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The Guatemalan Wall of People at GUA

Mi mama and mi abuelita made it back to Guatemala City this weekend after more than seven years of threatening to come back. I’ve been waiting for this moment since we drove over the La Mesilla border when I could almost imagine the crowd at the airport gate in December. Except, I really had no idea that amid the modernism of the airport there was still that element of total chaos at the door when you’re confronted by a wall of Guatemalan faces, an unbroken blanket of black hair, brown arms waving at you, yelling, whistling, honking, signs dangling crookedly in the air with some pretty bad misspellings.


In cop speak it would be some kind of “functional zoning” to keep the chaos outside the airport doors and give the arriving passengers some time to get it together before the leap. I got my first whiff of it when I returned from visiting mi mama in Florida and it was freefall –I was grateful I didn’t have to pick someone out from the crowd. Brad and I did our usual “hey just park outside the airport and I’ll call you drive-by style” that we’ve perfected by now. I ducked, took cover of flying signs and found a corner where I waited five minutes and slipped right into the car.

I pulled the same move with the folks and it worked well. A lot of it is the timing. So important things to remember:

(1) Have a pre-arranged meeting spot with the arriving guests BEFORE they get on that plane and prepare them for that Leap Into the Guatemalan Wall of People.

(2) Always check the status of the airplane. The last three flights I have either flown on or waited on have been at least 40 minutes late.

(3) If you’re in Antigua and driving, leave 10 minutes right before the plane is scheduled to land and you’ll get there right around the time your arriving guests have exited the plane, made it past customs, picked up their bags and queued up to exit.

(4) Bring food, anything, your guests will love you for it. If not, plan on a pit stop at the Hiper Paiz after the Miraflores Mall because mi mama highly recommends the Q16 buffet. “El pollo con arroz esta bien bueno, mija.”

(5) Have soothing music to make the long drive back. It took us two hours to get back from GUA to Antigua on Dec. 5!

(6) Try to talk some sense into your family so they don’t schedule two flights back to back so you’re stuck in Friday AND Saturday December airport traffic. I dropped the ball on that one.

(7) Pay attention to the door and not the stream of passengers poring out. If you keep your eyes on the door you can make a run inside the iron bar barricade and catch your family member before the GLAZE of confusion sets in and then you have no chance of them noticing you waiting and waving your arms at them.

More on the return of the clan and reverse acculturation in the coming days.

2 thoughts on “The Guatemalan Wall of People at GUA

  1. bradelectro says:

    (8) There’s a street about 1/4 mile from the curbside arrival pick-up zone that’s sort of like the cellphone parking lots in the US. Of course it’s not really called this, it’s just a street that people park’n’wait at.

    (9)If your party can’t call you when they land, you can park anywhere curbside, until security tells you to leave (10 minutes average). At this point you can just move about 20 feet down the road and wait some more.

  2. […] over at New Maya is sharing some tips she’s discovered when transiting the airport in Guatemala or when […]

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