Mar 20, 2013

Under the Weather in Upper Guatemala

¡Buenos días!

Every morning I wake up in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, to the blue mountains of the Cuchumatanes that rise more than 2 miles above sea level. This morning, the temperature in the city is around 5 ° C (40°F). Here, January is typically the coldest month of the year and yet I am travelling from Huehuetenango to the upper parts of the Cuchumatanes Mountains, where nighttime and early morning temperatures can dip even lower, often below freezing.

Passing through the towns of San Juan Ixcoy, Soloma, Santa Eulalia, and San Mateo Ixtatán along the way I pass through fog, heavy rain, and then a little drizzle. Eventually, I arrive at the city of Barillas where it is no drier. In fact, it rains here about 11 months out of the year.

A local villager is all smiles in the early morning fog.
The weather here in northern Guatemala is predictably unpredictable. Sometimes, on days without a cloud in the sky, I’ll  suddenly be in the middle of a heavy downpour. Other times, there will be sunshine day after day and only a light rain at night. It can make travel plans and deciding what to wear pretty difficult.
For example, one day I visited the Maxbal lagoon in Barillas and decided not to pack rubber boots. When it was time for us to hike – since we couldn’t go any further in our truck, I realized just how big a mistake that was. Trail conditions were a mess since it had rained heavily the night before, but I needed to continue on to the lagoon, and so I hiked. I fell more times than I care to admit, but I learned my lesson. Wherever, whenever, and no matter what, you should always bring rubber boots. 

Muddy conditions after a rainstorm.
Another time, last year, I was participating in a community training in the middle of the village of Xapper at a tin-roofed community meeting house. The day was beautiful and bright, and then, around noon, a shower came down so intensely we had to suspend the training since no one could hear anything over the relentless pounding of the rain on the roof! We had to wait nearly an hour until the rain had subsided enough to continue the training. 

A view from the village center, with a tin-roofed meeting house and expansive mountains in the distance.
The weather in this area is much more than just an unpredictable inconvenience, though. The land itself is very hilly and mountainous with large areas that have been completely deforested due to illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Without trees and vegetation the heavy rains wash away soil and frequent landslides occur that can destroy remaining trees, cause water contamination and harm people and buildings as well. Additionally, the landslides often spread across highways and streets, restricting reliable transportation access, emergency evacuation routes, and communication with rural communities.
From desert to jungle, from chilly to oppressive heat, Guatemala is a land of diverse climates, in part thanks to our expansive and majestic mountains. The climate is unpredictable, but the work EcoLogic does, and our commitments to communities and to conserving the land are consistent and unwavering. 

Daniel Herrera, Program Officer for Guatemala
Daniel first joined EcoLogic in 2010 as a field technician, and in 2012 became a Program Officer, overseeing all EcoLogic's projects in Guatemala and providing technical assistance to our local partners.

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