Photo: Eric Goldschein
The Ixil Triangle, named for the shape made by the three towns in the region, is one of the most visually stunning parts of Guatemala.It’s also one of the most tragic.
During the 36-year-long Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted until 1996, guerrilla warriors used the mountainous region as a base of operations and the Guatemalan Army responded with a scorched-earth policy to destroy nearby villages.
Thousands of people in the indigenous Ixil community were tortured and killed. And the towns that make up the Ixil Triangle, Santa Maria Nebaj and two others, were literally erased from the country’s official maps until the end of the war.
The Ixil people continue to live in the region today in relative isolation; they don’t speak Spanish, have little access to technology, and are suspicious of outsiders.
Eric Goldschein, a reporter (and former Business Insider intern) spent two days trekking through the region with a guide. He shared some photos and his story with us.
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The Ixil Triangle is defined by three municipalities in the Cuchumatanes mountains: Santa Maria Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul, and San Juan Cotzal.
They boarded a collectivo van and set out for a 2-day trek through the mountains with plans to stop in the towns of Xeo and Cotzol.
Here's what it looked like near the trail head--it can be seen zig-zagging up the mountain to the town of Xeo, hours away.
The trail took Eric and his guide past small gardens and farms, and slowly began winding its way down the mountain.
Finally, Eric and his guide began to ascend the mountain on the other side. It was so steep, even the trees were falling over.
Lunch in a dirt-floored home in Xeo. It was the first of many meals of beans and eggs Eric would eat. And it was here he realised that no one spoke Spanish, only the native Ixil language.
Here's the home where they spent the night. Nicholas read Nuestro Diario, a popular Guatemalan newspaper.
On the way back down the mountain towards Nebaj, they stopped by a freezing cold river for some respite.
Here's the hostel owner, cooking breakfast. It was, of course, beans and eggs. Eric got to eat with the whole family, including half a dozen grandchildren.
Hitchhiking the backs of pickup trucks is also a popular way to get around, especially on the less traveled routes.
Finally, after eight hours on the chicken bus and by van, Eric arrived back on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
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