to visit the ruins before heading to the airport for our evening flight. We had a wonderful time seeing the ruins. We hired a young man who is knowledgeable about the ruins. Our contact at the company who went with us to the ruins said that he believed the young man to be of Mayan decent. Our guide gave us a verbal history of the ruins. I was able to translate most of it from Spanish for my boss to better understand the history of the place.

It was a  place full of memories. I took a number of photographs of the ruins, but these are my favorites.

We’re getting closer!

Almost there!

“Welcome to the ruins of Iximche”

Just outside the entrance to the ruins.

A model of the ruins as they once stood.

Before visiting the ruins, we stopped in their small museum.

They had a number of artifacts excavated from the site as well as this model.

It shows the size and scale of the city as it once stood.

This poor fellow was not injured by the Spaniards, but by his own kin during a game of Pok Ta Pok.

In the far left corner you can see burn marks on some of the stone where the city was burned to the ground by the Conquistadors.

Entering the ruins. You can feel the energy of the place.

Temple in the ruins. There were a number of temples in the city.

One for the sun and one for the moon… and several others.

Close-up of temple.

Can you can see the burned rock at the top?

That is where the Spanish Conquistadors burned the (wooden structures of the) city to the ground.

“No climbing the structures”

The “Tree of Life”

Tree of Life:

This tree sprouted up from the ruins after the earthquake of ’76.

Our guide suggested that the seed had been buried in the ruins when they were destroyed hundreds of years ago, and that the earthquake made it possible for the seed to grow. It is the only tree of its kind within over 200 miles of the ruins. He also suggested that the Mayans either brought the seed to Iximche or it was a gift from far away.


An Altar

Circular Altar:

Many sacrifices were performed here. Next to this altar there was a small hole almost like a small well. Our guide said that the hole was where the “liquid offerings” were presented. Often the blood from this altar was poured down there.

The threshold into the unknown

Only part of the city was excavated. The man who started excavating the city passed away before further work cold be done…apparently there is not enough funding to continue. The further away you got from the entrance of the city, the more earth covered the rock. They said that over 50% remains uncovered!

Our guide said that the city was home to at least two “ruling families”. They were peaceful people and, he said, that ultimately lead to their downfall when the conquistadors came. They took them for friends and welcomed them. I’m not sure how long after, but they eventually took over the city, killed many of the residents, and burned it to the ground.  Our contact at the company suggested that had the Mayans in neighboring cities not been either too proud or too stubborn, they could have easily banded together to form an alliance and defeat the Spaniards. Unfortunately that was not the case and history happened as it did.



Our trip took us to the countryside of Guatemala. Traveling from Guatemala City to Antigua and the Mayan ruins, we saw many things along the way. I took hundreds of photos on the trip, many of them on the road between the city and the country. Here are a selection of my favorites.

Despite the clouds, you could see for miles.

Driving through the countryside, this is what I thought ALL of Guatemala would be like. I was surprised how quickly the city stopped and the country began. No suburban communities, housing developments. Just city, then country.

Hotel Mayan
A sign on the side of the mountain. Way cooler than billboards!

One of the coolest things about the Guatemalan roads is their busses. Our guide told us that they are school busses that are drivable but no longer up-to-code for driving in the USA. (I guess all those smog tests really do mean something) I could tell that there were emission problems with some of the busses, but most of them seemed to be a lifeline in the countryside communities. The busses are much like the run-of-the-mill city busses in LA. They always seemed full of people when we were on the road. Often, people’s luggage was stored on the racks installed on the top of the bus. It reminded me of Romancing the Stone.

Cool Bus
This custom paint job is excellent! Is “Patzuneria” the buses’ name?

I think my favorite part about the buses is their fabulous paint jobs. Our guide said that sometimes the drivers will either paint the bus themselves or hire an artist to do the detailing.

Cool Bus
This bus means BUSiness!
This one was my favorite. A lot of detail went into this beauty.
A splash of color on a cloudy day!
You can see some luggage up top.

Once we made it into smaller cities outside of Antigua, I saw the Guatemala I had been imagining. The rural areas were full of farmland and shops selling the necessities.

