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Antigua Guatemala

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Garnachas, a town fair dish

October is the month of the rosary, and this is why the streets adjacent to the Basilica of Nuestra Se–ora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) are filled with food stands, among which the garnachas stand out.

During colonial times many peregrines traveled to the Sanctuary of Esquipulas, with the intention of asking for favors, the healing of the beloved ones, better work opportunities, healing of the soul and a thousand more things.

The devotion extended so much, that there were religious journeys coming from all around the Central American isthmus, and also from Tehuantepec.

The diligent women of the Tehuana region passed through Guatemala City or packed food for their relatives during the long trip up to Esquipulas.

One of this dishes was enjoyed so much by the inhabitants of Guatemala that stayed as part of the tradition. According to historian Celso Lara, this dish comes originally from the Tehuantepec isthmus, and shares the same process of the foods from the south of Mesoamerica, where there was a fusion of Pre-Hispanic foods with ingredients brought by the Spaniards.

Corn and oil

The best example of the cultural mixture produced in the region was the fried tortilla, which is the base for the garnacha: made with corn, elaborated with the millenary technique of the original inhabitants of the place, but with something added in the process: the tortilla is fried in big amounts of oil, which is a Mediterranean contribution.

The people from the Mediterranean have a long tradition in the cultivation of olives for the preparation of oil. The ancient merchants made their fortunes exchanging oil, and all the coastline of that ocean had vast terrains cultivated with olives. The Spaniards were habituated to cook their food with this oil.

Once the custom was transplanted to the Indies, the persons in charge of preparing the meals had the opportunity to mix the ingredients and techniques.

On top of the fried tortilla the garnachas have a mixture of a mestizo style spiced meat which alters the flavors to make it more delicate.

According to Lara, the garnachas came to occupy a royal place among the Guatemalan gastronomy, mainly during the town fairs, and this is why she is the queen of snacks on the month of October, during the celebration of the rosary.

Devoted itinerary

Many of the visitors to the Basilica of the Rosary usually make a devoted journey inside the temple. First they visit the image of San Martín de Porres, who is illuminated by candles almost all year round.

Then, they cannot miss a visit to the image of the Virgin of the Rosary, a silver image made on top of another one carved in wood. Commonly the Virgin is dressed with elaborated clothes embroidered with golden threads which make a little difficult the appreciation of the silver brilliance that surrounds her completely. At last, they cannot miss the food stands located in the outside of the temple, to make of it an unforgettable visit.

Anibal Chajón