You Better Belize It! Part 2

March 13, 2017

Oh to Be Mennonite and Single

March 27, 2017

A Guatemalan Wedding

March 21, 2017

So I’ve been saving the best for last. The reason my siblings and Abbey and I traveled to Central America in the first place was to attend the wedding of our good friend Tiana.

The bride. Photo by Melisa Martin Read, sister of the bride.

This beautiful young woman married Rubén Benito and is making her new home in the mountainous region of San Bartolomé, Guatemala.

We crossed the border from Belize into Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, on Friday afternoon. HUGE difference there. Belize is an English-speaking country, although its many ethnic groups speak a large number of different languages. Guatemala is pure Spanish.

Try buying bus tickets, or buying food, or changing dollars to quetzales (when there is no money changing place at the bus station and you have to walk across the street to the marketplace to find someone to trade with), when you only know a few words of Spanish.

It was an interesting and adventurous experience.

We bused seven hours to Guatemala City, and for the remainder of our time in Guatemala, stayed safely under the wings of fellow (Spanish-speaking) Americans. The scenery on the way up to the city was beautiful. I love the Guatemalan mountains.

The bus from Porto Barrios was a modern bus with soft seats, Wi-Fi, all the amenities (except toilet paper, which is a bit hard to come by in public places in Central America).

From Guatemala City, with the help of a few guys who were staying at the Mennonite mission and also attending the wedding, we caught a “chicken bus.”

Those buses, though.

And that Guatemala City traffic. Three or four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic which doesn’t seem to follow any American traffic laws, but which is very proficient in use of the horn. Motor bikes darting in between all the regular lanes. It was exciting.

And so was the trip up the mountains to San Bartolomé. Around hairpin curves overlooking mountain gorges, roads so narrow that at one point the bus driver had to back the bus DOWN the mountain and back around the curve to allow another vehicle to pass. It was absolutely worth every penny I paid for my plane ticket to Central America, just to experience that one awesome bus ride.

We arrived in San Bartolomé the day before Tiana and Rubén’s wedding, just in time for the civil wedding. The civil wedding, according to Guatemalan law, must happen whether or not the couple also has a church wedding. It is the equivalent in America of getting a marriage license.

Here is Rubén’s grandma signing the official document with her thumb. All the witnesses of the civil wedding (and there were quite a lot of us) were invited to sign.

Photo by Kim Martin, mother of the bride.

The next day, the day of the wedding, was clear and sunny. Later on in the afternoon, very hot. We visited San Batolomé in dry season, when everything was brown. I would love to visit in rainy season sometime. I can imagine the rich green mountains would be breathtaking.

I learned that the Quiché Indians which make up the population around San Bartolomé are very traditional. Their heritage is important to them, and the women of San Bartolomé almost always wear traditional dress. Tiana’s bridesmaids, in their orange dresses and cortes (Guatemalan skirts), blended beautifully with the landscape.

Photo by Kim Martin.

Tiana’s dad, who used to be a missionary in Guatemala, preached the wedding sermon. He preached in Spanish and Quiché and threw in a few words of English for those of us who couldn’t understand the rest of it. I was impressed by his fluency. He’s a white American who I’ve known for years, ever since he moved with his family from Guatemala to my rural Wisconsin community. But in Guatemala, it seemed as though he was entering his native element. You could tell, just by looking at him, that he loved it there and that he fit. Maybe it’s not surprising that some of his children have chosen to live there permanently.

The floor of the large outdoor tent where Tiana and Rubén were married was covered in pine needles. Very festive, I thought. It gave the tent an air of elegance. Duane Eby, another American missionary, led the couple in exchanging their vows.

Tiana and Ruben kneel in prayer following their marriage vows. Photo by Kim Martin.

I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Ruben Benito!

The reception was held in another tent adjacent to the first. The thing I love about this second tent is that it is handmade, with stitched-together feed sacks. I was told that eight or nine hundred people were served.

Photo by Kim Martin.

Which calls for some mighty big cooking pots. Here are a couple of my brothers carrying the gravy.

We were served chicken, rice, black beans, mashed potatoes, yellow corn tortillas, and tamales, all cooked over an open fire in the nearby cook shanty. I was told that the potatoes were mashed by hand, by pushing them through a colander and whipping them with a spoon. I’ve never had to work that hard for my mashed potatoes before! And especially not for hundreds of people. It makes me appreciate what a lot of hard work and preparation went into this wedding.

There was wedding cake for dessert.

Photo by Melisa Martin Read.

Photo by Melisa Martin Read.

Here’s another photo that I love, just because. That’s Tiana’s little sister Kaitlyn holding the rose.

Photo by Kim Martin.

To me, it was a very special wedding, not only because Tiana is an old and good friend, but because I got to see the blending of cultures. American/Guatemalan. European-descended Mennonite/Quiché Mennonite. While Tiana and Rubén are both fluent in Spanish, he does not speak her native tongue (English), and she does not speak his (Quiché). I am sure that will change. Especially for Tiana, since they will be living in San Bartolomé and Rubén’s mother and some others from the community speak only Quiché.

I am sure there will be adjustments for Tiana, in moving to a community whose culture is quite different from the American and Guatemalan communities where she lived previously. I salute her for her courage in following her true love and the man God has called her to.

Before leaving Guatemala, we were able to do some shopping in the city, escorted by Tristan and Lyndon. My favorite part was the fabric store. Bolts and bolts of fabric–gorgeous colors and prints, so comfortable to the touch. Beats fabric shopping in the States all to pieces.

On our way back out of Guatemala to Belize City and the airport, we briefly visited El Chal, nine hours across the Guatemalan countryside, close to the Belizean border. Tiana’s brother Benjie and his wife Holly live here, in a house on a hill with one of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. Tiana’s sister Kendra Lily also lives here, and works as a nurse in the local Mennonite-run clinic. I’ve blogged about her before.

Until next time. Adios!


  1. What a nice wedding. The food sounds delicious. You really need to look into Spanish…you should all do together since you will probably travel back and forth again in the future. Or you could do with your class and learn along with them. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn another language.

    1. I will get back to my Duolingo again one of these days. I do have a student taking Spanish is school, so as I help her, I pick up a bit here and there.

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