I never did find out who or what “Lider” was.
This looked like a good place to stop where you could get food AND tires for your car.
Hospital de Los Angeles!
A handsome building with overgrowth on part of the roof.
There’s that “Lider” fellow again…
Dispensa Familiar: a superstore (similar to Walmart). I love their logo.
A dentist’s office. Love the painting on the wall!
There were dozens of churches along the road. This one was the only green one that I recall.
“Welcome to Antigua”

Once we arrived in Antigua, our first stop was in a monestary. It was a beautiful space full of beauty and a little mystery.

A Building in Antigua
A cross. By happenstance or was it painted on?
Ruins in downtown Antigua.
I believe that some of the monks were buried in this area to the left.

Our guide said that this was a destination spot for tourists and locals alike. The space housed many private and semi-private areas that would be perfect for parties or even weddings. There was a beautiful garden with all manner of plants and a man who had performing parrots with him. There was a wedding in one of the private areas.

The parrot was not to be bothered by paparazzi.
A small glimpse of the flowers before we got caught in a torrential downpour!

As we were exploring the grounds, an incredible storm rolled through and we made our way to the covered shops. I was able to buy some fantastic coffee and some chocolates to bring home with me. My coworkers purchased some other (fancier) goods from street vendors including a jade jaguar for Paul’s wife and Toni got a blanket for her mother. Both got great deals. I wasn’t so good at haggling, but I did get some trinkets for my family back home.

Sign in Antigua
I tried to find some painted tiles like this, but to no avail…
We had to stop here to get some home-made treats before we headed out of town.

After we purchased (more than our fair share of) treats from El Rosario, we headed on our way to see the Mayan Ruins. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see them!

Beautiful plants growing on the roof of this building.

And now we begin our journey to the ruins…

To the Ruins
Wonderful signage to point the way to the ruins!
Photography, Travel

Trip To Guatemala: Art in the City

In addition to hundreds and hundreds of hand-painted signs on businesses edifices, there was a lot of cool street art in Guatemala. I really enjoyed seeing the various murals around town. It reminded me of my time in Barcelona where street artwork is more-or-less encouraged. There was a more tasteful graffiti there than in the states, and I think that Guatemalan graffiti (at least what I saw and photographed) is more like that. These are some of my favorite paintings and murals:

I really liked this combo. The Storm Trooper and Hobbes, or is it Tony the Tiger?
I wish this one weren’t so blurry! I love the grinning calavera.
Cool characters and tagging!

The way my camera exposed this photograph is pretty cool. Although unintentional, it works well with the artwork.

There are some neat characters here!

This painting was on the way to Antigua. I love the colors! I like that it is a playful painting too, a bright contrast to the (sloppy) tagging to the left of the kite.

A colorful kite. Who says graffiti has to be edgy and dark?

We passed this painting on the way to work every day. I almost missed the opportunity to snap a photo of it. Fortunately we got stuck in traffic on the last day and I was able to get a good photo. “Soft” had work all over town. I am not sure who the artist is/was, but they are very prolific!

My very favorite.

This was my favorite “soft” piece, though. I really like the colors of this last photograph.

Stay tuned for my next post: MY TRIP TO GUATEMALA: A TRIP TO THE MAYAN RUINS!

Photography, Travel

My Trip to Guatemala

¡Hola! ¿Qué Pasa?

We got back from Guatemala over the weekend. Wow. What a fantastic trip!

I took TONS and TONS of photographs throughout the trip, and I would love to share some of them. This was my first time to Central America, and I had a great time. We worked hard every day that we were there, except for the last day when we got a chance to see MAYAN RUINS and Antigua. These are photographs that I think are the most worth sharing.

A week in  Guatemala City through my eyes:

MOCAP: Let’s start off with the actual work. I can’t share much, but this is what *I* was doing most of the time that we were in Guatemala. Monitoring the motion capture process and making sure that all data recorded was as close to perfect as possible. If you’re not sure about how motion capture works, feel free to ask me or look it up online. It’s an awesome process and the technology we use is cutting edge.

Staring at screens: This is what I saw for 9+/- hours a day for 7 days!

A shot of the Motion Capture Process in action!

