We had read in our guidebook that when you walk into the small town of La Pista, you will be greeted by a plate of the traditional dish Boxbol (pronounced ‘bosh-bowl'). Always looking for an authentic experience, we optimistically set off for a walk through the mountains of the Ixil Triangle in rural Guatemala.
The lush green hills were breathtaking and along the way we passed cows and goats grazing freely, men working corn fields and children running home from school. We were unsure if we’d know when we actually made it to the village, but kept asking people along the way until an older farmer caring for his horses pointed just above the hill.
We hesitantly walked into town, half wondering if one of the locals was going to pop out with a heaping bowl of Boxbol.
Nope, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
We continued along the main dirt road to find that the only restaurant in town was closed. Starving and mildly disappointed we stopped by the only shop we could find and bought some crackers and sugary juice. The shopkeeper looked surprised to see us and asked what brought us to La Pista. We explained we were on the hunt for Boxbol and she kindly offered to whip up a few plates for us.
Unsure what Boxbol really was until that point, we were pleasantly surprised to see a delicious dish served to us. Boxbol is a simple vegan dish: corn meal wrapped inside a soft squash leaf and rolled up to be steamed. A tasty tomato sauce with toasted squash seeds is smothered on top. It was absolutely delicious and they feed us until we were stuffed.
While we ate, the cook’s husband came by and gave us a first hand account of the local history. He described in chilling detail how La Pista and its citizens were affected by the civil war during the 1980s. We had read that the Ixil triangle, a largely indigenous region, was hit the worst during the terrible genocide of the Mayan people during the war. But hearing about the fighting from someone who had lived through it was a history lesson we’ll never forget.
As the afternoon turned into evening, we thanked the couple profusely and started our hike back to town. Walking through the rolling green hills, it was hard to comprehend that such a lovely, peaceful area had once been the center of such horrific events. All we could do was be grateful that such a beautiful and friendly couple had opened their doors to us to experience their local culture.
According to traditional folklore, when a stranger eats Boxbol, they will fall in love with the Ixil region and keep coming back. We have no doubt that we’ll be returning soon.
Christine began her adventure with a one way ticket to Mexico and is now a full blown travel junky. She spends most of her time writing and volunteering, and never travels without a tub of peanut butter. Christine chronicles her journey at Don't Forget To Move with her adventurous Aussie boyfriend, Jules. Check em out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.