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Sanarate, El Progreso, Guatemala, Central America.

The Railroad
Guatemala, Central America.




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The Railroad
By: Jorge Humberto Herrera

The railroad of Guatemala had an enormous economic, social and political impact on the country. However, there are only traces left now from that once thriving, dynamic corporation which generated progress and well-being. The inexorable passing of time has left behind irreversible damage on those structures that still remain standing, particularly train stations and bridges. The path of the train tracks today has been converted into an unpaved road because the rails and the cross ties have almost all been taken by individual people. The same fortune befell the metal posts and the copper wiring which was used for the telegraph and telephone communications between the different train stations.

The adjacent fields on both sides of the line have also been taken up by people with limited economic resources. However, a valuable treasure still endures: the pages that were written in history and in the minds and hearts of us railroad workers, who longingly remember those glorious times when we worked for the railroad company and on our vacations used to travel with our families in the passenger cart, tasting the delicacies that were offered by the vendors on board, such as: salporas and marquesote in Sanarate; chicharrones in Guastatoya; tunas in El Rancho; cocos and pan de maíz in Cabañas. Then, in Zacapa we used to enjoy lunch with pacayas forradas con huevo, chiles rellenos or pollo frito, all of it accompanied by curtido de repollo and remolacha and soft drinks of pepita de ayote or horchata.

There is no ex-railroad worker who, upon seeing what is still left of the railroad, does not get a knot in his throat and begin to get teary eyed. Roberto Moscoso Estrada, originally from the village of El Jute, Sanarate, who worked as an Agent-Operator and Chief of the Railway Terminal in Zacapa expresses himself like this:

“Life on the railroad always had a bit of magic to it. Sadly, nowadays the trains, the stations and the platforms, completely abandoned, just age while staring at the horizon, the ringing of the bell announcing the departure of the train from the Zacapa station, nothing but a memory. There is nobody anymore who will bellow out that characteristic shout into the wind: Passengers on board the train!!! It was an unmatched joy to watch the train go by, and even more so to be able to travel in it (Isn’t that right, Tono Herrera?). As kids we would listen to the train approaching by placing an ear over the rails. The pilgrims headed toward the Basílica del Cristo Negro de Esquipulas used to take the train to get to Zacapa in a pilgrimage full of emotion. It seemed like the train had a soul of its own as it zigzagged toward its destination”.
The railroad is a predominant part of the economy in first-world countries. However, the railroad in Guatemala is not even a sleeping giant; it’s more like a dead giant. But… Could it not be that just like the Phoenix it may one day be able to rise again from the ashes? Cheers, brother rail workers from all over Guatemala!!

Additional Note:
Around the middle of May of 2011, the newspaper Prensa Libre (Free Press) published the story that two Korean companies are going to invest 21 billion dollars in order to rebuild the railroad of Guatemala, to use it like a dry-land canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and thereby compete with the Panama Canal.

tono herrera gudiel

Jorge H. Herrera

La mayoría de las fotos fueron proporcionadas por varios exferrocarrileros de Guatemala, que trabajaron durante muchos años para IRCA y FEGUA. En cuanto ha sido posible, se ha tratado de dar el crédito correspondiente a los sitios de internet y otras organizaciones de donde han sido utilizadas algunas fotografías.

Las fotos que llevan el logo de www.sanarate.com son propiedad de este sitio.
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