“You missed one hell of a show!” I am told again and again by expats and fellow travelers during my first week in Antigua, Guatemala. “On Thursday, the schools closed down and we were on an orange alert,” they inform me. We gaze upon the now peaceful volcanic mountain, one of three that impose themselves upon the Antigua skyline. I had arrived in Guatemala on Feb 4, 2018. The Volcán de Fuego, just 10 miles southwest of the city, had just erupted on February 1, spewing lava down its side and releasing a tower of ash a mile into the sky. Fuego is a stratovolcano, known for being active at a consistent rate. As I settle in for my two week graphic design assignment in Antigua, I wonder what the volcano has in store for the next few weeks.
“Aguacate…Aguacate!” A street vendor’s voice rang out, echoing down the winding colonial streets of Barrio San Antonio in Cali, Colombia. Every morning the vendor would wheel his cart overflowing with avocados as large as your face down the streets. You buy avocados in Colombia they way your buy a baguette in France, direct from a vendor and fresh, daily. Paired with salt and lime they were my go-to snack in Colombia, though they were filling enough to be a meal. Colombia is dripping with an abundance of fruit. Mango and lime trees are at every turn with excess fruit spilling on to the sidewalk and filling the shelves of every tienda.
“Beyond the mountains, more mountains” Our guide, Eddie, gestures broadly to the horizon. “That’s a Haitian proverb. It reminds you not to think you are that important; there is always someone greater than you.” Looking out at the mountainous landscape surrounding the ruins of the Citadel of Henri Christophe, I find myself wondering about other interpretations. The land here is beautiful, lush and tropical. The mountains jagged in every direction until the land hits the sea, the Northern Coast of Haiti. Eddie points to where Columbus’s Santa María ran aground, the point of colonization.
The Citadel and nearby ruined palace of Sans-Souci represent the lost dream of the Haitian king (and former slave), Henri Christophe. Christophe, together with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, launched the world’s first successful slave rebellion, dramatically overthrowing the French — who were outnumbered by a factor of more than ten.