Monday, June 28, 2010

Escuintla: Guatemalan Lowlands Heart

Welcome to a new department in the lowlands: Escuintla. A name that brings me joyful memories from times spent with my family and friends. A name that always makes me think of that candid image of the Resplendent Quetzal painted over the rocks on the road somewhere close to Palin, one of  Escuintla's municipalities, which has been there since I can remember...
The innumerable rivers crossing this department contribute to the fertility of its soils; and the beautiful mangroves bordering its coast, have been declared an ecological reserve zone. It is one of the most active tourist sites in the country and a favorite for city dwellers many of whom own  beach-side vacation villas.
Its current economic prosperity comes from the exploitation of large extensions of land in the cultivation of sugar cane and livestock ranches. The modern Puerto Quetzal and its intense activity also contributes to the prosperity of this Department.
On average, the altitude in Escuintla is 350 meters above sea level and it bounds to the north with the departments of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez, and Guatemala; to the east with Santa Rosa; to the west with Suchitepequez; and to the south with the Pacific Ocean. This department is divided into 13 municipalities, and its capital is also named Escuintla.
The slopes of the Volcanic Chain are humid and the moist clouds provide a constant rain that makes the area a true tropical rain forest,  home to  micos (Callitrichidae -synonym Hapalidae- also known as New World monkeys), ocelots, weasels, and other species.
The extensive seashore is composed of gray sands of  volcanic origin, interrupted  only by the mangrove forests and channels which provide an excellent habitat to fiddler crabs, pelicans, seagulls, beach scavengers, and robust stolon grasses..
Other interesting attractions in this area are: the Guacalate River Canyon, the Pacaya Volcano, the caverns and waterfalls of San Pedro Martir, and the archaeological sites El Baul, Bilbao, and El Castillo.
The well maintained  road network makes traveling through and across  Escuintla  very easy.  Some of the most important roads are: Hwy  CA-9 (the Inter Oceanic Road from south to north) and  Hwy CA-2 (the Pacific Road from west to east). These and several secondary roads are located  along the route we will follow in the days to come when we  will explore this rich, diverse, and fun-filled department.
 All the images in today's post are from galasdeguatemala.com, used with authorization.

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