By , October 4, 2011 9:00 am

When we said goodbye to San Pedro to head to Xela (Quetzaltenango) it was to visit the  “Feria Centroamericana de Independencia.”

The fair was worth checking out, but as you may know from a previous post, we wish we had known a few things before we left.  So here’s our top 7 tips on attending the Xela fair:

1.  Despite the fact that it’s called the Independence Fair, you don’t actually have to go on Independence Day.  The fair runs for ten days and unless you like snuggling with thousands of complete strangers while walking past the food stalls, the rides, and the games… choose another day to go.

2.  If you hear from your taxi driver, your local guide book, your hostel owner, and the drunk guy on the chicken bus that you shouldn’t take anything more with you than the cash you need for the day, you should trust them.  You don’t know better than them, so leave everything else safely locked in your hostel room.  If you really really want pictures to remember it by, draw them by hand (see below).

3. Don’t underestimate the mad skills of the Guatemalan pickpockets.  Ever.  When you hear that every pickpocket in the country will be there, consider that one of them may be able to outsmart you.

4.  If you ignore my advice in #2, remember that a zipper on your pocket does not constitute an adequate defence for your camera against a pickpocket.

5.   Neither does constantly moving.

6.  Everyone has heard of the “spill something on you” pickpocket tactic, but don’t ignore the tiny old lady elbowing your back and butt tactic.  Even if you’re used to it from shopping in the markets, this old lady may have other intentions.

7.  If you decide to ignore all of the above advice, at least try this… if you absolutely positively must carry the camera and you know pickpockets are about… loop the camera strap around a belt strap on your pants so you will likely probably maybe feel the tug on the camera before it’s gone.

To sum up, I can definitely say the pick-pockets here are artisans. I kept the camera in a zippered front pocket in my pants. I thought for sure I’d notice any attempt to unzip a front pocket. Nope.  Now instead of pretty colourful photos, you get to admire Ashley’s hand-drawn pictures of the Xela fair.

The Camera is Gone

No camera there

So what about the fair? It was big. Really big. With tonnes of people and food stands as far as the eye could see. They sold roscas (a sweet cookie made just for festivals), churros, french fries, chicken, tortillas and beans, licuados, and some of the best cheap pizza we’ve ever had.

Roscas For Sale

Roscas for sale

Then there were the rides. Ashley is fond of saying that the rides look like Cold War era torture devices re-purposed to fair rides by hanging a sign indicating the price of a ticket. There were a couple of rides similar to what we have at our fairs at home, like the zipper, the gravatron, and the ferris wheel… but they had a few twists. For example, the zipper looks like it was manufactured from light weight angle iron by a fifteen year old kid in shop class. The gravatron has no walls, and the ferris wheel turned at obscene speeds in both the forward and reverse directions for an ungodly length of time.

Ferris Wheel Goes Forward and Back

A reasonably accurate representation of the ferris wheel

Ferris Wheel Death Trap

The death trap we picture in our mind when we think of the ferris wheel at the Xela Fair.

We didn’t actually ride any of the rides at the fair, partly because of their suspect design standards, and partly because Ashley was getting over a stomach bug that she caught the day we left San Pedro. None the less, it was still a fun experience.  We even overcame our new-found fear of pickpockets and returned another day for more fair food.  Without a camera of course.

4 Responses to “The Xela Fair: Pickpocket Edition”

  1. Shane says:

    I love dodgy fairgrounds. That really sucks about the camera – nice drawings though.

  2. Screw the camera, illustrations are way cooler. Please do more in the future 🙂

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      Hah, I’ll see what I can do about nagging Ashley to do some more in the future. Myself, I lack the dexterity to draw anything more advanced than a stick man.

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