Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…
Friday, May 17, 2013
Sorry, but this
post is not about relationships with indigenous peoples. It’s about shopping.
Or one shop in particular, actually.
One of the good
things (as well as the bad!) of living in a small town, is that everybody knows
you. Shopping, for example, is a totally different experience here than in the
big city. No need to, completely embarrassed, having to put an item back in the
super market just because you’re a few cents short of cash. Heck no, in Copán
Ruinas I can probably go by a whole month without paying anywhere! I rather pay
cash, but funnily enough, shop owners are all to keen to write up a tab. Up to
a certain point. There is this one clothing store that each January puts up a
huge list in the window with all the names (including surnames and nicknames)
of the people who owe. With the amount of the debt, of course. One of Copán’s
main sources of entertainment for the local population.
Shopping is a
social event that goes well beyond the purchase of a product. More than money
it’s gossip that goes over the counter and stores are a great place to run into
people. That’s one of the reason I boycott the new supermarket in town. That
and the fact that at Doña Berta’s I can just grab whatever I need and tell her
I’ll pay tomorrow, without even the need to write it down!
One store I’ve
had a long personal relationship with is Maya Connections. It is owned by my
friend Sandra and opened, if I remember correctly, in 1997, as a small internet
café in one of the rooms of her mother’s hotel, Los Gemelos. This was durin the
years that I was lucky enough to have a huge and heavy laptop (with a black and
white screen!), but of course no modem or wifi. Not even a printer for that
matter. So I used to write my emails at home or work, save it on something
called a floppy disk (holding up to 1,4MB of information!!!) and bring that
along to send off my emails at Maya Connections where four computers each had
their own dial-up modem. No way of answering emails directly on line, that was
way to expensive for 2,50 ($0,13) Lempiras per minute!
Of course the
connection was interrupted frequently, so I spend a lot of time at that store,
munching on chocolates (imported from the big city and nowhere else available
in Copán) or drinking a soda. Sometimes beer even, if connecting to the
universe took too long. It was also the
place in town for photocopies, office supplies, laminating and binding. Maya
Connections even had a paper guillotine, one I used very often, although there
was hardly a surface available to put the thing down.
limited space of Maya Connections became even more cramped when Sandra decided
to start selling souvenirs too. It was a little uncomfortable to sort hundreds
of photocopies between bracelets, coffee mugs, teaspoons and car stickers, but
business is business, and business was blooming. Even so that Sandra
commissioned me and fellow painter Edgar Zelaya to paint a mural on the outside
wall, one of the best we ever did in my opinion, but unfortunately painted over
my Sandra’s mom when she moved out to a bigger venue. Because with a laundry
service, the sale of shuttle tickets to Guatemala and a growing demand for
computers, a much bigger space was required.
So Maya Connections
moved to a corner building a block south of the Central Park.
Sandra asked me to do the interior design and gave me the free hand to “go nuts”,
which I did. What a great time was that!
A couple of years
later, in 2010, Maya Connections had grown out of its seams yet again and
besides, the property it was housed in was falling apart. So when the newly
restored colonial building across the street became available, Maya Connections
hopped over. Again I was asked to do the interior design, and this time we
decided on a different look, sort of “recycled chic” with old pallets, wooden
crates from the market and huge cable spools. There was an internet café of
course, but since more and more locals now had internet at home and travellers
carried iPhones or smartphones, the main space was filled with souvenirs. And
business was still booming.
Design Sketch Maya Connections
Booming so much
that Sandra decided to expand in 2011 by renting the space behind the store as
well, and turn it into an art gallery. Yet again it was my pleasure to decorate
the place, this time using a Mexican folklore theme. We painted the outside of
the building too, in the same colours as Frida Kahlo’s house in Coyoacán. Providing
internet was by no longer a profitable business (the price had even lowered to 30
Lempiras an hour, making it five times cheaper than in 1997!), so the focus was
now on art and souvenirs.
Alas, not every
story has a happy ending, and this is one of them. This month, sixteen years
after opening its doors, Maya Connections closed down. Business is too low,
tourism has dropped substantially, competition has grown, so there is just no
more space for Maya Connections. It’s a pity because, at least for me, Maya
Connections has been part of Copán’s history.
But then again, I
wouldn’t be surprised of Maya Connections submerges again somewhere in the