MUSIC: Without going in to too much detail on this either, the music in the game will be made using these Mayan Flutes. We were able to hear a historian and musician play almost all of these incredible flutes. Each one has a completely unique sound, many are inspired by the actual animals that they are supposed to sound and look like. The Murciélago (or Bat) was the most interesting, mysterious, and beautiful. I wish that I had recorded a video with my camera.

Ancient flutes. Some are thousands of years old.

All of these Mayan flutes were made by hand and are originals or replicas. Each has a different sound.

God of Maiz (corn) Flute.

The City: Never being to Guatemala, but hearing many stories before I left, I thought that the entire Guatemala City…and likely the whole country would look like this. Although there are many people who live in poverty, there is a large middle class that lives in homes and apartments that, from what I’ve heard from the young men and women working at the studio, are not too different from where myself or my friends live in L.A.. True there is a disparity between the classes, but it was good to know that the standard of living in Guatemala City seems to be improving for many.

Homes of some of the poorer residents in the city.

Residential. Visible on the drive between where we stayed and where we were working.

Farmland on the way to Antigua.

I thought this is what most of Guatemala would look like. On our way to Antigua.

Radio Stars: One evening after work, we were invited to be on a radio program that is very popular in Guatemala. The host Phantom, the gentleman wearing the skull mask and Darth Vader shirt, was a pretty funny guy. We were all interviewed about what we do, why we are in Guatemala, and more. There aren’t many companies doing what we were doing, so this was a first for the radio show. Our contact at the studio has been on once or twice, though, and he translated for us.  We had a great time. We were instant stars.

Radio Stars

Downtown: We spent most of our time in Guatemala City. The city is like any other metropolitan city I’ve been to. I was pretty impressed both with the architecture and the roads. There were few stop lights and very few road markings (lines, lanes, etc.) but we saw very few accidents. Here in L.A. accidents are a dime a dozen. I was amazed that we only saw two cars broken down on the road, and it looked like one had a flat. The other seemed to have engine trouble. Maybe we just missed the accidents, but I was impressed that, despite the lack of lanes and “rules” that we seem to have in the States, everyone was driving along just fine. I was terrified, though.

I love this blue roof on this large church in downtown Guatemala City.

A lovely garden on the front lawn of a municipal building in downtown Guatemala City.

On the grid! This has to be a fire hazard!
An amazing view from the glass windows and ceiling at our hotel.

There were things that were the same, but different. Take stop signs for instance:

Traffic light and stop sign in downtown Guatemala City

A lovely urban garden. Look at all those plants!

Thank you for viewing the work/travel photos I took while in Guatemala.  Coming next: ART AROUND GUATEMALA!

Stay tuned for the next post!

Freelance Work

Going to Guatemala

SO I’M GOING TO GUATEMALA! I’m sure you’re thinking: “But why are you going to Guatemala?” I’ll tell you:

The studio that I’m working for does motion capture. I’ve helped with this in the past. We are using a NEW technology for motion capture, though… It’s not the balls and sensors motion capture that you might have become familiar with.  We’re using a motion capture suit by Xsens. It’s a WIRELESS, CAMERALESS, Bluetooth suit that you can literally take ANYWHERE. And we’re taking ours to Guatemala!

The motion capture suit in action!

There is an animation company in Guatemala that is creating an innovative video game for the Play Station. They have great resources, but need help with motion capture for some of their animation sequences. They are one of the few animation studios in Guatemala and the only video game studio. Unfortunately for them, there aren’t any resources for motion capture there yet, so that’s where we come in. Our studio offers some good rates on motion capture including offsite motion capture (because our tech works so well for that). They hired us and I’m going to assist with the motion capture with one of the company’s owners and a translator/personal assistant. My technical skills with the software AND my Spanish speaking made me a good candidate, and I’m going to Guatemala for a little over a week.

Fortunately my other job is flexible and one of my co-workers needs some extra hours, so I even got the time off work with no problem. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and let y’all know how that goes. I’ve heard some really wonderful as well as some scary reviews of the country, but I’m sure it will be a really good experience.

How exciting! I leave on the 13th!!!