The Odyssey
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Latin America Monica Dispatch

Modern Day Traders,
or How I Scored Internet Service in Panajachel

02 February 1999
 

From the tree to the 'Mmmm!'

There are four stages to growing, harvesting, and producing coffee. At first, the coffee beans start out looking like cranberries, but they are called coffee cherries because they are bright red.

Secondly, the coffee cherries dry in the sun until they are green coffee beans. Then, they are briefly heated for less than 10 minutes, so that they turn yellowish.

Finally, the beans go through a roasting stage where they take on a brown color and develop body, flavor, and aroma. Mmmm!

Coffee Harvesting Stage 2 - Green!
You'll remember how the traders of old traveled over and routes near and far, bringing their goods to distant lands and exchanging spices and silks for coffee and beads. Well, in the 1990's, a similar type of trade is going on, but in a more high-tech way: the information trade at the Internet Cafe.

In Panajachel, a small town on the shores of Lago de Atitlán, near Concepcion, about seven new internet cafés have opened up in the last month, specializing not only in internet connections, but in various types of Guatemalan coffee, which, incidentally, is delicioso! While you sip your coffee, you can sit in front of a computer and browse the World Wide Web at your leisure. You might not want to be TOO leisurely about it, since you will be charged for the time you spend online. The prices for access to the World Wide Web range from 12 quetzals to 45 quetzals/hour (1 dollar=~7 quetzals). Mayanet, the cafe I visited, charged 25 quetzals por hora.

Carlos
Caption
I spoke with Carlos Saturnino, the co-owner of Mayanet, who started this business just two weeks ago with his friend, Victor. Carlos is twenty-three years old. Before striking out on his own, he used to work for a company that gave tours of the lake and surrounding towns. Carlos and Victor started out by renting this little space (formerly a mercado - store) and putting Victor's expertise in hardware to good use. They painted the store pale blue and salmon, wired it up, installed phone lines, three computers and two printers, and---voila! Open Mayanet!

Now, lots of people visit the cafe to check their e-mail. Others come to make phone calls or send and receive faxes. Realizing that it might be pricey for me to use hours and hours of Internet time to answer your mail and send in dispatches, I brokered a trade: I would develop Mayanet's web page, and Carlos would give me free Internet access. We had a deal! I even used our digital camera to take pictures of the outside of the store--you can see Abeja in the middle picture on the homepage.

All this goes to show you that it's important to develop your mind, and learn new skills and tools. Not everything in the future will revolve around goods or products that are made or manufactured--you know, things that you can actually see and touch. I think the future will revolve around information. You are, after all, the Net generation, and you and your classmates are the most wired and most connected people in the history of the planet!

Mayanet

So, why don't you check out the Mayanet website, and maybe sign their guest book? Carlos would appreciate it! As for me, I will look to see if I can score some more Internet connections as we travel to Peru. Wish me luck!


 
 
Monica - A Mayan god who smokes cigars
Jamila - A funny thing happened on the way back from Coba
Klaus - Trekking the road to ruin
Abeja - History, Chaos and Change in Guatemala City  

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