Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Amatitlan Lake

 Photos in this page by galasdeguatemala.com, used with authorization.  
If yesterday you enjoyed the view from the Naciones Unidas park, today I am sure you are going to enjoy this close-up approach and why not, a boat ride around the beautiful Amatitlan lake. I am happy to know that an ongoing, ambitious and well planned rescue project by the Authority for the Sustainable Management of Lake Amatitlan and its Basin will preserve this important natural resource and recreational area.
I am not sure about the origin of the name, but I learned in school that Amatitlan means Land of Amates and for me, it has to be true because there are lots of amate trees in the forests surrounding the lake. 
The Amatitlan lake is the fourth largest water body in Guatemala, located only 32 kilometers to the south of Guatemala City at an altitude of 1,188 meters above sea level. The lake consists of two basins connected by a narrow constriction, where a dry dock was constructed to let the railway pass through.
Along its history, the lake has been used in other multiple ways. In pre-Columbian days, it was a place for rituals where offerings were deposited. During the colonial times, the lake was a center of fisheries and its catchment area was the most important site of production of cochineal, which was the main product for export when industrial chemicals had not yet replaced the natural dye.
Today, Amatitlan and the surrounding valleys, mountains and nearby volcanoes present a unique landscape, making the area a recreation park that offers plenty of activities for adults and kids. Typical food such as fried mojarras (a fresh water white-meat fish), and typical candies such as the unique pumpkin seeds-based marzipan (a recipe from the colonial times where the traditional almonds were substituted by local ingredients) are a must when visiting this area. And if you don't believe me, try this simple recipe; I am sure you will love it!
Combine together: 2 pounds of pumpkin seeds, peeled and ground (how fine or coarse, it will depend on your preference for texture), 2 pounds of sugar, 4 cups of milk, and 1 cinnamon stick. Cook at medium heat and, stirring occasionally bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to the minimum and keep cooking stirring constantly, until it becomes a soft paste. Remove from heat and extend the paste in a layer of about 1 inch thick. Let it cool and cut in squares. To preserve the marzipan, in case you have leftovers or make a batch to share with friends, pack every piece with parchment or waxed paper as it is shown in the small photo above and to the left. In Amatitlan, we also find this marzipan in those small, round, wooden boxes and the trick to eat it is to break  the cap in half and use it as a spoon. Do I wish I was there? Si pues!
Before we finish our visit to Amatitlan, I want to share with you more music, in this case, not the traditional marimba but another rhythm very popular in Guatemala: Salsa. Click the video and enjoy!

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